Nine hostages escape Nigerian oil plant under siege
Nine out of almost 50 oil workers being held hostage at an oil production facility in Nigeria’s southern Niger Delta have escaped, a senior manager at the oil company Agip said on Thursday.
An Agip spokesman in Lagos said the Tebidaba flow station, located deep in the mangrove creeks of Bayelsa state, was still under occupation by armed militants and villagers pressing demands for oil spills to be cleaned up and compensation paid.
A manager at Agip’s base in Port Harcourt, the main city in the lawless delta, said nine of the hostages had managed to run away from the facility and made their way through the creeks to the company clinic.
“They are here in the clinic inside the Agip compound in Port Harcourt. They were severely beaten by the militants and they were lucky to escape,” said the manager, who did not wish to be named.
Agip, a unit of Milan-based ENI, has halted 50,000 barrels per day (bpd) in oil output from Tebidaba, the latest target in a wave of attacks against the oil industry in Nigeria, the world’s eighth-biggest exporter.
Prior to the invasion on Monday, Nigerian oil output was already reduced by about 500,000 bpd following a string of militant attacks in February.
About 38 or 39 people are still believed to be held inside the Tebidaba facility. The Bayelsa state government is negotiating with the militants to try and secure their release.
The Tebidaba area was polluted by oil spills in March and July after explosions on Agip’s pipeline, which feeds the 200,000 bpd Brass tanker terminal.
The protesters are arguing that compensation is due because the spills were caused by equipment failure, a Bayelsa state official has said.
Disputes between communities and oil companies are common in the delta, an impenetrable wetlands region almost the size of England, and often lead to invasions of oil facilities.
Such disputes are just one element of recurring violence in the delta, where impoverished villagers have seen few benefits from almost 50 years of oil extraction that has yielded huge revenues for the faraway federal government and for oil firms.
Attacks on pipelines and pumping stations, theft of crude oil and abductions of expatriate workers are also commonplace.