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Nigerian Union Worried About Worker Safety After Attacks

Nigeria's largest workers union, the Nigeria Labor Congress, has appealed for the release of nine foreign oil workers seized by militants at the weekend in the Niger Delta.

Nigeria's largest union, the Nigeria Labor Congress, says the current state of insecurity in the Niger Delta is particularly worrisome for its members. NLC spokesman, Owei Lakemfa, said recent attacks on oil workers and facilities are showing no signs of easing.

"The government has not looked at the root causes of the problem and once the root causes are addressed then there will be a solution," he said. "But as it is now, its like a cat-and-mouse game. Whenever the government attacks people in those communities or the youths get restive, then they go for the oil barges and kidnap people and the government then tries to negotiate."

Nine workers of a U.S. oil services company, under contract with Shell, were abducted in Saturday's attacks.

The paramount ruler of Evo kingdom in the Niger Delta, Frank Eke, has also criticized the latest hostage-taking and appealed for their release.

"I have appealed to our people, those boys … the people concerned. In fact, what do you gain by holding a foreigner hostage for what you think your government has done to you? You do not get anything," he said. "How can you say you are annoyed with the government, which has put in place a whole commission for your interest?"

Meanwhile, the contact group established by the government confirmed it has made contact with the hostage-takers. It said the hostages were generally in good health.

International crude oil prices have been rising in the wake of the violence in Nigeria, which has affected almost a fifth of the West African nation's output.

The militants have threatened to increase attacks in the coming days, to force a further decrease in oil production.