News / Africa

Nigerian Hostage Release Shows Military Shifting Approach

The 19 nineteen oil and construction workers taken hostage by Niger Delta militants and freed last week sit together in Port Harcourt, 18 Nov 2010
The 19 nineteen oil and construction workers taken hostage by Niger Delta militants and freed last week sit together in Port Harcourt, 18 Nov 2010

The rescue of 19 hostages in the Niger Delta represents a shifting approach by Nigeria's military who worked more closely with local groups to secure their release.

There is nothing new about hostage taking in the Niger Delta where militants regularly kidnap oil workers for ransom. But last week's release of 19 foreign and local hostages does show what appears to be a new strategy by Nigeria's military to address the insecurity.

Major General Charles Omoregie commands the Delta's military task force. He says the release followed raids on seven camps of the main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND. There were no deaths and no ransoms paid after former MEND fighters helped negotiate the release of two Americans, two Frenchmen, two Indonesians, one Canadian and 12 Nigerians.

Local journalist Michael Ikeogwu covers hostage taking in the Niger Delta. He says this operation by the Joint Task Force - or JTF - is far different from its 2009 attack on the Gbaramatu Kingdom where civilians were killed and houses burned.

"Ex-militants gave information to JTF about the plans of MEND. I think the operation should be commended. I think that the military has taken a step to avoid civilian casualties," said Ikeogwu. "Their target is now those who are behind the crimes, who are behind MEND. Their target is MEND members."

Delta State council chairman Austin Ojde says the military's new approach will continue to help diminish local support for the militia.

"Nobody is supporting militants. They come from another place," said Ojde. "That is why you can see that there are no casualties because the people of the community will help to assist the JTF to make sure they carry out the job without injury of casualty."

President Goodluck Jonathan commended the military for resolving the hostage crisis without the loss of life and promised to continue retraining programs for former militants who accepted last year's amnesty program.

Niger Delta human rights activist Joseph Oke says the Jonathan administration deserves much of the credit for this new approach by the Joint Task Force.

"This is the first time JTF has entered the militant area, the violent area with guns and with all the weapons, yet there was no life lost. It is the cooperation of the people because the people  have bought into the amnesty and they have seen the positive response of government," said Oke. "The people of the Delta know this is just an act of criminality."

President Jonathan is from the Niger Delta. So resolving the violence there is central to his campaigning for next year's presidential election.

John Campbell is a senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations.

"People in the Niger Delta believe that their region is entitled to a larger percentage of the wealth that is produced by the oil than they presently receive," he said. "Residents are angry and disaffected from the government, and hence it is no surprise that there is an insurgency."

President Jonathan has the opportunity to capitalize on the amnesty program that he helped start as vice president to former president Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. But Mr. Jonathan also has the challenge of convincing voters that he is capable of containing Delta violence following October bombings in the capital Abuja that were claimed by MEND militants.

The president appears to have alienated some northern leaders by initially absolving MEND of responsibility for that violence, blaming instead a terrorist group from outside Nigeria that he said was being sponsored by "unpatriotic elements within the country." President Jonathan later sought to clarify those remarks by saying that it was not MEND alone and that some former MEND members were acting without the consent of the larger group.

The military's new approach to Delta kidnapping notwithstanding, the Council on Foreign Relation's John Campbell says it is a problem that can not be solved by force.

"The insurrection has considerable acquiescence, if not support, from the people who live in the Delta," he added. "Because of the nature of the Delta, a military solution is simply impossible."

Campbell says the military must be part of a political solution to end what he calls the alienation of the people of the Delta so the benefits of Nigeria's vast oil wealth are felt more equitably in the areas where that oil is produced. 

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid