Shell takes measures to ensure staff safety in Nigeria after attacks

Royal Dutch Shell said on Wednesday that it's taking necessary measures to ensure the safety of its staff in Nigeria's troubled Niger Delta after a spate of attacks on its oil facilities and the abduction of its workers.

"We continue to keep staff deployment in the western Niger Delta under close review. As we said yesterday the safety of our staff, contractors and the communities in which we operate is our top priority," the company said in a statement.

Shell was losing a total of 221,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) , or about nine percent of Nigeria's total output, due to the resurgence of crisis in the last one month in the Niger Delta, where the majority of the country's oil is produced.

However, "the majority of SPDC's (Shell Petroleum Development Co., Shell's subsidiary in Nigeria) production in Nigeria remains unaffected. Production levels remain unchanged," an earlier statement said.

Shell had evacuated at least 326 people on duty from four flow stations, Benisede, Opukushi, Ogbotobo and Tunu, in the southern state of Bayelsa this week, after the Benisede flow station was attacked by armed persons on Sunday.

Shell said that a catering contractor staff of the company was killed and more than 10 people were injured during the attack. A reliable medical doctor at a hospital in the oil city of Warri, to which the victims were taken, however, told the official News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday that 13 corpses had been counted.

The four flow stations with an output of 106,000 bpd were actually shut down on January 11 as a result of the explosion of one of the firm's major pipelines in the west of the troubled Niger Delta.

The NAN said the resurgence of crisis has forced people of Benisede to flee their homes as the natives feared a possible military bombardment of the area after Sunday's attack. Meanwhile, there has been an increased military build-up in Bayelsa state as soldiers conduct intense stop-and-search operation on motorists

Separately, a 115,000 bpd EA offshore oil field operated by Shell remained shut on Wednesday due to technical problems, the company said. "Consequently, force majeure was declared yesterday for EA offtake for the rest of January and February," it said.

The company also said that it was cooperating with "the authorities for the safe release of those held hostage," a Briton, an American, a Bulgarian and a Honduran, who were abducted from the EA field on January 11.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo had on Tuesday set up a committee to ensure the "prompt release" of the four workers and appealed to the kidnappers "not to do anything that might result in the loss of lives."

A previously unknown group, who calls itself the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, had claimed responsibility for the series of attacks in the last one month.

In an email to Nigeria's newspaper The Guardian, the group said "We are fighting for the control of our resources, which we have resolved can only be achieved by the use of force." The group warned that from February 1, it would start more "aggressive tactics aimed at oil company workers and their families in the Niger Delta" and shift the operations from the creeks into the cities.

The group said it would not accept money from the oil companies to stop its present mission. It called the moves to offer them money to stop their dastardly act of "bribe" with "blood money."

Nigeria is the biggest oil producer in Africa with a daily output of 2.5 million barrels with Shell accounting for half of the country's oil production, but the situation in the Niger Delta region in the south of the country is turbulent.

Local villagers frequently shut off oil wells, kidnap oil workers or commit other forms of violence to blackmail companies operating in the oil fields as they accuse the oil firms of not doing anything to develop the impoverished area.

Source: Xinhua

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