Human Rights


Police in Nigeria are continuing their search for 15 local oil workers kidnapped last Friday in the oil-rich Rivers State.

State police spokesperson Nnamdi Omoni in the southern city of Port Harcourt that the police are mobilising their anti-kidnap unit and other special units for the operation.

Unknown gunmen seized the 14 oil workers and their driver on their way to a project site along Omoku-Elele road area of the state.

“So far, we have succeeded in retrieving the car conveying them to work where it was abandoned and efforts are on to rescue them unharmed,” he said.

Omoni said the police were determined to ensure the freeing of the workers and refused to give more details on operations carried out so far.

Separately, Nigeria’s secret service said it had arrested a man allegedly behind the June abduction of seven contractors in the restive oil-rich south following a spate of hostage-for-ransom crimes.

Three Australian contractors working for Lafarge Cement Company near the southern city of Calabar were kidnapped along with two Nigerians, a New Zealander and a South African.

Their Nigerian driver was killed in the attack and a fourth Australian escaped. The kidnapped men were later released with Nigerian police saying at the time that no ransom was paid.

“On 22nd August, 2016, one Samuel Asuquo, a kidnap kingpin was arrested by the Service at Nasarawa Bakoko village in Cross River State,” the Department of State Service said in a statement.

“Asuquo was the mastermind of the kidnap of three Australian staff of Lafarge Cement Company, for which his gang received ransom of 150 million naira.”

Kidnappings targeting prominent Nigerians and expatriate workers were rife a decade ago until a 2009 government amnesty deal with militants reduced unrest in the region.

However, unrest returns and is growing in Nigeria as it grapples with a recession and inflation running at an 11-year-high of 17.1 per cent.

High-profile kidnappings of foreigners for ransom are rampant in the southern oil-rich states and most victims were released unharmed after payment of ransoms.

Along with a spate of kidnappings this year, rebels in the south have renewed their attacks on Nigeria’s oil infrastructure, slashing output in their quest for a greater share of the country’s oil wealth and political autonomy.