YENAGOA, Nigeria – Armed protesters have overrun and shut down an oil facility operated by Italian oil firm Agip in the latest violence to hit Africa's biggest crude producer, government officials and the oil company said Monday.
The protesters invaded the Tebidaba oil pumping station run by Agip in southern Bayelsa State and forced workers to shut it down, said Joshua Benamesia, a security aide to the state governor. Agip is a subsidiary of Italian energy company ENI SpA.
"They shut down the place," he said by phone from the state capital, Yenagoa. "They always have demands but we don't have the details of what they want for now."
Another senior official from the local state environment department said the villagers were demanding restitution for pollution and jobs for community members. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
In Rome, ENI said 48 people, including workers and security guards, were at the pumping station when the attack occurred. There were no reports of injuries, the company said.
ENI confirmed that oil production was suspended for security reasons.
It is the second Agip facility to be overrun in recent days and occurred in the same region where unidentified gunmen seized on Thursday a Briton and an American working for the Norwegian company Petroleum Geo-Services, which had been engaged by oil giant Chevron Corp. to survey the seabed of Nigeria's southern coast for oil deposits.
The other Agip facility seized in Bayelsa State, Clough Creek, was overrun by protesters in late October. Agip's parent company in Rome called that protest peaceful and said it had not affected production. The protesters quit the facility on Saturday, Benamesia said.
In related violence, angry villagers in neighboring Rivers State stormed three oil platforms run by Royal Dutch Shell PLC. The facilities were held by protesters for six days.
On Friday, the U.S. Consulate in Nigeria's main city, Lagos, issued an e-mail circular saying militants are planning a major new wave of attacks and kidnappings over the next few days that could include up to 20 simultaneous bombings across the oil-rich delta region.
Since the beginning of this year, various militant groups in Nigeria have attacked oil pipelines and taken expatriate oil workers hostage in violence that has cut about 25 percent of the country's usual crude output of about 2.5 million barrels daily.
The militants say they are fighting on behalf of an impoverished population for a greater share of wealth from oil companies and the federal government, which apportions the revenues among Nigeria's 36 states.
Nigerian officials said they have made contact with the kidnappers, and reported the two hostages were in good health.
Nigeria is the world's eighth-biggest oil exporter and fifth-largest source of U.S. oil imports.