Gunmen kidnap 15 oil workers in Rivers state

Chidi Samuel

The Nigeria Police Force on Saturday confirmed the kidnap of fifteen oil workers in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital by unknown gunmen. This development was confirmed by Mr Nnamdi Omoni, the spokesman for Rivers state police command to AFP.

“Fifteen oil workers, including their driver, were abducted  on Friday by unknown gunmen who hijacked their vehicle on Omoku/Elele road after shooting into the air to scare passersby,”

The workers, who were employees of Nestoil, an oil and gas service firm, were on their way to their office in Port Harcourt when they were seized. They are all Nigerian local staff.

The police spokesman said police was on the trail of the gunmen.

“We are combing the bush and creeks in the area. Our men are all over the place. We are doing our best to rescue the victims and apprehend the kidnappers”, he said.

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He said police had recovered the bus after it was abandoned by the gunmen.

The kidnap of the 15 oil workers may be signalling a return to the dark days of lawlessness to the region and Port Harcourt in particular. It will be recalled that Niger Delta region was a hot bed for kidnappers  between year 2000 up until 2009 when the the government of late President Shehu Yardua reached an agreement with the militants to cease hostilities in the region. Their targets then were also oil workers and prominent Nigerians in the area and their family members who were usually released after a ransom is paid.

Last month, two Chinese nationals were seized near the nation’s capital Abuja. They were released after 24 hours, but it was not clear if ransom was paid.

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A resurgence of violence by different militant groups led by the Niger Delta Avengers since the beginning of the year has seen a wave of devastating attacks on Nigeria’s oil facilities that have slashed output and drastically reduced government revenue.The federal government is currently locked in negotiation with different stake holders in the region in a bid to find lasting solution to the perennial crisis in the region.