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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More