LAGOS May 07, 2007 (AP )
Protesters armed with machetes occupied a Chevron Corp. (CVX) oil installation in southern Nigeria Monday, forcing the facility to be temporarily shut down and causing a small cut in production, officials said.
Chevron spokesman Femi Odumabo said the Ebite flow station, which produces 42,000 barrels a day in the west of the Niger Delta region, had to be shut down.
He declined to discuss the demands or numbers of the protesters, who included residents of the area.
The company expected to be able to reopen the facility soon. No one was injured during the protest and there was no damage to the flow station, he said. The protesters were still occupying the site but "are being engaged," he said.
A private security contractor, who wasn't authorized to speak to the media, said scores of protesters were armed with machetes but there were no firearms visible.
Community protests are common in Nigeria's oil-rich Delta, which remains deeply impoverished despite producing tens of billions of dollars in oil wealth every year.
Corrupt government officials often steal money intended for social projects such as roads or clinics, and oil companies have been forced to become service providers to continue operating without disruption.
However, many projects fail due to insufficient oversight or corrupt contractors, and recently heavily armed militant groups have gradually been replacing traditional community protests.
Disputes also often occur over compensation paid to villagers whose fishing or farming grounds have been polluted by oil spills, with the oil companies claiming that many spills are the result of thieves illegally tapping into pipelines to sell the crude, a process known locally as 'bunkering.'
Nigeria is Africa's largest oil exporter and is the fifth largest supplier of crude to the U.S.
Copyright (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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