(Adds comment from Shell)
By Austin Ekeinde
PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Nigerian youths attacked guards protecting three oil flow stations operated by Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday to push demands for more funds for the local community, security sources said.
The sources initially said gunmen fired “a few rounds” at the sites at Nembe Creek in the Niger Delta, home to Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, but Shell later said no shots had been fired and that the facilities were running normally.
“The stations are operating normally and production has not been affected,” a Shell spokesman in Nigeria said.
A military spokesman said the attackers delivered a letter to security guards threatening further raids if Shell did not provide more funds to the local community.
An industry source said the gunmen had demanded Shell give them a security contract to protect its oil facilities in Nembe Creek, a hot spot for attacks. Shell declined to comment.
Violence in the Niger Delta, a vast network of mangrove swamps where energy firms including Shell, Exxon Mobil and Chevron have operations, has cut a fifth of the country’s oil output in recent years.
Militants say they are fighting for a greater share of the region’s oil wealth after decades of neglect. But the breakdown of law and order in the delta has allowed criminal gangs to thrive by kidnapping for ransom and stealing crude.
Local communities have sometimes tried to sabotage oil facilities to force the multinationals to pay them compensation for the resulting environmental damage, security experts say.
Nigeria’s most prominent militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), last month ended a five-month-old ceasefire and threatened more attacks against the oil sector. (Additional reporting and writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by Nick Tattersall)