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Militants blow up another oil boat

Posted by Sola Adebayo, Sony Daniel, Babatunde Oke and Oluyinka Akintunde with agency reports on 2006/02/21 | Views: 497 |

Militants blow up another oil boat


A 100-man capacity boat used as a base by members of the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, was on Tuesday morning blown up by militants in Chanomi Creek, Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State.

A 100-man capacity boat used as a base by members of the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, was on Tuesday morning blown up by militants in Chanomi Creek, Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State.

No casualty was recorded during the attack as the JTF officers had abandoned the boat on Saturday night when nine expatriate oil workers were taken hostage by militants who claimed to be members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.

Our correspondents gathered that the militants had intended to confiscate arms and ammunition from the JTF operatives for the prosecution of their struggle but ended up destroying the boat when they found nothing inside.

The Public Relations Officer of the JTF, Major Said Hammed, confirmed the destruction of the boat, named Lady Whisky, during a telephone interview with our correspondents.

In a statement he later issued, the JTF spokesman said the latest attack was “contrary to government’s disposition to dialogue and pleas by well meaning Nigerians for the cessation of violence in the Niger Delta.”

He warned the militants against taking “undue advantage of the government’s position,” saying that, “any act of aggression would attract very dire consequences.”

Ijaw militants have, however, warned the Federal Government against the indiscriminate arrest of their kinsmen, saying that such action could jeopardise the safety of the nine abducted expatriates.

The militants, under the aegis of Ijaw Liberation Movement, said they had uncovered a plan by the government to arrest some Ijaw elders and youth leaders under the guise that they were oil bunkerers.

The President of the ILM, Mr. Dickson Forcados, who visited some media houses in Warri, said, “Let it be known by all Nigerians that the Ijaw would not succumb to any blackmail by anybody or group, including the Federal Government.”

Shortly after Forcados spoke, an unconfirmed source claimed on Tuesday that three more expatriate workers were kidnapped by the militants at the Kuta oil platform operated by Shell and Chevron.

Senior officials of the two oil companies who spoke in confidence around 9.30pm denied knowledge of the incident.

Meanwhile, there were conflicting signals on Tuesday on when the kidnapped oil workers would be released.

While Ibori said that their freedom would be secured soon, a member of the 10-member committee raised on Monday by the governor indicated that it might take awhile.

Ibori, at a news conference in Warri on Tuesday evening, said he was in regular touch with the hostages and their captors.

The governor therefore urged journalists to shun text messages and e-mails on the crisis.

But a member of the committee who pleaded anonymity told our correspondents that the leader of the kidnappers said that he was not ready for any discussion yet on the release of the captives.

“The man who is holding the expatriates said we (the committee) should not come now because of the prevailing tension in Gbaramatu area, apparently because of the death of our people when soldiers of the JTF bombarded the area on two occasions last week”, said the panel member who is also an Ijaw youth leader.

The committee member also claimed that the Delta State Government sent drugs and foodstuff on Tuesday to the kidnapped oil workers.

He said that an official of the state government passed the items through an Ijaw leader to the hostages.

The drugs, according to him, are meant for one of the hostages, said to be diabetic.

In Abuja, the Presidency said that the kidnapped oil workers were well.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mrs. Oluremi Oyo, explained that information on the health of the expatriates was gleaned from a latest intelligence reports.

Oyo added that President Olusegun Obasanjo expressed confidence in the ability of the Ibori – led mediation committee to secure the release of the hostages.

Also on Tuesday, the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, accused the Federal Government and the states in the South-South of insincerity in curtailing hostage taking in the Niger Delta.

The unions, at a joint news conference on Tuesday in Lagos, said it was regrettable that the various criminal acts, including vandalisation of oil installations in the region, were being aided and abetted by the Federal Government and the states in the region.

The unions were particularly irked by the Bayelsa State Governor, Dr. Jonathan Goodluck’s claim that the government discussed with the friends of the militants to facilitate the release of the four expatriates taken hostage in January.

They therefore called on the governments to employ all instruments of dialogue to ensure the safe release of the kidnapped oil workers.

The acting President of PENGASSAN, Mr. Peter Isele, said, “Hostage taking has become a lucrative business providing a means of spending money without proper accountability.

“It is sad, when we recall that government told a bewildered nation that it did not pay money for the release of the workers held previously but a lot had been spent on logistics, whose beneficiaries were not disclosed.”

The General–Secretary of NUPENG, Mr. Elijah Okuogbo, said, “There is the need to unravel those behind MEND and make them face the law.”

The unions said that it appeared that the the Presidency ignored a letter they sent to it immediately after the first hostages were released on the best way to handle the crisis.

Condemning the current hostage taking, the workers reminded the perpetrators that their act was against domestic and international laws, which the country had ratified.

Explaining why the unions had not withdrawn their members from the region, Isele said that they did not want to play into the hands of the hostage takers.

Also on Tuesday, the Managing Director of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited, Mr. Chima Ibeneche, said that Shell Petroleum Development Company would not pull out of Nigeria.

Ibeneche, who confirmed that between 300,000 and 400,000 barrels of crude oil were lost daily by the company and Nigeria due to the activities of militants, spoke at the ongoing West African Investment Forum in Abuja .

He said, “We are committed to Nigeria on a long-run basis. We will do everything possible to protect our employees and we are working with the authorities as citizens of Nigeria to seek protection on safety and security from the agencies of government.”

Ibeneche added that Shell’s contractor, Wilbros Nigeria, employers of the kidnapped oil workers, was in contact with the militants.

Also at the forum, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, described the crisis in the Niger Delta as “a temporary bleeding”, which the government was sorting out through dialogue and negotiations.

She said, “I hope we will be able to manage and stop crisis in the Niger Delta so that it doesn’t have a long term impact on the budget.

“Much of our revenues come from these oil flows. That is why it is imperative and in the national interest that this kind of attacks stops because it is actually affecting and impacting on the entire country.”

Oil prices in the international market kept its upswing move on Tuesday with the sweet light crude for March delivery selling for $60.95 a barrel as against $59.88 on Friday.

THE PUNCH, Wednesday, February 22, 2006

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.