Nigeria: Youth Protestors Take Over Chevron Oil Rig, Leave Peacefully

LAGOS, Nigeria -- Youths who seized an oil rig off southern Nigeria released their last 43 hostages and left the rig peacefully Thursday, after the oil company agreed to discuss their demands, officials said.

Nobody was harmed and the rig was "back to normal," said Joe Jakpa, spokesman for Chevron Nigeria, a subsidiary of ChevronTexaco.

Some 20 youths stormed the rig on Sunday, taking 88 workers hostage. The rig is operated by Noble Drilling, a Sugar Land, Texas-based contractor, on behalf of ChevronTexaco.

Twenty-two of the hostages were expatriates, mostly Americans working for Noble Drilling, while 66 were Nigerians, said Andy Norman, ChevronTexaco's spokesman in London.

Talks Tuesday led to the release of 45 hostages and the remaining 43 were freed Thursday.

The main demand of the youths, who come from the village of Ilaje, was employment.

Oil company officials told the youths their demands wouldn't be discussed until they left the oil rig, Jakpa said.

A meeting between oil company and government officials, and community leaders from Ilaje has been scheduled to take place next week in Akure, the capital of Ondo state where the rig takeover occurred, Jakpa said.

Police didn't arrest any of the youths.

"We have reported the incident to the government. Right now, the biggest concern is that everybody is OK and that the matter has been resolved peacefully," Norman said.

Nigeria is the world's sixth-biggest oil exporter.

The rig is five miles from Escravos, the site of a major oil export terminal.

Activists and criminals alike frequently attack oil installations in Nigeria and kidnap employees, but workers are seldom harmed.

Often, the hostage-takers demand jobs or other compensation, or claim to act in protest of the oil-rich region's desperate poverty and the environmental damage caused by drilling.

Community leaders warned this month that a Supreme Court ruling would fuel tensions and increase attacks against the oil industry in Nigeria's desperately poor south.

The ruling awarded offshore revenue to the federal government alone, ignoring local governments' demand for a share of the profits.

Nigeria's constitution calls for oil-producing states to get up to 13 percent of the oil revenues paid to the federal government. However, President Olusegun Obasanjo's government has agreed to pay states only a proportion of revenues from inland wells.

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