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Militants End Occupation of Nigerian Oil Installation


The oil company Royal Dutch Shell says protesting youths have ended their occupation at an oil installation in the troubled Niger Delta region. A Shell spokeswoman says production at the facility, a joint venture, has already resumed. Gilbert da Costa has details from the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

Dozens of armed youths from Gbaran community in Bayelsa invaded and occupied the Royal Dutch Shell oil-pipeline switching station Friday to protest what they call the neglect of their community by the Western-based oil company.

A spokesman for the Bayelsa state government, Ebimo Amungo, says Shell's inability to honor terms of its existing Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] with the local communities triggered the raid.

"These are normal arbitration and industrial problems that happen. We have negotiated peace for the state, but the deals with the communities should go on. The MOUs they [oil companies] have with communities and all those things. So if it is a community affair, it really isn't something the world press would want to start blowing up that something again is happening in Bayelsa. Companies have problems with people, normally," stated Amungo.

Bayelsa state has been relatively peaceful in the past eight months and the authorities are keen to pass off Friday's attack as an isolated incident.

Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer with a daily output of 2.6 million barrels at peak production level, derives around 95 percent of its foreign earnings from the oil sector.

The country currently exports 2.1 million barrels per day because of unrest in the southern producing region of Niger Delta.

Authorities have acknowledged that poverty and neglect lie at the root of many of the delta's problems. President Umaru Yar'Adua's pledge to seek a peaceful and lasting solution has failed to quell discontent in the delta.

The trial of a prominent militant leader for treason and other crimes is adding to long-standing tensions in the region.

Violence surged in the delta in 2006, forcing thousands of foreign workers to flee.

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