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Wednesday, 2 May, 2001, 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK
Alarm at oil spill in Ogoniland
Family in the Niger Delta
Tension between Shell and local people continues
By Nigeria correspondent Barnaby Phillips

The oil company Royal Dutch Shell says it has flown experts from the United States to Nigeria to contain an oil spill which has occurred in the highly sensitive Ogoniland in the southern Niger delta.

Shell says the size of the spill has not yet been determined, but Ogoni activists describe it as a major blowout, putting local communities and farming land at risk.

Shell says it has now received assurances from local communities in Ogoniland that its staff will be allowed to assess and contain the damage caused by the oil spill.

But most Ogonis are extremely suspicious of Shell.

Suspicion

The company was forced to abandon production in Ogoniland in 1993 as a result of the campaign by the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, who accused it of responsibility for widespread pollution.

Pipeline on fire after apparently being sabotaged
Fuel shortages force people to sabotage pipelines
Mr Saro-Wiwa was executed by the former military government in 1995, making the prospect of reconciliation between the company and the Ogoni people even more remote.

This latest spill in the Yula oilfield was first reported on Sunday.

Shell officials told the BBC that initial evidence suggests it may have been the result of sabotage, but Ogoni activists have released a statement saying they are shocked by such suggestions.

They say that oil is still flowing out at the point of the spill and that there is a risk of fire in the area.

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See also:

22 Jan 01 | Africa
Nigeria hears Ogoni oppression
12 Jul 00 | Africa
Oil wealth: An unequal bounty
08 Jun 00 | Africa
Oil: Nigeria's blessing and curse
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