Royal Dutch Shell Group .com Rotating Header Image

The Guardian: £21m ransom demand for oil workers kidnapped in Nigeria

David Pallister
Saturday October 7, 2006

Intense negotiations were continuing last night to secure the release of four British oil workers who were kidnapped by a gang of armed militants in southern Nigeria.

The men were among seven seized while drinking in a bar inside an Exxon Mobil residential compound in the town of Eket in Akwa Ibom state. Two security guards were killed. A Nigerian official confirmed there had been a ransom demand, believed to be for £21m.

A Foreign Office spokesman said contact had been made with one of the seven, who reportedly said he and his colleagues were “OK”. The spokesman would not reveal which agency in Nigeria made contact with the captives.

The men, who were seized on Tuesday evening, were named as Paul Smith, Sandy Cruden, George Maclean and Graham Buchan. The other three were a Romanian, an Indonesian and a Malaysian. Mr Smith, a crane maintainer, lives in Peterhead with his wife, Paula, 28, and sons, Jordan, four, and Keiran, two.

His father, John Smith, said: “It’s come as a massive shock. Paul has been working in Nigeria for about a year. All we can do is wait for news.”

Three of the British men work for the crane engineering specialist Sparrows Offshore, based in Bridge of Don, Aberdeenshire. A company spokesman said: “We continue to be concerned for our three colleagues, and for the other men taken. However, intensive work is going on in Nigeria and in the UK to secure their safe release.”

There has been no claim of responsibility, but the gunmen are most likely to be linked to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), latest of the armed groups who say the delta has not benefited from oil wealth. It is demanding the release of its leader, Mujahid Dokubo Asari, who has been in jail for a year on treason charges. The group accused soldiers of razing Elem-Tombia village on Thursday. The army denied this.

Although 18 British nationals have been kidnapped this year in six attacks – with all of them released – the latest occurrence has sent shockwaves through the oil industry as it believed to be the first time that the security of a residential compound has been breached.

Fighting in the delta reached new ferocity this week. Seventy gunmen attacked boats supplying oilfields in Rivers state. They killed at least 10 soldiers and abducted 25 Shell contractors, who were freed by Wednesday. Yesterday Shell said clashes between troops and the militants had forced it to shut a pumping station.,,1889812,00.html and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: