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NIGERIA: Nigerian Villagers Seize Shell Oil Platforms

by Agencies and Mark Milner The Guardian
December 6th, 2004

Hundreds of unarmed Nigerian villagers, including women and children,
seized three oil platforms operated by Shell and ChevronTexaco,
shutting 90,000 barrels a day of production in a jobs dispute.

Members of the Kula community in the southeastern Rivers state occupied
the platforms without causing any injuries and had yet to make any
demands, company spokesmen said.

"Youths from the Kula community attacked some of our facilities today and
forcefully shut them down," a Shell spokesman said, adding that it had
shut 70,000 barrels per day, or bpd, at the Ekulama I and II flow
stations.

"Reports indicate that there were 300 people, including men, women and
children," a ChevronTexaco spokesman added. The US-based company shut
20,000 bpd at Robertkiri.

Disputes between oil multinationals and communities are common in the vast
wetlands region that pumps all of Nigeria's 2.5m bpd of oil, and often
lead to occupations, hostage-taking and sabotage.

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, in a dispute over oil money and political
power. But that group seems to be unconnected to this action.

Oil industry sources said this dispute was over jobs for the Kula
community, located near the state border with Bayelsa.

Millions of impoverished inhabitants of the Niger Delta, largely abandoned
by their government, feel they should benefit more from the huge wealth
being pumped from their tribal lands.

"The people were not armed. They just came in large numbers. We still have
to find out if they have a genuine grievance," said a senior Nigerian oil
industry source.

Oil prices have been falling and are down nearly 15% in the last week,
settling at $42.54 a barrel in New York on Friday. There are fears this
latest action could cause a jump in prices.

· Energy regulator Ofgem has launched an initiative to tackle fuel poverty
by helping vulnerable customers to be more aware of schemes to help them.

Sir John Mogg, chairman, said: "Our research shows that too many people
simply do not know about the amount of help that is available."

The initiative comes as consumers are facing rising bills for gas and
electricity, partly linked to rising oil prices.



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