Posted by By Emma Amaize, Simon Ebegbulem, Emma Arubi & Paul Bebenimibo on
THERE are fresh worries in Delta State that the nine foreign oil workers kidnapped February 18 by the Movement for Emancipation of Niger
* Hope of early release dims
* Villagers flee Okerenkoko
WARRI— THERE are fresh worries in Delta State that the nine foreign oil workers kidnapped February 18 by the Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) may not be freed soon with their abductors making a fresh demand of compensation on the Federal Government for the families of the villagers allegedly shot dead and injured by the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta in the three-day bombardment of Ijaw communities.
This is besides the earlier demands, weekend, that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) be signed between them and the Federal Government in the presence of United Nations officials and Britain that Alhaji Asari Dokubo and the former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, be released before the hostages would taste freedom.
An Ijaw leader from Okerenkoko community, where the hostages are suspected to be held, Prince Clement Bebemimibo, told Vanguard, yesterday, in Warri that the militants also wanted the Federal Government to pay for the re-building of the houses purportedly destroyed by the military before the hostages would be released.
It was gathered that the new position of the militants supercedes any other condition that the group had given in the past.
Chairman of the committee inaugurated by the Delta State Government to negotiate the release of the oil workers, Chief Edwin Clark, also told Vanguard when contacted last night that he had no idea of when they would be released, saying: “Well, I am waiting, I do not know yet.”
Governor James Ibori of Delta State who travelled to Abuja was being expected last night in Warri. It was not known whether he went to brief President Olusegun Obasanjo on the development but he was said to be quite hopeful that there would be a breakthrough soon.
However, there was no signal from the militants who allowed some foreign journalists access to one of the hostages, last Friday that they were considering the release of the hostages before long. One of the militants said government officials claiming to have reached them were not saying the truth.
Okerenkoko, from available reports, yesterday, is now a ghost town following the attack and fear that the military would strike anytime to release the hostages by force. Prince Bebenimibo who confirmed the exodus said the leaders of the town had not been able to meet since the incident because “they are scattered all over the place now.”
Meanwhile, the Delta Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (DACCIMA) has condemned the resort to hostage taking by militants in the region, saying it was not the solution to the underdevelopment in the region.
The association said the hostages should be released unconditionally and government should display a measure of magnanimity in its handling of the situation.
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