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Monday, 13 March, 2000, 19:45 GMT
Nigerians seize Shell gas plant
The people of the delta are among Nigeria's poorest
The people of the delta are among Nigeria's poorest
By Lagos correspondent Barnaby Phillips

The multi-national oil and gas company Shell says that about 200 youths have seized a natural gas plant in Nigeria's troubled Niger Delta region and are holding all its staff and some soldiers hostage.

A spokesman for Shell told the BBC that the Utorogu gas plant near the town of Warri, was taken over by the youths on Monday morning.

Shell says it has few details, but sporadic shooting has been heard from the area of the plant during the day.

Shell: under pressure to improve road
Shell: under pressure to improve road
Hostage taking and acts of sabotage are frequent occurrences in the Niger Delta, where local communities feel they have been exploited by oil companies and successive Nigerian governments.

The Shell spokesman said a total of 30 members of staff, all believed to be Nigerians, as well as four soldiers had been taken hostage.

Hostages humiliated

He said they had been paraded in a humiliating fashion through the streets of a nearby village.

The youths are demanding that Shell improve a local road.

In public, Shell is saying that it won't negotiate on this demand until the hostages are released.

The local state government and federal government have been informed of this latest breakdown of law and order in the Niger Delta.

The Shell spokesman said the plant was important as it provided gas to Nigeria's beleagured national electricity company.

Nigeria's democratic government took office last year with a pledge to end the disorder in the Delta and improve conditions for its impoverished inhabitants, but it has made little progress in either regard.

Confronted with a series of ethnic and religious clashes in other parts of the country, the government can ill-afford a renewed wave of disturbances in the Delta - the region which provides Nigeria with the oil and gas reserves that keep the economy going.

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See also:

06 Nov 98 | Africa
Fighting the oil firms
03 Jun 99 | Africa
Nigeria reinforces oil town
24 Nov 99 | Africa
Niger Delta remains sealed off
22 Apr 99 | Crossing continents
Feature: The Akassa approach
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