Three different sets of international hostages continued to be held by militants in Nigeria’s volatile Niger Delta region. They include nine South Koreans, five Chinese, and three Italians and one Lebanese. While the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the Italians, there has been no claim of responsibility for the Chinese and the South Korean hostages.
Mark Olefe is political secretary for the Niger Delta People’s Salvation Front and Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, the group founded by imprisoned leader Alhaji Dokubo-Asari. Olefe said while his group is not holding any hostages, the frequent taking of hostages is an indication that all is not well in Nigeria.
“My group is not holding any hostage. But I cannot rule out the possibility that certain persons who at one time or the other participated in our group, I cannot rule out the fact that they might be involved. But I don’t have any authentic or authoritative proof of anybody that is involved. But definitely none of the hostage taking or none of the kidnapping with our order,” he said.
Olefe said his group does not condone hostage taking, but he admitted that it has brought attention to the problems of the Niger Delta region.
“What I make of it is that it’s an indication that all is not well in this country, and we expect that the custodians of the Nigerian system should find a lasting solution to this. You cannot muscle people into accepting your misrule or accepting to be under your control. That is what is happening in Nigeria or the Niger Delta. These people have to be politically responsible enough to own up to the problems of our people and find a lasting solution. They all want to do something to tell the Nigerian state that all is not well, and until it is resolved, they are going to make the country ungovernable,” Olefe said.
He said his group has turned its attention to political agitation with the view to supporting a candidate in Nigeria’s upcoming election who would sympathize with the plight of the Niger Delta people.
Olefe also expressed regrets that despite his group’s rejection of violence, the Nigerian government has chosen to arrest and imprison its leader, Dokubo Asari. He said it was not his group’s responsibility to tell the hostage takers not to take hostages.
“As I said the responsibility is that of the government. We cannot spend our energy condemning people who feel that their own method of challenging the state is more effective. Some of them feel that when they take hostage the whole world will speak on it. Newspapers will carry it front-page headline. The society seems to be more concern about the problems of Niger Delta because of what these people are doing. So how can go to the newspapers and be telling that it’s not good when I’ve not succeeded in convincing the Nigerian state to come to the round table once and for all to solve this problem?” Olefe said.