Shell Pours Oil on Troubled Waters

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It remains to be seen whether Royal Dutch/Shell's move to appoint a Nigerian as head of its largest African subsidiary will soothe the labor anil ethnic groups who regularly threaten oil production in the volatile Niger Delta region. But analysts laud the oil giant's decision to write a bit of history by appointing 58-year-old Basil Oniiyi as managing director of Shell Petroleum Development Co. of Nigeria.

Omiyi will become the first Nigerian to hold the managing director post of the Lagos-based company that is producing more than a million barrels of oil a clay in this West African nation. Shell "examined their management, and they're trying; to place the best people in the right plaees, and they are aware of the difficulties of the region," says Tina Vital, integrated oil and gas equities analyst at Standard & Poor's in New York. "It remains to he seen if this will have the impact they want and they can form a gentler and positive approach to their problems."

Those problems are significant, ranging from industrial disputes and ethnic clashes to the sabotage of wells and even the kidnappings of oil workers by militants. …