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allAfrica.com: Four Foreign Hostages Freed, in Niger Delta

Chika Amanze-Nwachuku and Ahamefula Ogbu, This Day (Nigeria)

Two Lebanese construction workers, a British oil worker and a Dutch security manager, who were kidnapped in the oil-rich Niger Delta, have been released.

The Lebanese nationals who were abducted on Monday in Bayelsa State, were working for Setraco, a Nigerian construction firm under Lebanese management, while the Briton was abducted on March 31, by armed men who operated in two speedboats during a pre-dawn raid on the Bulford Dolphin oil drilling rig, 40 miles offshore.

The released foreigners were the last being held by the militants.

A Bayelsa State Government official confirmed that the abductees regained their freedom yesterday morning, claiming that government was able to secure their release without paying any ransom to their captors.

Also, a spokesman of the British High Commission in Abuja, confirmed the release of the Briton, saying, “he is in good health as far as we know. He is due to see a doctor and I believe he will be on his way to Lagos”.

The Dutch security manager working for German building contractor, Bilfinger & Berger, a subsidiary of construction giant, Julius Berger, was seized on March 23 after a three-hour gunfight when men in three speedboats stormed a construction yard in Port Harcourt.

Two security experts working for foreign oil majors confirmed his release. Sources said armed groups from the same coastal communities were involved in the abductions of the Briton and the Dutchman, which would explain why they were released on the same morning. Another source however hinted that he (Dutch) was released by an unknown group.

THISDAY also learnt that contrary to Bayelsa Government’s claim that no ransom was paid for the release of the hostages, an undisclosed amount was used to secure the release of the Dutchman, who had spent 13 days in the custody of his captors.

A source among the militants disclosed that there was an agreement to release all hostages in the Niger Delta as well as stay further action on hostage taking until after the elections so that there would be no fear that elections would not hold due to their activities.

In another development, a security expert, Mr. Emiyeari Ikuru has said that effective handling of the security situation in the Niger Delta can only be achieved with the provision of materials for the police and other security agencies in the region as well as motivating them to work through sustainable packages.

Ikuru who is in charge of Security for Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited (SPDC) spoke at a forum “Partnering with the Media in Niger Delta Development” organized by SPDC where he observed that though sharing of accurate information promptly by all stakeholders was necessary, the working condition of the police was so appalling that they were no more motivated to work.

Published: Apr 05, 2007

Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media. (allafrica.com)

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