17/11/2010 02:03


The seven oil workers abducted by militants from an ExxonMobil oil rig in Akwa-Ibom State on Sunday may have been taken to a hideout in Cameroun, according to a report by the United Press International.

Quoting unnamed sources, the UPI stated in its report on Tuesday that the militants moved the oil workers to an unknown place in Cameroun, apparently to foil any plan to rescue them by security forces.

But the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which claimed responsibility for the incident, was silent on the relocation on Tuesday.

The group, in an email statement by its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, on Tuesday, warned that it would launch fresh attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta.

“In the coming weeks, we will launch a major operation that will simultaneously affect oil facilities across the Niger Delta.” It said in the statement.

It claimed that its fighters entered the rig and “detonated explosives they had earlier rigged to this facility, causing considerable damage.”

The group added that it kidnapped the oil workers to “prevent the Nigerian government from attributing the damage to this facility to an industrial accident.”

MEND also said that the JTF had commenced “indiscriminate bombing and strafing of communities in the Niger Delta and locations in the creeks and swamps suspected of accommodating militia camps.”

But the JTF, in a swift response to MEND’s claim, said it was currently in an operation to rid the Niger Delta of all criminal elements in order for the region to experience needed peace and security.

The Coordinator of the task force’s Media Campaign Centre, Lt. Col. Timothy Antigha, advised all residents of communities hosting “criminals” to promptly report suspicious characters to the security agencies.

“In the past few weeks, criminal gangs masquerading as militants have been engaging in all manners of atrocities like kidnapping, sea piracy and illegal boarding of production platforms,” he said.

The JTF Commander, Maj-Gen. Charles Omoregie, had in an earlier statement, warned that people who carried arms illegally and paraded themselves as militants did so at their risk.

Omoregie said, “It must be stressed that lack of development can no longer be given as excuse for irresponsible behaviours, criminal and treasonable acts in the region.

“The JTF also wishes to disclose that these ex-militants, who after accepting the amnesty and benefiting from the goodwill of the Federal Government, have returned into criminality, thus, violating the amnesty deal. They have been advised to retrace their steps or face the full weight of the law.”

The Civil Liberties Organisation had recently raised the alarm on the insecurity in the creeks and waterways.

The organisation described the situation as desperate.

“The phenomenon has become a real threat and source of concern to well meaning and law-abiding citizens. This criminal act should be met with the attention it deserves so as to allow law-abiding Nigerians enjoy the constitutional right to move freely in the creeks, rivers or sea,” it said.

The attack on ExxonMobil on Monday came barely a year after a Federal Government amnesty brought some respite to the region.



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