Uncertainty over hostages!

EIGHTEEN days after they were taken hostage by militants in the Niger-Delta, the fate of the four expatriate oil workers appeared uncertain, yesterday, as their captors said they had no intention of releasing them and threatened more could be captured soon.
The militant�s tough posture, conveyed in an e-mail to Reuters news service, came just as the Federal Government indicated that the hostages – a 61-year old American identified as Patrick Landry, a Briton, a Bulgarian and a Honduran – could be released this week.
The captors message came as no surprise to Landry�s son, Dwight, who, yesterday, said until the hostages were released, he would not believe the Nigerian government�s optimism.
The hostages were kidnaped January 11off Nigeria as Landry piloted a Tidewater Marine supply boat for a Royal Dutch Shell project after the militants attacked the vessel. The American hostage, a native of New Iberia, Los Angeles, moved to Houston a couple of years ago, his family said.
The tension generated by the abduction is partly responsible for the current rising price of oil. The militant group�s e-mail to Reuters, yesterday, said: �We promised you the hostages were going nowhere inspite of the rumours (of impending release) and repeat that to you.�
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, is demanding more local control of the region�s huge oil wealth, the release of two ethnic Ijaw leaders, the impeached governor of Bayelsa State, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha and warlord, Asari Dokubo, and compensation to Niger-Delta villages for decades of oil pollution.
The group has launched a wave of attacks on oil pipelines and platforms which have forced Royal Dutch Shell, Nigeria�s largest oil producer, to cut a tenth of Nigeria�s output and withdraw 500 staff members
A Tidewater Marine official said, weekend, that he was aware of the latest report from Nigeria, but he added that there is no way to confirm the e-mail�s authenticity. He said the message belies what government negotiators had previously said about the status of talks with the hostage takers.
�I don�t know how much credence to put to an e-mail to a media reporter,� said Stephen Dick, Tidewater�s vice president, who is in London and in contact with the Nigerian government.
Tidewater, the world�s oldest and largest offshore marine services provider, has 6,500 employees on six continents. The company moved to Houston from its New Orleans-based operation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
However, OPEC president and minister of state for Petroleum, Mr. Edmund Daukoru said, yesterday, the hostages nightmare may be over in a matter of one week. �By a week�s time, we should expect some development and I hope it is positive�, he said in Vienna.
Once the hostages are freed, Daukoru said, Nigeria will be able to return to 120,000 barrels per day. Reports at the weekend said talks between a delegation of the Federal Government and the militants were deadlocked.
Daukoru said OPEC saw no need to adopt emergency method for oil production on account of the face-off between Iran and the western powers over Teheran�s nuclear programme.
�OPEC is not part of the misunderstanding between Iran and the Western democracies,� said Daukoru. �I don�t want to treat the Iran case as some kind of emergency that would call for an emergency response,� he told reporters, adding that it was �an evolving situation� which the cartel would monitor.
Daukoru was in the Austrian capital ahead of a meeting Tuesday of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). A key issue in the talks between the 11 nations of the cartel will be Iran�s call to cut production, currently fixed at 28 million barrels per day (bpd).
Most of the cartel members and its president are opposed to that idea with oil prices over 67 dollars per barrel, not far off the historic record of 70.85 dollars per barrel reached in New York last August. �Those arguing for a cut will have to defend their case and we will listen to each of them and reach a compromise,� Daukoru said.
Meanwhile, the Niger-Delta militants message that they were not in a hurry to release the hostages came as no surprise to the son of Landry, the American victim. Dwight Landry of Eunice, Los Angeles, said yesterday, government negotiators had repeatedly promised the hostages� release was imminent.

�The Nigerian government has been saying that the whole time,� Dwight Landry said of negotiations securing his father�s release. �This is an ongoing thing. … Until we see something really moving, I would have to think that�s not true.�

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