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Independent Online (Africa): Villagers to leave seized oil platforms

By Dulue Mbachu

Lagos, Nigeria – Angry villagers in Nigeria who took over three Shell oil platforms in the volatile Niger Delta have agreed to end their siege and allow operations to resume, Nigerian and company officials said on Thursday.

Members of the Kula community living near Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s Ekulama 1, Ekulama 2 and Belema oil pumping stations invaded the facilities on Wednesday, accusing the oil giant of failing to meet the terms of an agreement to provide them aid, Shell said.

The Rivers State government in charge of the area intervened and persuaded the protesters to leave the installations, government spokesperson Emmanuel Okah said.

It was not immediately clear, however, whether the protesters were still occupying the platforms.

Shell officials also confirmed an agreement was reached with the protesters to quit the facilities.

“The agreement is that it will be done today (Thursday) and we plan to reopen the facilities immediately,” said a Shell official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

No hostages were seized by the protesters during the takeover, he said.

Another oil company, Chevron, said it had shut its nearby Robertkiri installation on Wednesday as a precaution after the protesters took over the Shell installations.

Despite sitting atop much of Nigeria’s oil reserves the inhabitants of the southern oil region remain among the most impoverished in the country. With little or no influence on the government they frequently turn to oil companies who run joint ventures with the Nigerian state with demands for jobs, schools and electricity.

Over the last decade, villagers have often stormed oil facilities to protest against oil companies they believe are taking wealth from their land and giving little back. Most such seizures have ended peacefully.

This year, armed militia groups who claim to be fighting for similar causes have increased attacks on oil installations and seized foreign oil workers as hostages either for ransom or to back demands for more local control of oil wealth.

Attacks by armed militants in Nigeria’s oil region have cut more than a quarter of the country’s oil exports since the beginning of this year.

The Brussels, Belgium-based International Crisis Group said in a report on Wednesday that Nigeria was “faltering,” citing violent political, ethnic and religious unrest currently sweeping the country as symptoms of “a deeply flawed” federal system.

Lack of a genuine structure for sharing power has fueled what the group described as “dangerous rivalries” and aided the emergence of armed, ethnic militia groups especially in the delta.

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer and the fifth-biggest source of US oil imports, exporting an average of 2,5 million barrels a day. – Sapa-AP

Published on the Web by IOL on 2006-10-26 12:34:55

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1 Comment on “Independent Online (Africa): Villagers to leave seized oil platforms”

  1. #1 Renee Moodie
    on Oct 29th, 2006 at 23:59

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