Nigeria’s police are closing in on 15 kidnapped oil workers and are hopeful of rescuing them soon, a spokesman told Bloomberg.
Gunmen attacked a bus carrying 14 Nigerian employees of Nestoil Plc, a Lagos-based oil services company, and a driver on Friday afternoon near the southeastern city of Port Harcourt.
“The security agencies are working on it,” Nnamdi Omoni, a police spokesman, said by phone from Port Harcourt.
“It’s all hands on deck. We’ve recovered the vehicle. As soon as possible, they’ll be rescued,” he added.
He declined to say where the workers were being held, saying it may harm the police operation, or whether the gunmen had asked for a ransom.
Kidnappings are common in the oil-producing Niger River delta, with many people being freed after a ransom is paid. Militants in the region have escalated attacks on oil and gas pipelines and export terminals since February, sending Nigeria’s crude production crashing to an almost 30-year low.
The state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., may be “crippled” if the attacks aren’t stopped, it said in an e-mailed statement on Saturday.
“There’s an urgent need for government and security agencies to refocus as well as engage” with communities in the Niger Delta,” the oil firm said
Meawhile, the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, one of the militant groups in the Niger Delta region, on Sunday dismissed reports tagging the group as Urhobo militants, asking the Nigerian military to stop invading Urhobo communities in the guise of searching for its members.
This is coming after the Nigerian troops under the Exercise Crocodile Smile invaded several Urhobo communities, where scores of persons were arrested including a septuagenarian at Akperhe Olomu in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State for being members and sponsors of militant group in the region.
It was learnt that the military had also invaded Otu-Jeremi community and some houses including a hotel where it arrested guests and one Mr. Godfrey Ideh, who had gone there to collect a debt.
Troops have also stormed other Urhobo communities in Ughelli and Ughievwen in search of persons suspected to be members of the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, a militant group that has claimed responsibility for attacks on oil installations in the highland areas of the region.
A statement issued on Sunday by the group’s spokesman, Aldo Agbalaja, reiterated its warning to the staff and residents around oil and gas facilities in the region to immediately vacate, as it threatened further attacks on oil facilities.
It threatened that attacks on oil facilities would continue, saying that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has not summoned the courage to address requests made by them.
NDGJM said, “Another thing (is that)we have observed an organised plot to tag us an Urhobo group, thus the frequent and deliberate characterisation as such by a section of the media (not The PUNCH). This attempt has been followed up by a reckless military invasion of some Urhobo communities.
“Our message to those in this plot; keep it up, your recompense is nigh. As for the operatives and operations of the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, the wind is invincible.
“For the avoidance of doubts, we have seen no reason to halt our anger against the Nigerian Federal Government, not when the oppressive system has yet to move a muscle to respond to our requests.”
It stated further, “This said call and the so-called ceasefire are all a job, just like the Ijaw-dominated, Clark-convened Niger Delta stakeholders’ meeting in Effurun was. They are both meant to justify the money they hope to obtain from the government. The High Command of the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate uses this medium to alert the world to disregard this fraud.
“We have our means of communicating, definitely not a call.
“With this development, if the Nigerian security system is serious about catching frauds and militants, they should get those who claimed to have spoken on the telephone with ODU; they should still have his physical contacts. When we make our next ‘loud’ statement, they should go after ODU, who just claimed to be the leader of the mandate.”