The recasting of the violence to a more limited scale may help avert a selloff of ERHC, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil and other stocks with a strong presence in Nigeria as U.S. markets open this morning.
An oil facility owned by ChevronTexaco in the Niger Delta town of Warri was the scene of a deadly clash Friday between activists and Nigerian security forces. Wire services and newspapers have variously said that between one and 25 people were killed. A Niger Delta flow station is pictured.
The Champion on Monday morning seemed to back away from its own report of 25 deaths, saying in one story that just one soldier was killed while in another article recounting the long history of the clashes that have taken dozens of lives and cost hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity and crippled oil production over the past decade.
The Champion said in a third story, however, that community activists continue to demand the return of 20 bodies they say are being held by Nigerian forces at the terminal, and the paper said the activists returned two corpses of young men killed at the terminal to the facility in an act of protest.
There was an undertone of damage control running throughout the Nigerian press Sunday and Monday morning as publishers apparently sought to allay growing fears that oil-producing regions of the country, particularly the Niger Delta, have become ungovernable due to the coninuing deadly clashes over oil.
The BBC report may be the most reliable yet:
Man dies in Nigeria oil protest
By Anna Borzello
BBC correspondent in Lagos
Three years ago hundreds of women occupied the oil installation
LAGOS -- One person was killed during the occupation of an oil terminal in Nigeria's southern Delta region on Friday, the military says.
Hundreds of men and women stormed the installation, operated by the Nigerian arm of US giant Chevron Texaco.
Regional Army Commander, Brigadier Elias Zamani told the BBC he believed the man had been shot by his own side in the confusion.
However, the demonstrators said at least two protesters were killed.
Several others were still missing, they said.
A local journalist told the BBC that 12 youths had also been admitted to hospital in the nearby town of Warri.
The protesters from Ugborodo village, deep in the creeks of the Delta, invaded Escravos terminal on rafts just before daybreak on Friday morning.
It is not clear what happened next, although all sides admit that the police and military swiftly moved in to push the villagers out.
The area is now calm, and the demonstrators have been asked to address their grievances through talks with elders, state government officials and oil company representatives.
In July 2002, hundreds of women from Ugborodo occupied Escravos for several weeks in an attempt to force the oil company to provide jobs and development projects for neighbouring villages.
Chevron Nigeria Limited ended the protest by promising to meet many of the demands.
But two and a half years on, the villagers say that the company has still not honoured its pledge.
Community protests are common in the Delta, which is underdeveloped and marginalised despite its mineral wealth.
This is the second time in three months that a community demonstration has ended in violence.
Last November, youths from Ojobo in neighbouring Bayelsa state invaded an oil rig operated on behalf of the Nigerian arm of the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell.
Fifteen men were injured when soldiers guarding the installation shot at the protesters.
Villagers later showed journalists the graves of eight youths they said had been killed in the confrontation, but the security forces deny there were any deaths.
Shell is now investigating the incident.
Another story, this one from Monday morning's This Day daily, carried quotes from ChevronTexaco officials and provided more background on the clash:
Militants Threaten Escravos Crude Pipeline Again
Chevron: 10 oil workers seriously injured
By Mike Oduniyi in Lagos, Okon Bassey in Port Harcourt and Cletus Akwaya in Abuja, 02.07.2005
As fresh violence hits the oil-producing Niger Delta region, Chevron Texaco officials yesterday claim that they have uncovered plans by militant youths from Ugborodo community to vandalise the Escravos crude oil pipeline in protest against the killing of their kinsmen.
The pipeline, which supply crude to Warri and Kaduna refineries, was only repaired few weeks ago nearly two years after it was blown up in another attack by some protesting youths.
The militant youths said to number about 500, had invaded the Escravos Oil Export Terminal last Friday before being dislodged by security operatives.
Reuters quoting community leaders, reported that security forces shot dead about six protesters, while 13 others with gunshot wounds, including one with a bullet in the eye, had been hospitalised.
ChevronTexaco, which operates the terminal, however, said while it could not confirm the number of casualties, about 10 oil workers were seriously injured following attacks by the invading youths.
At least two helicopters serving the Tank Farm were also said to have been damaged.
Senior ChevronTexaco officials disclosed at the weekend that the company had received security report that the youths planned to blow up the Escravos oil pipeline.
The youths were said to be planning the attack on Escravos in protest against what they called excessive force by the joint military and police patrol team, to dislodge "a peaceful protest."
"We have just been told early this (yesterday) morning of plans by the community to blow up the pipeline," one of the Chevron Texaco officials said. He added that the relevant authorities and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had been informed of the development.
The community was also said to be protesting non-implementation of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) entered into with Chevron in 2002. The agreement was for the provision of more jobs, infrastructure among others, by the oil firm.
Reacting to the development, NNPC spokesman, Dr. Levi Ajuonuma, told THISDAY that the corporation had already enjoined Chevron to step up negotiations with the community and abort any threat to the crude pipeline.
The 125,000 barrels per day (bpd) Warri refinery as well as the 110,000 bpd Kaduna refinery, only resume production recently following the completion of repairs on the Escravos pipeline.
Also contacted on the issue, Chevron's spokesman, Mr. Femi Odumabo, said the 10 injured oil workers made up of contractors' employees and Chevron staff, were currently receiving treatment.
According to Odumabo, his company was surprised by the attack, as it was holding negotiations with the community leaders when the youths stormed the tank farm.
"We held meeting last Tuesday and Thursday and we had fixed another meetings for this Wednesday still on this MoU issue only for the community to attack on Friday," he said.
"We had told them during the meeting that they would be breaching one of the conditions required to honour the MoU, which is a conducive environment to carry out our operations," he added.
Meanwhile, Youth Associations from Oluasiri, Eleme-Sangama and Soku communities of Akuku-Toru Local Government of Rivers State and Nembe Local Government of Bayelsa State have jointly issued a 14-day ultimatum to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) demanding for compensation over deprivation of work experience and empowerment opportunities due them.
The three youth groups had earlier protested to the Project Manager (major projects) of the Anglo-Dutch Company for allowing the contractor, Oil Rim Development (ORD/DBN) as well as those in the Eastern Gas Gathering System project 1 and 2 to fabricate all major components of the various projects in their factories/yards (operational base) outside their project sites.
In the six-point petition, the groups stated that a lump sum of N15 million be paid to each of the three youth associations to prevent an impending feud between the oil company and the host communities due to the oil giant's insensitivity and neglect.
The petition was signed by president Oluasiri Youth Federa-tion, Mr. Orusakwe Aseimiegha; Leader South-Youth Welfare Association, T.O.F. Windah and President, Eleme-Sangama Youth Movement, Comrade Soingo Benson Duke.
According to the petitioners, the action of the contractors have deprived the youths from experience and financial benefit such as salaries and development projects, which should have been their entitlement at this stage of work.
The youths insisted that because the contractors went about the pre-finished stages of fabrication surreptitiously “their actions contravened Shell policy that contractors must conform with the company’s provision on sustainable community development.”
"We demand that the equitable benefit accruable to youths of each community be paid to us and adequate youth development and employment project done in our communities without delay.
“We are reasonable people and seek peaceful resolution of the matter. It is in this regard that we demand that the youth of the three communities Oluasiri, Elem-Sangama and Soku demand that the lump sum of N15 milllion be paid as compensation for man-hours lost to SPDC contractors,” the letter stated.
The letter also forbids SPDC and their contractors from entering Oil and Gas fields located in the three communities until the matter has been disposed of.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the youth groups from three communities said they have not ruled out any form of mediation by SPDC or negotiation with the contractors for a meaningful development that would placate them.
However, a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Temi Harriman has called for urgent measures by ChevronTexaco to reduce the growing tension in the Ugborodo community.
Harriman, who represents Warri Federal Constituency, in a statement in Abuja at the weekend called on the oil company to sanction the suspected security officials who opened fire on the people and pay compensation to the families of those killed in the clashes.
Also, the legislator urged the oil firm to implement the 2002 MOU with the community.
"Nearly three years after Chevron and the Ugborodo community signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), Chevron wants another MOU without implementing a letter of the initial one signed by its Managing Director on July 17, 2002. It is unfortunate that a company that yearly gives good corporate and social responsibility as its watchword, can so easily find it difficult to keep to an agreement signed by its Managing Director in public and in the presence of government officials", the legislator wondered.