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Militants kick over alleged N70m offer to free hostages

Posted by By FEMI FOLARANMI, Yenagoa on 2007/01/04 | Views: 496 |

Militants kick over alleged N70m offer to free hostages


The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said Wednesday it had botched a move to break its ranks through bribe offer by Agip in order to free three Italians and a Lebanese it is holding hostage. Agip has denied the allegation.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said Wednesday it had botched a move to break its ranks through bribe offer by Agip in order to free three Italians and a Lebanese it is holding hostage. Agip has denied the allegation.

The accusation is coming at a time the Niger Delta militants warned oil companies working in the region that the year 2007 would be bloody as more hostages would be taken until the detained Ijaw activist, Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari is released from detention.

This is just as the four oil workers kidnapped in the first week of December 2006 in Brass Local Government of Bayelsa State have further been relocated as negotiations broke down, with the secretary to the Bayelsa State Government jetting out of the country.

Three Italians, Roberto Dieghi, Cosma Russo and Francesco Arena and Lebanese Imad Saliba were captured when MEND attacked an oil installation owned by Agip in Brass, Bayelsa State.
MEND, in a statement, accused the Italian company, Agip, of trying to bribe guards to free the four oil workers.

MEND said Agip, a subsidiary of Eni Oil, had "commissioned a fraud well known in the Delta to effect this plan. It involved paying N70 million (538,000 dollars), to those supposed to be guarding the hostages", with the aim of getting them freed.

"A middleman brought N70 million to one of our camps where the attempt was immediately reported. Needless to say, the money has been confiscated and will be put to better use," MEND said, reaffirming that the hostages would only be exchanged for people it wants freed.
Agip would do better to spend its money on projects for the communities in the Niger Delta, the statement stressed.

"We have previously warned Agip against acts that may endanger the lives of the hostages," it said. "They are being watched by guards under instruction to shoot the hostages if any attempt is made to release them without proper authorization."

MEND said earlier it had decided to relocate the four to an unspecified location and reiterated that it would not release them for any ransom payment.
"As earlier stated, the hostages will only be exchanged. There will be no negotiations. There have been no meetings whatsoever with the Bayelsa government, Agip or any other parties towards the release of the hostages," the statement said.

But in a swift reaction, ENI denied trying to pay a bribe to obtain the release of the four workers.
"ENI is working with the Nigerian authorities and the (Italian foreign ministry) crisis unit for a positive resolution to the deplorable affair of the kidnapping of its employees in Nigeria," the company said in a statement.

"ENI has had no direct contact with anyone except the Italian foreign ministry and the Nigerian authorities," it said.
It will be recalled that the chief executive of Agip's parent company, ENI, Paolo Scaroni, met with Nigerian President Obasanjo in Lagos last week and the two ruled out armed action to free the hostages.

MEND is demanding that the Federal government should release former Bayelsa State governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, detained on corruption charges, as well as separatist leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and other detainees from the Niger Delta.

The group also wants a larger share for the South-South in oil revenues, which account for almost all the country's foreign exchange income and compensation for communities affected by oil pollution.
The militants under the Joint Revolutionary Council have also informed the international community that President Olusegun Obasanjo should be held responsible for the continued build-up of armed youths in the region and further attack on oil installations.

In a statement by Cynthia Whyte, the group explained that Obasanjo was misled into the "unlawful, illegal and criminal arrest of Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari"
The militants, who ruled out peace in Niger region in 2007, maintained that the attitude of the Federal government has continued to create a condition of instability with arms build-up which would take a long time for proper disarming.

According to them, the selection of Governor Goodluck Jonathan as the vice-presidential candidate, though commendable, is not the solution to the instability problem in the region as it cannot guarantee peace.

The statement reads in part: "We wish to inform the international community that General Olusegun Obasanjo should be blamed for several incidences of breach of peace in Niger Delta. The current ruler of Nigeria is the key motivator for the increasing armed agitation by groups in the Niger Delta.
"The continued keeping of Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari will continue to yield more hostage keeping in the Niger Delta. We are not at liberty to talk peace with a people who have chosen to undermine the efficacy of Ijaw people."

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Comments (3)

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Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

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Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

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Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown