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AP Worldstream: Protesting villagers in Nigeria vow to remain at Shell platforms until demands met

By: DAN UDOH,
Published: Oct 28, 2006

Protesting villagers who took over three Shell oil platforms in Nigeria’s troubled southern delta region will not end their occupation of the facilities until their demands for aid are met, a community spokesman said Saturday.

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

After talks with the Rivers State government, the protesters had agreed to leave but insisted that Shell provide a written assurance that their demands would be met.

Community spokesman Dan Opusingi said Saturday that Shell has not reassured the protesters and so they have indefinitely extended their occupation of the facilities, which are also known as flow stations.

“I can confirm that the flow stations are still shut. If they (Shell) try to enter (them) by force, there will be trouble,” Opusingi told The Associated Press.

Shell officials were not immediately available for comment.

Chevron’s nearby Robertkiri installation, closed by the company on Wednesday as a precaution, also remains shut, company officials said.

Neither company has said how much oil has been cut off. 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.

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.

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