Group Claims Responsibility For Kidnap of Oil Workers

A GROUP, which calls itself the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), has claimed responsibility for the January 11 attack on oil installations in the Niger Delta and the abduction of four expatriate oil workers.
In a statement sent to The Guardian’s website yesterday, the group said they were not out for cash ransom. But they also did not indicate if they would soon release the four men in their custody.
According to the group, who are already being trailed by security agencies and the Navy, the abducted expatriates were being fed on eba, a starch derivative from cassava.
They gave the names of the expatriates in their custody as: Milko Nichev (Bulgarian), Harry Ebanks (Hondurian), Patrick Arnold Landry (American), and Nigel Watson Clark (British).
The group also claimed responsibility for the December attack on oil installations in Rivers State’s Andoni, Okrika and Bonny areas. They called the “strike” a first warning to the government and expressed regrets over the loss of their kith and kin in that attack.
They said their aim was to bring the issues of resource control in the Niger Delta and the alleged repressive measures of the government of Nigeria against legitimate agitation by the impoverished and abused peoples of the zone, to the front burner.
According to the faceless group, to forestall a recurrence of the unfortunate losses in the December attack, all communities and fishing settlements around oil installations should immediately relocate or shift their boundaries to a reasonable distance from the oil facilities.
The group, mixing politics with their expressed aim of self-determination, also want the impeached Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alameiseigha, re-instated and his confiscated assets by Britain and Nigeria returned to him. They also want the arrested leader of the Niger Delta Peoples’ Volunteer Force (NDPVF), Mujahedeen Dokubo-Asari, released.
The installations affected by the recent attacks include three pipelines blown up with explosives and one oil export tanker and naval escort vessels attacked with rocket propelled grenades, light machine guns and assault rifles.
“We are capable and determined to destroy the ability of Nigeria to export oil or other petroleum products for that matter. We use this medium to issue a first and final warning to the EU, particularly Britain, which we single out as an ally of the Nigerian government in its repressive actions, to advise their citizens resident in the Niger Delta to leave at once as they have never been welcome on our soil,” the group wrote in The Guardian website.
“For the safety of its citizens, the United States and other European nations with citizens on our soil will do well to advise these individuals to leave immediately.
“For several years, Mr. Obasanjo and his gang has plundered our region with aid from western governments and therefore lacks moral foundation to pass judgment on even the most common of criminals.”
The Wednesday attack has caused Shell Petroleum Company to shut in about 226,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
However, The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ganiyu Adekeye, yesterday at the Delta Naval Base, Warri, said the Navy had information on the whereabouts of the kidnapped oil workers as well as data on the hoodlums who carried out the action. He said the Navy had taken control of affairs within the creeks in a bid to track down the kidnappers. He did not shed more light.
The Naval chief who breezed into Warri on Thursday shortly after the hostage incident said he was in town to strengthen the operation of his men. He was accompanied by the Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, Commander John Kpokpogri.
The Navy Chief also denied reports in some quarters that naval personnel were kidnapped along side the four foreign oil workers at the EA Field of the Shell Petroleum
Development Company, in Ekeremor local government council, Bayelsa State.
He said: “No naval personnel were abducted. All our men that participated in the incident are safe. The militants attacked an oil services vessel attached to the EA field. There were some Naval men aboard when the attack took place. There was exchange of gunfire. After the attack the militants destroyed the communication equipment of the vessel before taking the foreign oil workers hostage.”
Adekeye disclosed that after the attack the vessel proceeded to Port Harcourt and that the other crew members on board were safe.
The Navy Chief said had the Forward Operating Bases (FOB) being planned by the Navy in the Niger Delta area been functional, the attack would have been prevented.

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