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Nigerian women seize oil terminal
by Pablo Rossell
16 July 2002 15:11 UTC
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Take a look at who owns Chevron
PR


Nigerian women seize oil terminal
Demand jobs for sons: Non-violent action a departure
from 
usual protests
  
Peter Goodspeed  
National Post 


Friday, July 12, 2002

Hundreds of impoverished Nigerian women, armed with
nothing 
more than bundles
of food and cooking pots, have hijacked one of Africa's 
largest oil terminals
to demand jobs for their sons and electrical power for
their 
villages.

Claiming they are tired of living in perpetual poverty
in the 
shadow of a
multi-billion-dollar Chevron oil terminal in the middle
of 
the swamps of the
Niger delta, hundreds of local women seized control of
the 
huge Escravos
Island oil depot and tank farm on Monday.

They are demanding face-to-face negotiations with top
Chevron 
officials in
order to obtain jobs for their families and electricity
for 
their villages.

"Chevron has long been neglecting the Ugborodo community
in 
all areas of
life," Anunu Uwawah, one of the protest leaders told
Nigerian 
newspapers.

"They have not shown concern at all to involve our
people in 
employment and
the provision of social amenities. We will no longer
take 
this nonsense. This
is the beginning of the trouble they have been looking
for."

Chevron officials in Lagos say they are committed to a 
peaceful solution of
the conflict and have opened negotiations with ten of
the 
protest's leaders in
the palace of a traditional leader, the Olu of Warri, in
the 
nearby city of
Warri.

Wole Agunbiade, a spokesman for Chevron Nigeria Ltd.,
said 
company managers
are continuing to negotiate with the women.

"We are hopeful that we will be able to resolve the 
situation," he said. "But
so far, we haven't persuaded the protesters to leave the

facility."

The women, many of them older than 45, seized a boat
used to 
ferry workers to
the island terminal and stormed the Chevron plant on
Monday.

When they landed on the island, the women split into
three 
groups and
immediately occupied the terminal's helicopter landing
pad, 
the dock and a
massive tank farm, which stores hundreds of thousands of

barrels of crude oil
pumped to it through pipelines from 23 offshore oil
fields.

The Escravos Island terminal, located in a swamp 300 
kilometres east of Lagos,
normally exports up to 450,000 barrels of oil a day and
is 
operated by a
standing staff of more than 700 Nigerian and
international 
employees,
including Canadians, Americans, and Britons, who live
and 
work at the terminal
on two week-long shifts.

Since Monday's invasion, which now appears to have been 
reinforced by hundreds
more local women, the oil terminal's operations have
been 
severely disrupted
and none of the Chevron workers have been able to leave
the 
complex.

Chevron officials in Lagos refuse to say if oil exports
have 
been slowed or
stopped.

For safety reasons, the women have agreed not to light 
cooking fires on the
terminal and are being fed at the Chevron staff canteen.

Nigerian police, army and navy personnel are now
patrolling 
the rivers and
swamps surrounding the island terminal, but they are
under 
strict orders not
to harm the unarmed protesters, police commissioner John

Ahmadu said.

Protests by local communities, who demand a greater
share of 
the benefits of
their country's oil wealth, are common in Nigeria's 
oil-producing regions. But
in the past, most confrontations have been between small

armed bands of male
kidnappers who have held oil workers to ransom or who
have 
briefly seized
control of individual oil drilling platforms.

In April, 43 ChevronTexaco workers were held captive for
four 
days on one
nearby oil platform before the standoff was resolved
through 
negotiations.

In a 1998 attack on the Escravos Island site, armed
gangs of 
youths seized
wells and pumping stations, shutting down a third of 
Nigeria's oil production,
and threatened to burn the complex down.

The island complex is surrounded by a swamp and seven 
villages that contain
about 50,000 impoverished fishermen who have long
resented 
the sharp contrast
between the staggering wealth of the oil compound, with
its 
paved streets,
swimming pools and satellite telephones, and their own
harsh 
rural existence.

 Copyright  2002 National Post

http://www.nationalpost.com/world/story.html?id={7AD1C92B-B665-4FCF-A62C-CBE9B21A1B1C}






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