Six Foreign Oil Workers Held Hostage in Nigeria

Suspected Ijaw militants have held hostage six expatriate staff of an oil services firm in southern Nigeria after their demands for employment and contract opportunities were turned down, Nigeria's newspaper This Day reported Tuesday.

The youths held the hostages late Monday and took over the facilities of the oil service firm, subsidiary of Consolidated Oil, following the breakdown of negotiations with the company, the newspaper said.

It did not name the nationalities of the hostages.

Source was quoted as saying that the militants demanded full employment as long as its contract lasts, but the oil company rejected the demand on the ground that they lack the requisite work experience and qualifications.

The militants said that the company's position is "unbearable and unacceptable."

"That is why they went into negotiations with the management of the company but when this did not yield the desired results, the aggrieved youths took over the oil facilities and held the workers on duty hostage," the source said.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo was said to have asked Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was on the entourage of Vice President Atiku Abukabar to the United Kingdom, to return home immediately to deal with the matter.

Already, a rescue team made up of top government functionaries left for Sangana Tuesday morning "to secure the release of the abducted oil workers with minimal involvement of security agents," the newspaper said.

Kidnapping and armed attacks at oil workers are common in the Niger Delta, where the vast majority of Nigeria's oil is produced.

Mid last year, seven foreign oil workers were kidnapped by suspected Ijaw militants demanding 46 million naira (about US $328,600) as ransom.

The incident was preceded by an earlier fierce battle between Nigerian troops and Ijaw militants over the rescue of 16 oil workers held hostage on two oil platforms of US oil giant Chevron Texaco offshore in Bayelsa state. The act led to the loss of 23, 000 barrels of oil per day once.

On April 23 this year, seven people, including the Americans and three military personnel, were killed in an attack in the Niger Delta, as they inspected oil facilities abandoned last year.

According to a Shell report earlier this year, the violence in the Niger Delta kills about 1,000 people a year and as a result the Africa's top oil producer loses over 160,000 barrels of oil per day.