Hundreds of angry villagers, including women and children, overran three facilities operated by oil giants Royal Dutch/Shell and ChevronTexaco in southern Nigeria, shutting off more than 90,000 barrels per day of production, officials said on Monday.
Men, women and children from the Kula community in Rivers State turned out in large numbers on Sunday morning and stormed two of Shell’s Ekulama facilities as well as ChevronTexaco’s Robert-Kiri platform, preventing scores of staff from leaving.
More than 100 oil workers have been trapped on the platforms since, with villagers occupying helipads and boat jetties, which are the only way to leave the facilities in the swamps of the oil-rich delta that pump crude oil to export terminals in Atlantic Ocean.
“It’s not really a hostage situation, they’re just not allowing people to leave,” a Shell spokesman in Lagos told IRIN.
ChevronTexaco spokesman, Deji Haastrup, said the occupations had been reported to Rivers State governor, Peter Odili, who had promised to
Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer, pumping some 2.5 million barrels a day. Shell’s Ekulama accounts for about 70,000 barrels daily, while Robert-Kiri has a capacity of around 20,000 barrels a day.
The spokesman for the Rivers State governor, Emma Okah, said government officials met with leaders of the protest and officials of the two oil companies in the state capital, Port Harcourt.
Villagers attending the meeting accused the two oil companies of failing to abide by an agreement to provide jobs and amenities in return for operating in the community.
A committee was set up to consider the demands tabled by the protesters and to end the impasse, Okah said.
But the talks did not end the siege. Shell said most of the protesters had left its Ekulama facilities on Monday, but that around 20 stayed behind to ensure oil workers did not resume production.
Oil company officials who were continuing negotiations with the protesters were demanding access to evacuate trapped staff, Shell said.
The incident is the second such standoff between locals and oil multinationals in the last five days. Only last Thursday, angry villagers set spilled crude on fire, preventing repair teams from reaching another site in Rivers State.
Forced disruptions, hostage-taking and militia violence are frequent occurrences in the Niger Delta and are thought to be responsible for the deaths of at least 1,000 people a year.
The crux of the problem is that impoverished communities in the Delta feel they are not getting their fair share of the immense wealth pumped out of the land on their doorstep.
Pollution of streams and farmland by oil is another constant bone of contention between the villagers and the oil conglomerates. Villagers claim the companies leave pipes to corrode and refuse to pay compensation for damage to farmland and fishing waters while companies allege many of the spills are sabotage aimed at extorting compensation.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
Help make quality journalism about crises possible
The New Humanitarian is an independent, non-profit newsroom founded in 1995. We deliver quality, reliable journalism about crises and big issues impacting the world today. Our reporting on humanitarian aid has uncovered sex scandals, scams, data breaches, corruption, and much more.
Our readers trust us to hold power in the multi-billion-dollar aid sector accountable and to amplify the voices of those impacted by crises. We’re on the ground, reporting from the front lines, to bring you the inside story.
We keep our journalism free – no paywalls – thanks to the support of donors and readers like you who believe we need more independent journalism in the world. Your contribution means we can continue delivering award-winning journalism about crises. Become a member of The New Humanitarian today.