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ChevronTexaco Resuming Oil Operations in Nigeria - 2003-04-04

The U.S.-based oil giant ChevronTexaco says it is resuming operations in Nigeria, following a shutdown that was prompted by ethnic fighting.

ChevronTexaco had been among several major foreign oil companies that shut down last month, citing concern for the safety of oil workers. The suspension of operations cut daily output in Nigeria, the world's sixth largest producer of oil, by around 40 percent.

On Friday, ChevronTexaco spokesman Oluwole Agunbiade in Lagos read a statement saying workers are going back to the Escravos terminal in the Niger River delta, and a gradual return to production was beginning.

"We have been encouraged by the recent calm in the western Niger delta, and after receiving a number of government assurances on safety in the area, we now believe that current circumstances are enough for the safe return of our workers to Escravos," he said.

Hundreds of ethnic Ijaws clashed with the Nigerian military last month, in a dispute that centered on the Ijaws' demands for greater political representation. As part of their protests, militants attacked a number of oil facilities in the delta region.

The shutdown by ChevronTexaco, the British-Dutch Shell, and TotalFinaElf of France, caused massive fuel shortages across Nigeria.

It also raised questions about general stability in the country in the run-up to this month's elections, in which President Olusegun Obasanjo will seek another term.