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Nigeria Secures  Release of Foreign Oil Workers - 2003-05-02


Union leaders in Nigeria say they have secured the release of hundreds of oil workers, including about 100 foreigners, held captive by their Nigerian colleagues for two weeks on oil rigs in the Gulf of Guinea.

Union leaders say they reached an agreement to have the captives freed on Friday after a meeting called by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abuja.

Officials from the U.S. company Transocean, which operates the rigs, finalized a deal with representatives for the Nigerian workers who began their protest action in mid-April. Details were not immediately available.

Jake Molloy, a labor union leader who represents several of the foreigners who were being held captive, says oil workers in Nigeria can expect more similar ordeals in the future. "I think it's going to be a long, slow process of education and culture change for the Nigerians before we rid the industry in that area of this kind of situation and overall threat," he said.

Mr. Molloy says multinational oil companies in the oil-rich Niger Delta region also need to be more responsive to the needs of local workers and communities.

The hostage-taking incident began after Transocean fired five Nigerian employees for alleged theft and corruption.

Protests break out frequently in Nigeria's southern oil producing region, where local activists say the people of the region do not get a fair share of its oil wealth.

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