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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thousands Flee Nigerian Violence Over Oil Revenues: “…the fighting was over who should receive benefits from Royal Dutch/Shell…” ( 8 March 05




LAGOS (AP)--The latest outbreak of fighting over the spoils of oil has led thousands to flee their villages in southern Nigeria, activists and residents said Tuesday.


Nigerian police spokeswoman Ireju Barasua confirmed unrest that surged Monday after an earlier, bloodier conflict in a nearby area. In both cases, the fighting was over who should receive benefits from Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Cos. (RD,SC). No one was reported killed in the latest violence.


Under Shell 's corporate policy, the officially recognized land owner is the chief beneficiary of corporate aid, and little goes to other, nearby communities.


Shell produces around half of Nigeria's crude output, and many Nigerians look to it for amenities not provided by the corruption-riven government.


Hundreds of youths accompanied by at least four men in camouflage uniform attacked the village of Ususu on Monday, shooting wildly with hunting rifles and dousing houses in petrol before setting them ablaze, said local resident Dacino Alan, reached by telephone.


A Nigerian army spokesman, Onyema Kanu, said the camouflaged men could not have been soldiers, as the army isn't present in the area.


Thousands fled the three affected villages - Ususu, Isua and Odau - said human rights campaigner Asume Osuoka of local group Environmental Rights Action.


Many of the displaced are hiding in nearby forests, while others have taken refuge in the nearest city of Port Harcourt, he said, citing statements from more than a dozen witnesses.


At least six people are being treated in a nearby hospital for gunshot wounds, Osuoka added.


Around 20 armed police have been sent to the area, which is now calm, police spokeswoman Ireju Barasua said by telephone from Port Harcourt.


Barasua said the men who attacked the three villages came from a nearby community, Edagbari, which lies alongside Shell's Adebawa facility.


She said the raid was in reaction to demonstrations against Shell by the three villages last week, in which they protested that only Edagbari received aid from Shell , including electricity supply.


Edagbari benefits from aid under Shell guidelines because it is the officially recognized landowner, but villagers contend that pollution from the flow station and local oil wells has depleted their local fish stocks and that they should be compensated.


Shell officials in Nigeria declined immediate comment.

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