Militants Kidnap 4 Foreign Oil Workers
10 Aug 2006
Author: Funke Oduwole, Dennis Naku and Napoleon Ehiremen
FOUR expatriate oil workers, two Norwegians and two Ukrainians were abducted at gunpoint yesterday by suspected militant Ijaw youths from an oil services ship off the coast of Nigeria in the Ekeremor local government area of Bayelsa State.
The latest in a series of abductions came even as the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. John Campbell, expressed deep concern over incessant hostage-taking in the Niger Delta which is home to the nation's oil and gas resources.
Mr. Campbell was guest speaker at a forum organized by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) held at the Golden Gate Restaurant, Ikoyi, Lagos.
However, Daily Champion learnt that the four expatriate staff of Peak Petroleum Nigeria Limited were abducted by 15 youths who stormed the ship and whisked them to an unknown destination. There was no resistance by security personnel guarding the ship near the firm's Dolphin Ring but sources said no casualty was recorded.
The latest incident is coming barely two months eight expatriate oil workers of the same company were taken hostage by suspected militant Ijaw youths in Bilabiri community, a border coastal community between Bayelsa and Delta states.
Investigation by Daily Champion revealed that the latest incident was carried out by four communities in Ekeremor local government area namely, Agge, Orobiri, Azamabiri and Ogbointu which claimed they have not been carried along in the scheme of things. They accused Peak Petroleum of recognising Ezetu 1 and 11, Bilabiri 1 and 11, Ekeni 1 and 11, Bisangbe 1 and 11 and Amatu 1 and 11 all of which make up the area.
During the previous kidnap in June this year, involving eight expatriate oil workers, the Bayelsa State Government had waded into the matter and had gone ahead to invite management of Peak Petroleum and the aggrieved parties in Bilabiri community to Creek Haven, Yenagoa the seat of power in the state, where outstanding issues were resolved
Confirming the latest incident, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr.Hafiz Ringim stated that the four expatriates abducted include a captain, one chief engineer, second chief engineer and a chief officer, saying he was yet to get their names as at press time.
Ringim stated that they were kidnapped some 28 nautical miles off the shores, adding that the youths carried out the operation because they were sidelined in a recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the firm and the community which resulted into the payment of a specific amount of money. According to him, the youths lamented that their community was not carried along in the sharing process; as the area comprises of other autonomous communities .
The Commissioner explained that the whole issue borders on recognition, because most of the communities in the area seem to be autonomous. He said he had deployed men to the area to investigate the matter.
Said he:"The four expatriates were working in their boat around 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. when some armed men believed to be disgruntled members of the community attacked them and took them away. Right now, we have not been able to make contact with the hostages, but we are working on that."
The four work on a vessel owned by Trico Supply, a Norwegian unit of U.S.-based Trico Marine Services Inc. The ship provides services to an offshore drilling rig owned by Norwegian Fred Olsen Energy.
But speaking on the topic: Role of Press Freedom in a Democratic Society", U.S., ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Campel stressed that "no matter what is going on there, there is no excuse for kidnapping".
He however noted that the media also have some roles to play. "Media need to do more concerning letting the world know about what is happening there, the intrigues, what needed to be done and how to curb the trend", he said.
On the issue of press freedom, Mr Campbel quoting Deborah Potter of the prestigious Poynter Institute in the US said "A free press is often referred to as the 'oxygen of democracy' because one cannot survive without the other".
Also quoting the French writer, Alexisde Tocqueville, who he said brilliantly examined American Democracy, he said "you can't have real newspapers without democracy and you can't have democracy without newspapers".
According to him, two statements were valid in democracies as diverse as Nigeria or the U.S "because our democracies whatever their peculiar form depend on the consent of the informed citizens and it is the news media that is responsible for getting people the information with which they need to govern themselves".
Mr Campbell noted that in the US "our founding fathers recognized how essential a free press is to an informed citizenry. So in our constitution, ratified in 1789 they established legal protections for a free press.
"The constitution is clear. It says 'congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech or of the press". Without a free and vibrant press a nation cannot flourish as a democracy. A free press informs and educates the public, provides a check on those in power, exposes the abuse of power and gives voice to the prosecuted", he stressed.
The diplomat stated that "a media that is independent of the state of religion allows for the peaceful expression and competition of ideas on which a strong democracy depends.
On the kind of presidential candidate the U.S would support for Nigeria in 2007, he said America has a very close relationship with Nigeria and hence would not want to meddle in the political interest of Nigeria, a close friend.
He said the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been performing its role toward ensuring a successful elections well, adding, we are not going to tell Nigeria how to conduct its elections".
Earlier in his opening remarks, Deputy President of NGE, Mr Tony Akiotu commended the efforts of the U.S in giving all the necessary support to sustaining Nigerian democracy.
He said Nigerian would benefit a great ideal by learning from America that it takes to achieve a sustainable democratic society.