OT Nigerians Release Shell Oil Workers

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Friday, 17 March, 2000, 12:49 GMT

Nigerians release Shell oil workers

The people of the delta are among Nigeria's poorest Staff of the multi-national oil and gas company Shell have been released, after being held hostage for five days by youths who seized a natural gas plant in Nigeria's troubled Niger Delta.

A spokesman for Shell said the protesters freed the 32 oil workers after negotiations involving local officials and community leaders.

"The protesters agreed to free the workers on their own volition," he said, adding that no troops were needed.

The youths stormed the Utorogu gas plant near the town of Warri, on Monday morning, demanding that Shell improve a local road.

The gas plant, which feeds power plants in southern Nigeria remains closed.

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.

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.

The Delta region provides Nigeria with the oil and gas reserves that help keep the economy going.

-- viewer (justp@ssing.by), March 17, 2000

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