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TRAVEL ADVISORY – Fourteen Kidnapped Oil Workers Freed in Niger Delta Region

Key Points:

  • On 3rd September 2016 14 oil workers were seized by gunmen and kidnapped whilst transiting between towns near Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
  • According to reports, the gang demanded a ransom amount of 100 million Naira (or around US $322,000).
  • All hostages have been released after being held captive for two weeks. Official statements claim no ransom was paid.

Situation Summary:
Crime: On 3 September 2016, 14 oil workers from Nestoil were kidnapped on their return from the Egbema-Ohaji field. The workers were seized by gunmen on the road between the towns of Omoku and Elele, located 50km from Port Harcourt. According to local media reports, the hostages were released after a police operation by the Command’s Tactical Units. Local forces were engaged in a gun battle for an estimated hour and a half, before the gang escaped and the hostages were rescued. One victim was taken to hospital for treatment suffering from shock. Seven hostages had already been released the day prior before local forces used forceful tactics against the gang.


Intrinsic Comment:
Nigeria maintains a high rate of kidnapping of locals as well as foreigners. The majority of hostages taken have been Nigerian citizens; however in 2016 there has been a number of foreign nationals being kidnapped, the majority being oil workers or miners. In June 2016 five foreign contractors of Australian, New Zealand and South African nationality were kidnapped near Calabar. The hostages were held for four days and were released unharmed. Officials report no ransom was paid.

Kidnapping is utilised effectively as a tactic by many different groups in Nigeria. Whilst most kidnappings in Nigeria are conducted by criminal gangs, terrorist groups such as Boko Haram in the North have used kidnapping as a terror tactic. Areas of high risk are Kano and Kaduna State in the north, and Rivers and Delta State in the south, where Boko Haram and Delta Militants operate respectively.  Criminal kidnap for ransom is also very prevalent in Lagos and Abuja.

Sources: Reuters link, UK FCO link, The Guardian link


 Intrinsic Security Advice:
Risk Ratings: Nigeria: Severe Rivers State: Severe
Given the ongoing security situation in Nigeria, the risk of kidnap is unlikely to decrease any time soon. Terrorist groups and criminal gangs are likely to view foreign travellers as lucrative targets. Motives for kidnappings in the north are mostly politically motivated, whereas kidnappings in the south are motivated by financial gain. It remains advisable if traveling to the northern states or southern Niger Delta, to maintain close protection security in order to mitigate threat of kidnapping. Certain regions of Nigeria may require the use of an armed escort. Some instances of kidnapping have proven fatal. Due to longstanding allegations of corruption, local security forces cannot be relied upon to negotiate a release. In addition, local forces prioritise the capture of the hostage-takers rather than the release of the hostages themselves. It is important to have appropriate security contingencies in place prior to arriving in country.



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