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Vanguard (Nigeria): 8 oil hostages released as militants threaten Shell afresh

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Sam Oyadongha, Yenagoa & Habib Yacoob

Posted to the Web: Monday, June 05, 2006

WARRI— THE eight foreign oil workers that were kidnapped, last Friday, by armed youths in Bayelsa State were released, yesterday to the state government but the militant group, Iduwini Volunteer Force  (IVF), which carried out the abduction, said last night that the release was just the beginning of trouble for Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), warning: “We shall soon strike.”

Self-styled Commander of the IVF, Johnson Biboye, in a text message to Vanguard said: “I want to announce to the world the release of eight expatriates. It is just the beginning of trouble for SPDC and I  declare that we in the IVF want  to make history. We ask SPDC to leave our domain. We have the needed means and resources to bring down the E.A. Field and any other oil location in our domain. I warn  that we shall soon strike and the world will be shocked.”

The United States government hailed the release of the hostages but said the abduction was wrong in the first instance.

An official of Peak Petroleum, however, pledged that the company would respond to the demands of the community and would not allow a repeat of the  incident. However, the Bayelsa State government has  scheduled a meeting for today between the community, the company with the government as a mediator.

The freed hostages, six Britons, one American and a Canadian whose names were given as Ian Metecafe, Ali Wallace, Lawrence Richards, Peter Vermeulen, Phil Morris, John Stewart, Texas Richards and  Paul Sheppard, were abducted by the militants while on board the Bulford Dolphin rig at Bilabiri community in Ekeremor local government area, off the coast of Bayelsa State.

They were flown to Yenagoa in two batches into the waiting hands of Governor Goodluck Jonathan, who beamed with smiles as he received them. The first batch, comprising two Britons, was released at  about 3 a.m by their captors while the second batch of six was flown to Government House, Yenagoa  in  a Nigerian Air Force Chopper NAF 531 at exactly 11.20a.m, yesterday.

Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta, Brigadier General Alfred Ilogho, confirmed to Vanguard when contacted yesterday  that the Bayelsa State government coordinated the release of  the hostages and that all the eight foreign oil workers were healthy.

Sources in Yenagoa, however, told Vanguard that the deputy governor, Mr Peremobowei Ebebi, who incidentally is from Ekeremor local government led the government team. Secretary to the State  Government (SSG), Dr. Bolade Igali, was also in the team. They met with the chiefs, leaders and people of Bilabiri. The foreign oil workers who were seen with their tooth brushes at Government House told  Governor Jonathan that they were not maltreated by the kidnappers but they complained that they had not taken their bath since they were abducted.

Three of them were clad in their company’s red colour overall rig uniform while others wore putting on short sleeve shirts and jeans trousers, all looking calm.
Speaking at a brief handover of the workers to their employers, Governor Jonathan described the incident as unfortunate and apologised on behalf of the state government for their incarceration, which he  blamed on disagreement between the company and their host community.

He, however, called for a meeting involving the company, the community and the government today with a view to resolving their differences and avert a repeat of the incident.

Speaking on behalf of the hostages, Mr. Texas Richards, an American said: “We were not maltreated but we have not taken our bath for three days. We are glad to be back. We do understand the problem of  the community. We appreciate the support of the governor. We ate canned food but we do not know who provided them. Community life is community life.”

US lauds release

In a reaction yesterday, the United States Government expressed joy over the release of the hostages. The US Embassy in a statement in Abuja, however, condemned hostage taking, describing it as deplorable. It said: “The United States Government is pleased with the news received that the eight hostages  were released this morning (yesterday). “The Nigerian Government is to be commended for the positive and prompt resolution of this situation. However, we continue to deplore any acts of hostage taking.”

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