NIGERIAN AUTHORITIES SAY NO PROGRESS IN SEARCH FOR KIDNAPPED OIL WORKERS
by Ade Obisesan Fri Aug 11, 7:23 AM ET
LAGOS (AFP) - Nigerian authorities have reported no progress in the search for 10
foreign oil workers kidnapped over the past 11 days in the volatile southern Niger Delta region.
"They have not yet been
released. There is yet no news about them and we do not know their whereabouts," Rivers
State police command spokeswoman Ireju Barasua told AFP by telephone
The three Filipinos, two
Norwegians, two Ukranians, one German, one Belgian and one Moroccan were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in Rivers and neighbouring
Bayelsa states between August 3 and August 10.
A navy spokesman, Captain
Obiora Medani, also told AFP, "I do not have any information about the kidnapped oil workers. We do not have our men in places
where they were kidnapped."
In the latest incident gunmen
abducted a Belgian and a Moroccan Thursday in an ambush in the oil city of Port Harcourt, capital
of Rivers State.
Harcourt is at the heart of Nigeria's multi-billion-dollar oil and gas industry where
many oil firms have their operational base. The first of the latest series of kidnappings occurred there on August 3 with
the abduction of a 52-year-old German, Guido Schiffarth.
He was followed on August
4 by three Filipinos kidnapped on nearby Bonny island, and two Norwegians and two Ukrainians seized from a boat offshore on
One group, the previously
unknown Movement for the Niger Delta People (MONDP), said it was holding Schiffarth against the release of two local leaders
standing trial for corruption.
MONDP said he was being
held to demand the release of two Niger Delta leaders, former Bayelsa
State governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and regional warlord Mujahid Dokubo-Asari.
The two men are standing trial for corruption and treasonable felony in Abuja.
No claims of responsibility
have been made for the other nine foreigners.
Since the beginning of the
year, separatist militants have stepped up their campaign for greater benefits from the oil proceeds from local communities
and in protest against the resulting environmental devastation.
Since then more than 35
expatriate oil workers have been abducted although all were released after spending days or weeks in captivity.
Worried about the spate
of kidnappings in the region, Rivers State
police boss Samuel Agbetuyi told journalists in Port Harcourt that the frequent attacks on
foreign oil workers could create a "negative image" for the country, state-owned radio Nigeria reported Friday.
Nigeria, a nation of 130 million people, is the world's sixth biggest crude exporter with a daily output of 2.6
million barrels, a quarter of which is currently lost to unrest.
A militant group, the Movement
for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which has kidnapped people in the past, warned recently that it would carry
out deadly attacks on the oil industry from Thursday.
Meanwhile, the United States said Thursday it was ready to help Nigeria
tackle criminal activities in Niger Delta, including the abduction of oil workers.
is a friend of the United States. We can
help. But we will help at the request of Nigerians," US ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell said in a televised interview.
The Norwegian government
also Thursday expressed optimism that its two nationals and two Ukrainians kidnapped by militants in the region would be released
"Thursday or Friday" this week.
"Talks between the Nigerian
oil company and the local community are on and hopes are high. I am quite optimistic that they will get them released today
(Thursday) or tomorrow (Friday)", Norwegian ambassador to Nigeria,
Tore Nedreboe, told AFP.