17 July 2002
Nigerian Women Storm New Oil Plants
Nigerian women have occupied four oil facilities in Nigeria's coastal Delta State.
The pumping stations, run by ChevronTexaco, are in the
same area as the Escravos oil terminal which is still occupied by a group
of local women after being seized
10 days ago.
A national police spokesman, Haz Iwendi, said that between 200 and 300 women had seized the stations, according to the French news agency AFP.
The stations were captured by unarmed women from the local Ijaw ethnic group, a spokesman for the Ijaw Youth Council said.
A number of employees at the sites were allowed to leave
after women occupied the pumping stations, the Associated Press quoted
the council's Kingsley Kuku as
"Our women are without fear. They are participating actively in our struggle and have embarked on this action without the use of arms, not even brooms," Mr Kuku said.
He was also reported as saying that Ijaw men would "burn down all Chevron oil facilities" if the police or soldiers were used to remove the women protesters by force.
Nigerian newspaper Punch quoted an Ijaw women's spokesperson, Lucky Lelekumo, as saying that the action was to draw attention to widespread poverty in local villages.
She said they had gained nothing from Chevron's 30-year-old operations in the region.
A spokesman for the Delta State government has said that after the oil terminal seizure, local communities "will feel bolder now because of what's happening to Chevron".
At Escravos, the women protesters who have besieged an oil terminal for more than a week say they will continue their blockade.
Earlier, it seemed as if a deal to resolve the situation could be close.
However, the women said negotiators for the Chevron oil company were not "sincere" and were not committing themselves to any agreement.
Our correspondent says the protesters, who are supported by their menfolk, are very determined.
They say the multinational has not specified how it is going to go about providing the amenities and employment it has promised in the framework of the deal.
Reports say that a solution to the Escravos dispute has been complicated by ethnic factors.
Most of the women occupying the terminal are from the
Itsekiri community. The Associated Press said that in addition to the concessions
from Chevron, they want
concessions from the state government in a year-long land dispute with the Ijaw.
But Anino Olowu, a representative of the women still inside Escravos, denied any connection with the land dispute or with the action by the Ijaw women, AP said.
About 800 workers remain trapped in the Escravos terminal in southern Delta state, after about 400 workers were allowed to leave the site on Sunday.
The occupation of the terminal has halted the production of an estimated 500,000 barrels of oil a day.
Nigeria is Africa's largest oil-producer but protests
are common in oil-producing regions by local communities, demanding that
more of the oil wealth is used for their benefit.