THE NEW YORK TIMES: Oil Cos. Talk to Nigerian Oil Occupiers: “Multinational oil companies began talks with hundreds of Nigerian villagers occupying three oil platforms on Monday in a dispute over jobs which shut 90,000 barrels per day of oil production” (ShellNews.net) Posted 7 Dec 04
Published: December 6, 2004
PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (Reuters) - Multinational oil companies began talks with hundreds of Nigerian villagers occupying three oil platforms on Monday in a dispute over jobs which shut 90,000 barrels per day of oil production.
Many of the unarmed villagers who stormed the platforms on Sunday morning left them on Monday for the talks, but a small contingent remained at the platforms, trapping more than 100 workers and keeping output shut.
``Most of the groups have now left the stations, but they left 20 invaders behind to ensure that we don't reopen the flow stations,'' said a spokesman for Royal Dutch Shell (RD.AS.
``Our primary concern is to get our staff out of the area,'' he said, adding that 75 employees and contractors were trapped at the Ekulama I and II stations and 70,000 barrels per day shut in.
California-based ChevronTexaco said it was also trying to engage the villagers in talks away from its Robertkiri platform, where 32 employees and contractors were trapped and 20,000 bpd of production closed.
Both companies said the disruption in the world's eighth largest oil exporter would not affect export commitments in the short term.
Disputes between oil multinationals and communities are common in the vast wetlands region that pumps all of Nigeria's 2.5 million bpd of oil, and often lead to occupations, hostage-taking and sabotage.
The companies said they did not know the reason for the occupation, but oil industry sources said it was over jobs for the Kula community, located near the Rivers State border with Bayelsa State in southern Nigeria.
``It's all down to the Kula community. They want more jobs,'' said one industry source, asking not to be named.
Millions of impoverished inhabitants of the Niger Delta, largely abandoned by their own government, feel they should benefit more from the huge wealth being pumped from their tribal lands.
In September, a heavily-armed ethnic militia threatened to blow up oil facilities in Rivers state, in the eastern delta, helping to drive oil prices above $50 per barrel for the first time, in a dispute over oil money and political power.
But the leader of that group, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, said he was not involved in this action.
Earlier this month, other militants from the Ijaw ethnic group invaded a Shell oil flow station in the western delta near Warri. Seventeen were shot and injured by security forces.
Oil companies are on alert for a possible surge in violence in the western delta after local elections last week which Ijaw leaders say were massively rigged in favor of their rivals, the Itsekiri.
An Ijaw uprising in the run-up to general elections last year forced multinationals to temporarily shut down 40 percent of Nigerian oil production and prompted the government to deploy thousands of troops into the area.