Oil is fatal

Thursday 31 March 2005

-- Nigeria's army has been accused of killing at least 30 people and setting ablaze many houses while investigating an oil dispute between two communities. The communities living in the neighbouring towns of Odioma and Obioku in southern Niger Delta claim ownership of a patch of swampland, Owukubu, where oil giant Shell recently initiated drilling activities. The resulting claims over the newly created jobs and welfare opportunities have led to violent clashes.

But the army denies the charge of killing people. Army spokesperson Mohammed Yusuf says the soldiers were merely trying to capture the culprits behind a recent attack on local leaders mediating in the dispute between the two communities. But they were fired upon near Odioma and had to return fire. "Nobody died. The commander who led the operation didn't report any deaths," he asserts. Residents, however, say over 200 soldiers attacked Odioma in gunboats, firing indiscriminately and torching houses. Nimi Barigha-Amange, a clan chief, says over 30 bodies have been recovered and many people are still missing. Shell, meanwhile, has suspended drilling in the area. It declines to comment on the incident, saying government authorities should resolve land disputes.

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