British Oil Worker Taken Hostage in Nigeria

A British citizen working for an oil services company in Nigeria has been taken hostage. Security sources said that Paul Abraham, seconded by oil services firm SIGMA to ChevronTexaco was taken hostage at his house in the city of Warri on Sunday. His abductors are demanding a ransom of 15 million naira ($117,400), said a police official.

The kidnapping is the fourth reported case this month affecting oil firms operating in Nigeria's Niger Delta. It comes amid mounting problems for firms operating in the area, where ethnic conflict, large-scale theft of crude oil, protests and kidnappings are now part of the general business environment.

"He was at one of the expatriate drinking clubs in Warri and on his way home he was kidnapped," said one industry source. "The kidnappers have been telephoning his friends, demanding 15 million naira," said a police official in Warri. He said they briefly arrested security guards at Abraham's estate after the kidnapping, but were unable to get significant leads. "The expatriate works for an oil services company working for Chevron and other oil companies. That's all I can tell you," said an official at ChevronTexaco, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Jon Sharp, a spokesman for the British High Commission (embassy) in Lagos, said: "I confirm we are aware of an incident involving a British national in Nigeria. We are in close touch with the Nigerian authorities. The next of kin in the UK has been informed."

Oil workers are typically released unharmed in kidnappings in the Niger Delta, after ransoms are paid to the abductors.