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Nigerian Youths Threaten Oil Cos.

May 17, 1999

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ Tribal elders in the oil-rich Niger Delta region have urged oil companies to ignore demands by militant youths that petroleum installations be abandoned.

Youths from an Ijaw ethnic youth organization last week threatened to attack oil installations in the Delta unless operations were halted by May 16. They also asked embassies to advise their nationals working at the installations to leave.

The activists said they made the threat because Nigeria’s military junta failed to move local government offices to Ijaw territory from land controlled by their ethnic rivals, the Itsekiri.

Fighting has flared occasionally between the Itsekiri and the much larger Ijaws since 1997, when the military government moved the tribal boundary, granting more land to the Itsekiri.

Western oil companies are often targets of angry Delta residents, who say their interests are neglected by the government.

Residents also protest the government’s mismanagement of the oil industry and have demanded greater compensation from Shell, Chevron and others for the use of their land.

Although Nigeria is the world’s sixth-largest oil producer, few people in the Delta benefit from its wealth. Many towns exist in abject poverty without electricity, clean water or health care.

On Sunday, Ijaw elders asked oil companies to ignore the youths’ demands.

``We advise oil firms and their subsidiaries working in Ijaw land to ignore the seven-day ultimatum,″ said the statement, signed by two prominent elders.

The statement said elders were debating how best to handle their concerns, and called on Nigeria’s ruler, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, to return to the Delta to discuss the regional problems further.

There were no immediate reports Monday of violence against the oil installations.

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