Nigerian Ekpan women protest against oil company policies, 1986


Jobs for the women's qualified sons and daughters, preferential employment opportunities (catchment area policy), provision of pipe-borne water and electricity, and monetary compensation for lands seized

Time period notes

The action lasted for just one day, the 25 August, but the threat of continued actions and protests remained for two weeks.

Time period

25 August, 1986 to 8 September, 1986



Location City/State/Province


Location Description

Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Petrochemicals Plant, and the Pipelines and Products Marketing Pumpstation
Jump to case narrative

Segment Length

2 days

Notes on Methods

The Ekpan women physically campaigned for only one day; however, the threat of further protest and action still remained for two weeks until the second meeting during which the NNPC promised to meet the demands of the women.


Ekpan women


Ekpan men

External allies

Not known

Involvement of social elites

Not known


Nigerian National Petroleum Company

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

Not known


Economic Justice
Human Rights
National-Ethnic Identity



Group characterization

Ekpan women and men

Groups in 1st Segment

Ekpan men

Segment Length

2 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

2 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

6 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

Although the NNPC promised to meet some the demands of the Ekpan women, very few of the demands were actually met.

The primary organizers of the campaign were the Ekpan women. Some of the men were partners in the campaign, but the women distrusted the senior men of the community. Although the women were able to survive the attempts of the Nigerian Police to disperse the women during the protest, the women conceded their leadership to the men that they distrusted during the second meeting between the Uvwie community and the NNPC. Therefore, the campaign may have survived, but the leadership did not.

The campaign was was strong in terms of participants, with 10,000 demonstrators, and even more men who joined in to protect the women during the first day of the campaign.

Database Narrative

At 5 a.m. on Monday, 25 August 1986, a group of 10,000 Ekpan women from the Uvwie clan within Ethiope Local Government Area surrounded the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Petrochemicals Plant, and the Pipelines and Products Marketing Pumpstation. The demonstrating women chanted war songs and displayed banners and posters on which they wrote their grievances, such as, “Give us Social Amenities,” “Review all forms of employment within the Petrochemical,” and “Our sons, daughters and husbands are qualified for key posts within the Petrochemical.”

The women chanted for preferential employment opportunities by the NNPC for their own people and threatened to go naked if their demands were not met. In several countries, including Nigeria, Kenya, Trinidad, and South Africa, the public disrobing of women is thought to bring a serious and irreversible curse to those who see their nakedness. Any foreign man who sees exposed women is considered to lose his credibility in Nigeria as a result of the curse. The women blockaded access to all three projects – the NNPC, the Plant, and the Pumpstation – and those at the Petrochemicals Plant attempted to break into the premises. The supporting Ekpan men were armed with “dangerous” weapons, with “possible attack in mind just in case their women were tampered with.”  

Due to the blockade of the women, all activities at the sites of three projects came to a halt. Employees were unable to enter the buildings to work and oil tankers could not load fuel for distribution to petrol stations. Members of the Nigerian Police Force attempted to disperse the women, but were unsuccessful.

At 2:30 p.m., the women and the management team from the NNPC agreed to hold discussions. The representatives of the management team were the refinery’s General Manager, Refinery Manager, Administration Manager, Zonal Manager, and the Inspectorate Manager. The women were represented by three of their leaders. They refused to let any man from the Ekpan community attend the meeting, as some of them believed that the senior men who were closely tied to the oil industry had sold out women’s interests. The women not part of the delegation for the meeting remained at their demonstration posts, which continued to cripple the productions of the oil industry.

The negotiation meeting, held in the Refinery’s boardroom, continued for four and a half hours. During this meeting, the women laid out their grievances and demands. First, the NNPC had not adequately implemented the catchment policy. The catchment policy of the Federal Government requires that people indigenous to the oil operations site be hired by the state oil company residing in the area. The women found that the oil company had hired very few people from the Uvwie clan of the Ethiope Local Government Area. 

The second demand by the women was that compensations be paid for the lands seized for the refinery and petrochemicals project. Third, many of the small contracts were awarded to contractors from the home states of the NNPC top management personnel. The women called for this to be changed to give preferential employment to the qualified sons and daughters of the indigenous people. 

Fourth, the women demanded the provision of pipe-borne water and electricity at Ekpan. Finally, the women also called for scholarships to be given to their children in institutions of higher learning. The meeting ended at 7 p.m. as the management administrators agreed to bring the demands of the women to the top management of the NNPC. The women demanded that they receive positive feedback and response within two weeks, or they would resume their protest.

A second meeting was held two weeks later on Monday, 8 September 1986. The Warri Zonal Manager, the Project Manager of the Petrochemicals, the Manager of the Petroleum Inspectorate, the Pipeline and Product Marketing Manager, the Refinery’s Administration Manager, and the Zonal Head of Public Affairs represented the NNPC at the meeting. The representatives of the Uvwie community mostly consisted of men at the second meeting; there were only two women in the ten-person delegation. The Ekpan women viewed this as an example that women’s struggles came second to the economic interests of chiefs and elites.

During this second meeting, the Uvwie delegation restated their grievances and demands for preferential employment, the catchment area policy to be implemented, pipe-borne water and electricity be provided, scholarships be given to qualified members of the Uvwie community, and compensation be given for land acquired by the NNPC. The meeting, and the campaign, ended with the NNPC administrators promising to implement the catchment area policy, service the water borehole in Ekpan, reactivate the generator at the Ekpan Hospital, and speed up efforts to provide compensation for lands acquired.


The Ekpan women uprising was influenced by the Ogharefe women protest against Pan Ocean oil industry, 1984. (1)


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Ouédraogo, Jean-Bernard, and Roseline M. Achieng' Global Exchanges and Gender Perspectives in Africa. Dakar, Senegal: Codesria, 2011. Print.

Turcotte, Heather M. Petro-sexual Politics: Global Oil, Legitimate Violence and Transnational Justice. N.p.: Proquest LLC, 2008. Print.

Turner, Terisa, and Bryan J. Ferguson. Arise Ye Mighty People!: Gender, Class, and Race in Popular Struggles. Trenton, NJ: Africa World, 1994. Print.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Yein Pyo, 09/12/2012