Suspected Niger Delta militants have kidnapped two children of an oil services company executive in the coastal city of Port Harcourt. Last week, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) warned it would begin another round of abductions if the authorities continued with the secret treason trial of its leader, Henry Okah. The militants are reportedly demanding a ransom of about five million dollars. Obum Cletus is a community leader in the Delta.
He says it is not in the interest of militant groups to turn on the population, which is sympathetic to their course. “It is a very, very unfortunate development and only a mark of the insecurity that the Niger Delta people are going through, but the misfortune of this is visiting violence on the victims of violence. This is to say that the continuous assault on children and the trauma that emanates from it continue to arouse big condemnation from everybody who is from the Niger Delta.”
He says if the MEND is behind the latest kidnappings, it will erode its support among the local population. “I find this a very diversionary and cowardly reprisal if that has anything to do with the Okah trial, which we all condemn. The secret trial of a citizen in a democratic system like Nigeria on its own is complete sabotage.”
Cletus says the trial of the MEND leader will worsen security fears in the area. “Clearly, the secret trial of Okah, I can assure you, is going to exacerbate the crisis.”