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Nigerian Oil Workers Agree to Release 100 Foreign Hostages

The hostages, including 17 Americans, are employees of Transocean, the world’s largest offshore oil drilling contractor.

“Everybody is expected to be moving home from this evening depending on logistics,” Joseph Akinlaja, deputy president of the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), told reporters.

Some hostages may already have been released, according to reports. Witnesses near where the rig is based, reported seeing a helicopter leave the rig with one foreigner and several Nigerians.

The striking workers, members of the NLC’s National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), called a strike on April 16, protesting disciplinary action taken against five union executives.

A decision by the company to ferry workers 25 miles between the rig and the shore in boats instead of helicopters also helped prompt the strike, according to Akinlaja.

The strike halted drilling operations on four rigs owned by the Houston-based Transocean, which is in the region drilling on behalf of multinational companies Royal/Dutch Shell and Total/Fina Elf.

Recently re-elected President Olusegun Obasanjo helped negotiate the agreement to release the hostages, Transocean spokesman Guy Cantwell told Reuters.

During the talks, held in the Nigerian capital Abuja, NUPENG President Peter Akpatason said he hoped to secure an agreement from Transocean to allow the strikers to return to work without being laid off.

Ian Clarke, head of Transocean’s Nigerian operations, declined to comment, a Reuters report said.

No injuries or deaths have been reported as a result of the strike. Of the 370 people who work on the rigs, the strikers number around 100.

Akinlaja said Transocean would evacuate all the workers by boat and helicopter following the hostages’ release.

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