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Hostages are Alive, Well, Says Presidency

Posted by From Josephine Lohor in Abuja and Segun James in Warri on 2006/02/21 | Views: 464 |

Hostages are Alive, Well, Says Presidency

The Presidency yesterday allayed fears that harm might have come the way of nine expatriate oil workers, being held hostage by militant Ijaw youths in Delta State, saying they were alive and well.

The Presidency yesterday allayed fears that harm might have come the way of nine expatriate oil workers, being held hostage by militant Ijaw youths in Delta State, saying they were alive and well.

“All I can tell you is that they are alive and well,” the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mrs. Oluremi Oyo, told newsmen at Aso Villa, Abuja.

She said although President Olusegun Obasanjo was concerned about the safety and continued detention of the hostages, she explained that information at the disposal of the Federal Government was that the crisis would soon be resolved.

Oyo expressed Obasanjo’s confidence in the ability of a committee headed by Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori, which was set up by the Federal Government to secure the release of the hostages.

In far away Warri, however, the Ibori committee struggled to justify the President’s confidence as it established contact with the captors of the hostages who in deference to appeals from Ijaw leaders allowed medicine to be passed on to a 60-year-old diabetic hostage.

Governor Ibori who told newsmen in Warri that negotiations with the militants had started, said this initial contact was made by an Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, who is also the leader of the Contact Committee set up by the Federal Government committee to help it find the captors of the hostages and prepare the ground for negotiation.

The governor said the interim information his committee had was that the militant youths decided to take the expatriates hostage in retaliation for the military’s last week bombardment of Okorenkoko, one of their strongholds near Warri.

He said efforts had been intensified to get the militants to release the hostages.

But as Ibori gave his committee’s progress report, an Ijaw militant group, the Ijaw Liberation Movement (ILM), warned against arrest of their kinsmen, saying such an action would only aggravate the tense situation in the troubled oil city.

The group in a statement signed by its President, Mr. Dickson Forcados, said the warning had become necessary because of intelligence report at its disposal indicating that security operatives, particularly those of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), had been deployed in Warri to arrest alleged masterminds of the kidnap.

Forcados, however, made it clear that this action would only worsen the situation in the creek as the youths were ready to do battle with the soldiers, adding that any further military action by the government would only endanger the lives of the hostages.

He accused the government of bad faith in its negotiation with the captors of the hostages and said despite assurances given by Ibori that the youths in Okorenkoko would no longer be terrorized by the military, the community had been under heavy security siege.

“Let it be known to all Nigerians that the Ijaw would not succumb to any blackmail or intimidation by any person or group, including the Federal Government,” Forcados said, adding, “Any attempt to arrest our elders because of the recent incident in the state would only jeopardize the understanding we reached with our leaders to free the hostages.”

In another development, the people of Ogulagha, who are hosts to Forcados Terminal owned by Shell have lamented the killing of one their sons by soldiers.

The royal father of the community, Captain Joseph Timiyan, the Ebenanaowei of Ogulagha Kingdom, said despite the fact that his people were not involved in the hostility in the creeks, soldiers killed one of his subjects on Monday.

But the Joint Military Task Force in the Niger Delta, Operation Restore Hope, in a statement signed by its Public Relations Officer, Major Said Hammed, yesterday justified the killing and said it occurred when soldiers tried to ward off some militants who had stormed the gas plant at Forcados and opened fire on the troops on guard.

Hammed said that the young man who was clad in black and red attire was killed while another was arrested.

He also refuted a report by a national newspaper (not THISDAY) which said that a military vessel was attacked.

“Contrary to media reports no such incident occurred. What happened was that, armed militants in a speed boat stormed the gas plant and opened fire on the troops. The troops returned fire in self defense and one militant clad in black and red attire was shot dead, while another named Okereke Ndoro was arrested. There was no loss of men or equipment to JTF Forces that foiled the attempt to further disrupt the activities of Shell at Forcados Gas plant” Hammed stated.

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Comments (3)

Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

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

Actually translates to bravehearted.