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Protesters storm Shell flow station in Nigeria

Hundreds descend on crude facility in Niger Delta demanding jobs and infrastructure development

Hundreds of Nigerian protesters stormed a crude oil flow station owned by Shell in the restive Niger Delta on Friday demanding jobs and infrastructure development, a Reuters witness said.

The protesters complained they were not benefiting from oil production in their area, a common refrain in the impoverished swampland that produces most of Nigeria's oil. They also demanded an end to oil pollution in the area.

Soldiers and security guards did not disperse the crowd as it entered the Belema Flow Station in Rivers State, which feeds oil into Shell's Bonny export terminal.

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But the army sent reinforcements after protesters said they would stay at the facility for two weeks.

"I am a graduate for about eight years without a job," said Anthony Bouye, one of the protest leaders. "Shell won't employ me despite us having so much wealth in our backyard."

Upstream sought comment from Shell on the matter. A spokesman for Nigerian offshoot Shell Petroleum Development Company said: "A group of individuals illegally occupied SPDC’s Belema Flow Station and Gas Plant today (August 11, 2017). The facilities were not manned at the time as they had been shut down earlier following security threats. 

"We have notified the authorities of the incident and are working towards safe resumption of operation."

“SPDC will continue to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety and security of staff and contractor personnel in our operations."

While Bonny Light crude oil is currently under force majeure due to the closure of the Trans Niger Pipeline, exports have continued using a second pipeline, the Nembe Creek Trunk Link.

Militant attacks on oil facilities have largely stopped since the government started last year talks with community leaders to address grievances of poverty and lack of development in the neglected region.

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But protests still flare as locals complain they do not benefit from the energy wealth, the dominant source of Nigerian government revenue.

Oil exports were scheduled to hit a 17-month high in August, but fell back under 2 million barrels per day (bpd) after Shell declared force majeure on Bonny light.

Nigerian oil production fell to just over 1 million bpd at certain points last year but has recovered thanks to a steady decline in the number of attacks on pipelines.