Pain and Conflict Continue
NIGERIA: Oil workers trapped on rigs
This news report comes from IRIN, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Scores of oil workers, including expatriates, remained trapped on four offshore oil rigs following a strike by Nigerian workers, petroleum industry sources said. The rigs, operated by U.S-based Transocean Inc, are owned by Royal/Dutch Shell.
Shell, the biggest oil industry operator in Nigeria, claimed on Sunday that unknown "criminal elements" were threatening to blow up one of its offshore oil production vessels.
Joseph Akinlaja, secretary-general of the National Union of Petroleum and Gas Workers of Nigeria (NUPENG), said the strike, which has trapped scores of local and foreign workers on rigs 40 km offshores, resulted from a dispute between union members working on the rigs and management.
"It's not a hostage situation but a strike action," he told IRIN, adding that the workers were protesting against disciplinary action taken against five union members. Akinlaja said a meeting had been scheduled for Wednesday between the company and national union leaders to try to end the one-week-old dispute.
However, a Shell spokesman told IRIN the "Nigerian workers have prevented the foreign workers from leaving the rigs".
The crisis has also affected the drilling programme of another transnational corporation, TotalFinaElf.
The strike is yet another sign of growing unrest in Nigeria's coastal oil region, racked in recent months by violence and the activities of gangs who siphon crude oil from pipelines.
Shell claimed on Sunday it had received threats by an unnamed group to blow up one of its rigs. The company said the threats were accompanied by demands for jobs by the group, which claimed to represent the interests of neighbouring communities.
"Information reaching us reveals that anytime from now, the vessel could be boarded by force of arms and set on fire," the company said in the statement published in local newspapers. It did not offer details on the source of the threats.
In the last decade, impoverished communities in southern Nigeria's Niger Delta, which produces nearly all the oil that is the mainstay of the country's economy, have increased their protests against the partnership between government and oil transnationals which they accuse of depriving them of the wealth produced on their land.
Apart from communal protests, armed criminal gangs frequently take hostages in order to hold to ransom the oil corporations operating in the region.
For more information and a way to go beyond this conflict, see the Niger Delta Fund Initiative
Why is there such poverty, desperation and misery in a region that is fabulously rich in natural resources? What's wrong with the economy? Tell your views to The Progress Report:
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