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Reuters: Protest halts major Chevron oil plant in Nigeria

07 May 2007 10:34:59 GMT
By Tom Ashby

LAGOS, May 7 (Reuters) – Villagers with sticks and machetes staged a protest at a major U.S-operated oil production facility in Nigeria on Monday, forcing it to halt output as a precaution, security sources said.

It was the latest in a string of attacks on Western oil industry targets in the world’s eighth largest exporter, which has already curbed output by a quarter and helped fuel a global oil price spike.

The protest at the gates of Chevron’s Ebite flow station in the western Niger Delta, which is a primary feeder for the 160,000 barrel per day Escravos export terminal, was triggered by alleged delays in compensation for an oil spill.

“There is a community protest. They are carrying sticks and machetes, but the place is full of government security forces who were drafted in over the weekend. The company has not lost control of the facility,” a security source said.

Another source said the plant had been shut down as a precaution and talks had started to resolve the dispute.

Chevron, which expects a quick resolution, said 42,000 bpd in oil output was hit by the protest.

Spills are one source of constant friction between oil companies and communities in the Niger Delta, a vast wetlands region which is home to all of Nigeria’s crude.

Companies blame spills on criminal gangs illegally tapping oil from their pipelines, while communities blame the companies and often demand substantial compensation.

Unrest and militant attacks on oil facilities in other parts of the delta have already shut down 652,000 barrels per day, or a quarter of the country’s total capacity.

London Brent crude oil futures were 12 cents higher at $65.43 per barrel.

KIDNAPPINGS

Kidnappings of foreign workers have also surged recently, with 28 foreigners abducted in six incidents in the last seven days alone. Eight have been released.

Violence in the remote region of swamps and mangrove-lined creeks is fuelled by resentment against an industry that has extracted billions of dollars in five decades but left the majority in poverty without access to basic services such as electricity, water, schools and hospitals.

The situation is compounded by endemic corruption in government, abuses by security forces and gang fighting linked to a lucrative trade in stolen crude oil.

Militants fighting for more autonomy have staged a series of attacks on oil facilities and kidnappings since last year, but most abductions are done by groups seeking ransom.

The Philippine government warned families of eight Filipinos and three South Koreans abducted last week against holding direct negotiations with the gunmen who seized them from a Daewoo power plant project.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos met families after one woman got a mobile phone call from her husband asking her to raise $1 million ransom for their safe release.

Conejos said the Philippines would not deal with the gunmen nor allow families of the kidnapped workers to do the negotiations, adding the country has a policy not to pay ransom and wants to let Nigeria handle the problem.

Conejos said 45 Filipinos still working at the Daewoo power plant were expected to be brought home this week. (Additional reporting by Manila bureau)

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