N/Delta Crises - PENGASSAN May Pull Out Members
23 Aug 2006
Author: Lillian Okenwa
The government of Bayelsa State has been indicted for the August 8, 2006 kidnap and possible death of Comrade Nelson Ujeya, a Community Liaison Officer with the Shell Petroleum Development Company Ltd. (SPDC) during the last Sunday shoot out between men of the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, Operation Restore Hope, and militant youths along Biobou Creek at the Niger/Delta.
Questioning how Ujeye could have been abducted in the presence of Senior Bayelsa State government officials that he traveled with on a joint investigation visit to Letugbene community in the state, Comrade Peter Esele, President, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria disclosed that the union is considering withdrawing its members from the region.
Addressing a press conference yesterday in Lagos, Esele said that a joint NUPENG/PENGASSAN National Executive Council (NEC) scheduled for next week will address the issue in detail but that considering the unending insecurity in the Niger/Delta, they might have to withdraw their members since government has failed to live up to expectation. Esele while fielding questions from journalists said:
“We are upset that government has not secured the release of the only Nigerian hostage. They have secured the release of foreign nationals but the only Nigerian citizen being held hostage was ignored.
This government has shown no respect for the lives of Nigerians. Probably the lives of Nigerians do not matter since foreign nationals are cared for and Nigerians are ignored. If those in charge of providing security cannot protect the lives of the citizenry, they should get out.
We got the information only last Friday (August 18). mThe report was that he was he was about to be released but that in the course of negotiations, there was a shoot out. We do not know if he was among those shot dead or not Our tax money is what is used in paying the salaries of these security operatives yet we get little in return. We have wondered why he was the only one picked. He is also from the Niger/Delta For an incident that took place since August 8, we wonder why the Bayelsa state government was slow in securing his release.
Comrade Esele who said, ìNobody feels safe in the Niger/Delta any moreî further disclosed that Ujeya' s
wife has been hospitalized as a result of the news. It is no longer a question of people being kidnapped from the oil rigs but even at night clubs. We are considering pulling out our members from the region.
We have lost confidence in the security apparatuses. Nobody feels safe.
We are wondering why he was the only one kidnapped in spite of the fact that he was with officials of Bayelsa state government. We are holding the Bayelsa state government responsible. The fact that he is a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is enough reason why he should have been protected by the security operatives there. His live should have been secured.. Elsewhere, they do everything possible to protect lives but it is different in Nigeria. Why do we have leaders? They are there to ameliorate our problems not to compound them.The possibility of his being alive is remote. Why free all the expatriates before the shoot out while he was left behind? Why was he not freed before the shoot-out?
So much have been said about these militants, but do they live in the sky? We have several security agencies and for over one year they could not infiltrate these groups. There has been no improvement in that region for the past one-year. The militants even have more sophisticated weapons than our security
Who is funding them? How do they get their weapons? Why has government not gotten to the bottom of this?
The security operatives are not doing enough. If they were, we would have seen results. These are Nigerians struggling to make ends meet like others, yet they get kidnapped and the government does nothing. It is painful,î Eselse concluded. 12 people allegedly killed last in a gun battle between men of the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, Operation Restore Hope (JTF), and militant youths along Biobou Creek. Although there were conflicting accounts of the clash the JTF, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and Shell Petroleum Development Company confirmed the incident.
A Shell statement said the company had received reports of a clash between men of JTF and the militants around Brass Creek, which resulted in injuries and possible casualties, noting that the details were still sketchy.
It said: ìWe have also received reports that an SPDC staff in Letugbene may have been involved in the
The company refused to give the name of the staff feared to have been involved in the incident, stating that company policy demanded that the family be notified first.
The Shell worker was abducted on August 8 during a routine visit to the community of Letugbene, in the presence of Bayelsa State Government officials. But MEND, in its account distributed to the media through email, said the incident happened when a rescue party sent to secure the release of a Shell staff held hostage by some youths was ambushed by the
JTF, leaving dead 10 of its fighters, a state government official and the rescued shell staff.
According to the group, "We set out with 14 fighters to secure the release of a Shell worker held in Bayelsa State. This was successfully done and on the way back, they were ambushed by about 10 JTF gunboats.
"They were attacked without provocation or warning and we lost 10 of the 14 fighters in this attack MEND said the Shell worker was in one of its boats when they were attacked, but it did not know whether he was killed.
But the JTF said it was not aware of any casualty during the incident. According to its Public Relations Officer, Major Said Hammed, JTF received a report last Friday that some criminals were hiding in Biobou Community in Ekeremor, and that on the strength of this information, the community was raided through a cordon and search process.
No casualties were involved either from the military side nor the side of the militants, only arrest was made,î he said. But the spokesman of MEND, Chief Patrick Bigha, told THISDAY that the JTF killed 10 of its fighters.
He explained that a team of chiefs, community heads and youth leaders had been briefed by Shell to negotiate the release of one Mr. Nelson Ojegha, a Community Liaison Officer (CLO), kidnapped by the youths of Letugbene Community about a month ago.
He said after securing the hostageís release, the rescue party was attacked by the JTF along the Biobou Creek.
He said they were moving in two speedboats and a passport 19 boats when the attack happened. Bigha said there was no exchange of fire between the soldiers and MEND, warning that the attack had vitiated the peace agreement between the two groups.
The Federal Government had last week ordered the military to flush out the militants from the Niger Delta, stating that its patience with their militancy was tinning out.
But oil companies had at the weekend expressed fears of a possible backlash of the Federal Government's order for a crack down on insurgents in the Niger Delta.
Industry sources told THISDAY on Sunday that oil majors in the country had started to brace up in anticipation of more violent attacks.
A top official of one of the multinational oil firms said the force-for-force order given by President Olusegun Obasanjo may result in more violence against workers in the oil and gas industry, which government forces may not be able to curtail.
"If the Federal Governmentís armed forces go all out against the militants in the already charged Niger Delta region, an all out bout of violence and bloodshed may result and the oil companies and their staff will be directly on the receiving end," the official stated.
He said government's swift change in its approach to violence in the region may be too sudden for the militants to adjust and this may blow off the lid and give way for unbridled violence and bloodshed.
Meanwhile, the federal government troops at the weekend arrested about 100 people in a search for militants suspected to have abducted oil industry workers.
With the fears being raised over the life of the SPDC staff the concerns that were expressed by players in the oil industry following the federal government order may have been confirmed.