Nigerian police say they have rescued four expatriate oil workers who were held hostage for a month. The men have been released in good health, but the kidnappers remain at large.
The men, two Russians and two Ukrainians were kidnapped on April 22 off the coast of Bayelsa in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Police say they are still searching for the kidnappers.
Security consultant Monday Osakene says the rescue operation is a rare success in a country where kidnappings usually end in ransom payments or death.
“This is the first time four foreigners are rescued from the troubled waters of Nigeria at once without any loss of life. It shows that the police are improving," he said.
He says the rescue could deter future kidnappers by proving that “it is no longer business as usual.”
“It will send a signal to the pirates and kidnappers that the Nigerian police are now serious. That Nigerian police have changed their mode of operation," he said.
Nigeria is Africa’s top oil producer and oil money has long been a source of conflict in the Niger Delta region where the men were kidnapped. Former militants say between 2003 and 2009 they attacked the government and oil companies to win a larger share of oil profits for the people and in retaliation for massive oil spills that have crippled the fishing and farming industries.
In 2009, the region settled into a relative peace after militants turned in their weapons in exchange for amnesty, job training and small stipends. However, locals say the grievances that caused the uprising have never been addressed. And Kidnapping and oil theft are still common.
Hilary Uguru contributed to this report from the Niger Delta.