Nigerian Villagers Leave Seized Shell Platforms in Delta

LAGOS, Oct 27, 2006 (Dow Jones Newswires) Nigerian villagers have left three flow stations of the Nigerian unit of Royal Dutch Shell PLC's (RDSB.LN) they were occupying, following a truce between the company and community, brokered by the Rivers State government, a company spokesman said Friday.

"They have left and we are in the process of restarting," the official said. He said details of restart were not available.

The villagers from the Kula community in the Niger Delta occupied Shell's Ekulama 1, Ekulama 2 and Belema flow stations, with a combined output of 141,000 barrels a day of crude oil. Ekulama 1 had been previously shut down following an attack on it.

Chevron, for its part, said it shut down its Robert Kin flow station, which pumps 32,000 b/d, following attacks on Shell's facilities.

Meanwhile the leader of the Kula kingdom said the Nigerian units of Shell and Chevron Corp. (CVX), must be responsive to the needs of the community for them to have uninterrupted operations in the area.

Armed youths from the community Wednesday stormed three flow stations belonging to Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, and another, owned by Chevron Nigeria, forcing the companies to stop work and evacuate the facilities.

"We asked the youths to take over the platforms because the companies do not want to develop the community as previously agreed," Dan Opusingi, the regent of Kula Kingdom, told Dow Jones Newswires by phone Friday.

Kula is an island community on the border between Rivers and Bayelsa States, both in the Niger Delta. Opusingi said the oil companies had failed to employ locals in the oil industry operations, in contravention of a global memorandum of understanding between them and the community.

"When they bring contractors, they should give part of the jobs to the youths so that they can be empowered and everybody will be happy," he said.

A job such as the operation of a speedboat, which can pay 25,000 naira ($204) a month to a youth, Opusingi said, can make a difference in the community.

"All these naira are going to outsiders, so how will the companies empower the people?' he asked. Consequently, he said the residents continue to struggle with poverty.

Transportation to and from the community is by speedboats. Travelers to Kula, even locals, traveling from Port Harcourt and other towns in their vehicles, park them at Abonema Wharf, and board the speedboat. The journey to the kingdom takes about two hours.

Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.