Posted by By Emma Amaize, Hector Igbikiowubo & Samuel Oyadongha on
THE three hostages still being held by the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) cried out from custody yesterday to the Federal Government to meet the conditions set by their abductors for freedom. Government has rejected the conditions.
WARRI— THE three hostages still being held by the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) cried out from custody yesterday to the Federal Government to meet the conditions set by their abductors for freedom. Government has rejected the conditions.
There werealso indications yesterday that militants in the Niger Delta are split over last week’s release of six of the original nine foreign oil workers seized last month by MEND.
However, the Ijaw are taking their case today to the British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, in London.
The hostages, two Americans and a Briton, Vanguard gathered, say they are gravely worried about the fate that may befall them in the creeks any moment from now should the Federal Government continue to ignore the militants' conditions. But President Obasanjo insisted, weekend, that the Federal Government would not be stampeded or cajoled by the militants to do anything against the interest of the nation.
Vanguard learnt that Governor James Ibori of Delta State who was handed a letter, containing the conditions and pre-conditions by the militants for the release of the three remaining hostages and negotiation with the Federal Government, last Wednesday, met with President Obasanjo, weekend, to brief him on the situation.
The President, according to a reliable source, commended the governor and all those involved in the release of six of the nine hostages but was not persuaded by the clamour for disbanding the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta among other conditions. He reportedly asked the militants to release the remaining three hostages without any condition.
Governor Ibori confirmed yesterday afternoon while giving an update on the hostages to Vanguard that: “He (Obasanjo) wants the hostages released unconditionally.”
A source told Vanguard in Warri that the hostages pleaded afresh with the militants not to allow them die as it had become clear to them that there was definitely a problem if five days after the release of their six colleagues, no clear word has come for their release.
They urged the American and British governments to do everything possible to get the Federal Government to listen to the militants.
There were indications yesterday of a split in the ranks of the Niger Delta militants who claimed responsibility for the spate of attacks on oil and gas facilities in the area and kidnappings of expatriate staff of oil exploration and production companies following the release of six of the hostages.
One of the militants called up Vanguard yesterday on phone and said some members of the Movement were against the release of the six hostages, while some other members were in favour of the release.
“Although we had to put the matter to a vote and those who were in favour of releasing them carried the day, the others who were not in favour of releasing the hostages opined that the whole essence of kidnapping them in the first place would be defeated,” he said.
The militant who would not disclose his identity or how he got the reporter’s phone number said it was only after those opposed to the release of the hostages had made strenous arguments about first securing some concessions from the authorities, that three of the hostages were kept back.
Ijaw take case to Blair
The Ijaw in the United Kingdom are expected to stage a protest today at Number 10 Downing Street, London to formally handover a petition to Prime Minister Tony Blair and the offices of the United Nations and European Union, calling on the international community to intervene in what they described as the on-going suppression and marginalisation of the Ijaw and other minority nationalities of the Niger Delta region by the Federal Government.
Coordinator of the Ogele Club, a pan Ijaw group, Mr. Felix Tuodolo, told Vanguard from his base in the United Kingdom that it was time the international community took action before the situation deteriorated to a crisis point.
His words: “We are not relenting in our determination to persuade the international community to intervene in the decimation, oppression, suppression, marginalisation, and exploitation of the Ijaw people and other Niger Delta nationalities by all successive governments in Nigeria. Such intervention will also put a stop to hostage taking, vandalisation of oil facilities in the Niger Delta area and threats to global energy security and humanity,” he said.
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