PORT HARCOURT- Attackers who shut down an Agip oil pumping station in southern Nigeria on Tuesday night are still occupying the facility but talks are under way to persuade them to leave, a state official said on Thursday.
Agip’s parent company, Italy’s Eni,
earlier said the attack on the Ogbainbiri station in Bayelsa state had resulted in a significant decrease in output.
Agip normally exports 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) through its Brass tanker terminal in Bayelsa.
The attack intensified concerns about Nigerian oil output, which has been down by about a quarter since February, mostly because of militant attacks on Royal Dutch Shell facilities.
News of the Agip incident and of a Shell pipeline leak that has shut down a further 210,000 bpd have pushed world oil prices up.
Victor Ekenge, environment commissioner of Bayelsa state, said he had visited the flow station late on Wednesday as part of a delegation of officials seeking to mediate between Agip and the attackers, irate youths from the local community.
Ekenge said he had seen at least eight members of Nigeria’s security forces and 16 oil workers being held by the youths. All were unharmed.
“The youths are still occupying the facility. We are discussing with them … to let the people go,” Ekenge told Reuters by telephone from the Bayelsa state capital Yenagoa.
“We think they will vacate the facility anytime from now. That is why I am going back there now,” he said.
“The point of dispute is the non-implementation of an MOU by Agip,” he said, referring to a memorandum of understanding.
Disputes between oil firms and local residents demanding jobs and investments for their communities are frequent in the Niger Delta, an impoverished wetlands region that is home to Africa’s biggest oil industry.
Companies often sign MOUs with what they call “host communities” and disputes tend to arise when the residents feel promises have not been kept.
Eni had said on Wednesday about 40 people including subcontractors, security and catering staff were at the flow station when it was taken over. Eni said there were no injuries to the 40 but gave no details about what had happened to them following the attack.
An Agip spokesman in Lagos declined further comment on any matter relating to the attack on Thursday.
A Nigerian navy spokesman has said six naval personnel were present at Ogbainbiri but they were there as negotiators and were not being held against their will. — Reuter