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UpstreamOnline: Nigerian workers threaten to down tools

By Upstream staff

Nigerian unions today threatened to shut all oilfields operated by Italian oil company Agip unless it paid staff a security bonus reflecting the rising risks of working in the Niger Delta.

The strike threat came as protesters left two of the four oil pumping stations they were occupying in Rivers State, and news emerged of another oil facility invasion in neighbouring Bayelsa.

Unions threatened to close all 200,000 barrels per day of crude oil produced by Agip, a unit of Italy’s Eni, from tomorrow unless the company agreed to the extra pay.

“We decided to shut down facilities by tomorrow if the management refuses to accept our demands,” Kala Otaji, chairman of the Agip branch of white collar union Pengassan, told Reuters.

Unions argue the company has shown bias against its Nigerian workforce by providing extra security only to expatriates in the face of a growing wave of violence in Africa’s oil heartland.

Dozens of oil workers – mostly foreign – have been kidnapped this year in a rising wave of attacks against the industry in Nigeria.

At Agip offices in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, many workers began a strike today to pile pressure on the management. The company was not available for comment.

Villagers of the Kula community have vacated two of four oil flow stations occupied since Wednesday, but company sources said output of 60,000 barrels per day was still shut and the dispute was unresolved.

“As a mark of respect for the state government we have allowed the reopening of two flow stations, Ekulama I and Belema,” said Kula community leader Dan Opusingi.

Both stations are operated by Anglo-Dutch supermajor Shell, but a company spokesman could not confirm Opusingi’s information.

Shell has already reduced output in another part of the Niger Delta by 500,000 bpd since February following a wave of militant attacks.

Ekulama I, which normally pumps 9000 bpd, was already shut down prior to last week’s invasion by villagers because of fighting in the area between militants and troops earlier in October.

Before the siege, Shell and Chevron were pumping about 62,000 bpd from Belema, Ekulama II and Robertkiri.

“We have not resumed production from those facilities,” a Shell source said, adding that some of the facilities had been vandalised during the occupation.

Opusingi said the two oil majors had rejected the community’s demand for contracts to supply speed boats and food to the oil platforms.

“We have lost trust in the companies,” he said, adding that a meeting was planned for this evening between the community, the companies and the Rivers state government.

Disputes between oil companies and communities who accuse them of not keeping promises of jobs and development are common in the impoverished Niger Delta, which accounts for all of Nigeria’s oil and gas production.

In a separate incident, a source at Agip said youths in neighbouring Bayelsa state had invaded an oil pumping station at Clough Creek on Saturday night and were still occupying it.

An Eni spokesperson in Milan said there was practically no impact on the company’s production there.

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