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MarketWatch: Nigerian militants release Shell employees

Mar 27, 2006
LAGOS (MarketWatch) — The governor of Delta State in Nigeria, James Ibori, on Monday completed the handover of three foreign workers who had been held hostage by militants, the governor's spokesman said to Dow Jones Newswires.
“The hostages were handed over to officials of Shell (RDSA), their employer, in the presence of embassy officials from the U.S. and U.K.,” according to Abel Oshavire, who spoke by phone on the way back from Warri, where the handover took place.
The three men, two from the U.S. and one from the U.K., as well as six others released by the militants on March 1, are employees of Wilbros, an oil services contractor working for Shell in Nigeria.
Oshavire explained the release of the workers would have lingered further but for the confidence that the militants have in Ibori, who led the efforts to secure freedom for the kidnapped men.
“The governor has always been very sincere and free with these people (the militants), and always puts his reputation at stake with them,” Oshavire said.
He said that Ibori has assured the militants there would be no more attacks on them by the Nigerian government. Ibori also assured the militants that the Delta State government would negotiate with the Nigerian government for “justice, equity and a better Niger Delta region.”
“So they believed him, and on the basis of this, they were moved to release the hostages to our negotiating team,” Oshivare said. He spoke as they drove from Warri to Ibori's country home in Oghare, where he had been conducting the rescue efforts.
“The governor is very happy and hopes we will never walk this path again,” Oshivare said. The hostages had been held Okerenkoko, which is believed to be the stronghold of Ijaw militants in the Niger Delta.
The Nigerian government had warned last week it would not negotiate with the militants for the release of the hostages, but promised the problems of the Niger Delta would be discussed after the hostages had been released.
Demands by the militants include a greater control of revenue accrued from oil and gas, clean up of the region that has been polluted by oil exploration and production, and the provision of basic infrastructure in the area.
The Delta State government hopes all issues “will be resolved amicably to the satisfaction of both parties,” Oshivare said.
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