Oil facility takeovers spread in Nigeria

Thursday, July 18, 2002

ESCRAVOS, Nigeria -- Hundreds of unarmed women seized control of at least four more ChevronTexaco facilities in the Niger Delta Wednesday, even as the 10-day occupation of an oil terminal by other village women ended.

The occupations were spurred at least in part by the crushing poverty in which villagers live amid the region's oil wealth. Nigeria is the world's sixth-largest exporter of oil and the fifth-largest supplier to the United States.

The women involved in the latest takeovers, all members of the Ijaw tribe, were refusing to leave until they had met with senior company executives to press their demands for jobs and community improvements.

"We are going to sit here until Chevron sends its managing director to us, even if it takes two years," said Josephine Ogoba, a protest leader.

Facilities controlled

She said the women now controlled five facilities. ChevronTexaco's Nigeria subsidiary confirmed takeovers at four flowstations near the villages of Abiteye, Makaraba, Olero Creek and Otunana, but company officials had no information on a reported occupation at Opueketa.

The women's protests were a departure for Nigeria, where armed men frequently use kidnapping and sabotage to pressure oil multinationals into giving them jobs, protection money or compensation for alleged environmental damage. Hostages generally are released unharmed.

Ogoba said the women had not tampered with equipment at the facilities, but it was not clear whether they were still operating.

The latest actions mirrored a 10-day occupation of the multimillion-dollar Escravos terminal, some 50 miles to the west. But Ogoba said the protests were unrelated.

There was a buoyant mood Wednesday afternoon at Escravos after ChevronTexaco executives and women's representatives signed a seven-page memorandum to end that siege. The signing came two days after both sides reached a verbal agreement in which the company promised to provide jobs and amenities for nearby villagers.

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