Negotiations Reach Stalemate in Nigeria

Negotiations to end the predicament of nearly 100 expatriate workers and several Nigerians trapped on four drilling rigs off Nigeria have ended in deadlock, according to Elijah Okougbo, deputy National secretary of NUPENG. "The workers agreed to call off the strike and allow for a normal crew change, but the management insisted that they will evict the workers from the rigs by force." Naval chiefs in Nigeria's oil hub of Port Harcourt were holding emergency talks on how to deal with the more than two-week siege, navy officers said.

The 97 expatriates held on the rigs include 35 British citizens and 17 Americans. Over 150 Nigerians are also being held, according to the Aberdeen-based Offshore Industry Liaison Committee (OILC).

"We are ready to act but we cannot move without the permission of the rig operators," one naval officer said. "We are right now holding an emergency meeting on the matter." Striking members of the blue-collar NUPENG union, who have continued the strike despite orders by their head office to halt it, have blocked access to the MG Hulme, Jr, Sedco 709, Trident VI and Trident VIII, operated by Transocean Inc. since April 16.