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Police Fire Tear Gas at Nigeria Protesters

Posted by By DANIEL BALINT-KURTI, Associated Press Writer on 2004/11/26 | Views: 677 |

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Police Fire Tear Gas at Nigeria Protesters


LAGOS, Nigeria - Nigerian police fired tear gas at several hundred protesters outside the offices of Royal Dutch/Shell in Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta on Wednesday, activists said.

LAGOS, Nigeria - Nigerian police fired tear gas at several hundred protesters outside the offices of Royal Dutch/Shell in Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta on Wednesday, activists said.

The demonstrators were from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, which is demanding that Nigerian security forces withdraw from ethnic Ogoni areas in the Niger Delta. The group says security presence has increased markedly since August to protect oil installations and to prepare an eventual return of Shell oil-drilling in the area.

"I'm suffering seriously from tear gas, and so are several others," Bari Kpalap, spokesman for the group, said from the scene in the oil city of Port Harcourt.

MOSOP leader Ledum Mitee said three activists were arrested at the demonstration and beaten by police, adding that more demonstrations would be held soon.

Kpalap alleged security forces have been extorting money from locals, and have committed a number of rapes.

"We asked the company to withdraw security forces from the area and they refused," he said.

Royal Dutch/Shell spokesman Simon Buerk said the company has had no presence in Ogoni territory since 1993 when it withdrew in response to MOSOP-led protests. He said the company had no connection to any security forces in the area.

"We are working toward reconciliation in Ogoniland," Buerk said in London. "But we're in no hurry to get back into Ogoniland without having proper consultation with all stakeholders."

The oil giant was forced to abandon drilling when MOSOP accused the company of cheating them out of oil royalties and polluting their land.

A police spokeswoman in Port Harcourt said she was not aware of the protest. Neither Shell nor the Nigerian military were available for comment.

A Western human rights activist at the protest estimated the number of demonstrators at 500.

Nigeria is the world's seventh largest oil exporter, pumping around 2.5 million barrels of crude per day. Shell produces roughly half of that oil, mostly from the impoverished Niger Delta region.

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