Women Trap Nigerian Oil Workers
[July 8, 2002]
Hundreds of workers are unable to leave an oil terminal in southern Nigeria which has been occupied by 150 women protestors since Monday.The terminal's operations have been severely disrupted and workers are unable to leave because boat jetties and helicopter landing pads have been occupied, according to the Chevron oil company which runs the terminal.
Ten of the women have been flown to the nearby town of Warri for negotiations with the oil company and police.
Protests by local communities are common in Nigeria's oil-producing regions, demanding that more of the oil wealth is used for their benefit.
Locals often kidnap workers and demand ransom money from oil companies.
No cooking fires
The women, armed with food and cooking pots, seized a boat used to ferry workers to the island terminal and stormed the plant at Escravos to demand jobs for their husbands and sons.
The BBC's Nigeria correspondent, Dan Isaacs, says that they have set up barricades at strategic points and are not allowing anyone to leave or enter the terminal.
Oil shipments have been halted.
Our correspondent says that for safety reasons, the women have agreed not to light cooking fires on the terminal and are being fed at the staff canteen.
"Chevron has long been neglecting the Ugborodo community in all areas of life. They have not shown concern at all to involve our people in employment and provision of social amenities," one of the protest's leaders, Anunu Uwawah, told the Vanguard newspaper.
"Oil is still arriving at the tank farm by pipeline from the rigs, but many of them have had to cut their production quotas as none is being taken away," an engineer at the terminal told the French news agency, AFP, by phone on Wednesday.
Unofficial estimates put the daily output of the terminal at 450,000 barrels.
"They are not armed or violent. Most of them are women over 45 and there is no way we would lay a finger on them," the engineer said.
In April, 43 oil workers were taken hostage at a nearby ChevronTexaco oil plant.
In a previous attack on the Escravos site, armed gangs of local youths threatened to burn it down, former Chevron employees told AFP.
Nigeria is Africa's largest oil-producer but most of the oil comes from the Delta region, further east.
As well as demanding a greater share of Nigeria's oil wealth, some communities are angry at oil pollution, which has damaged local industry, such as river fishing.