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Nigerian Kidnappers Seek Mediation With Government

The kidnappers of nine foreign oil workers are seeking mediation with the government to gain the release of their hostages. The Nigerian government has put a committee on alert to be ready to talk things out with the militants, whose Friday deadline for the government to release two jailed ethnic Ijaw leaders passed without any exchange of prisoners.

Armed militants have staged several attacks in the oil-rich Niger Delta in the past few days, damaging pipelines, an oil-loading terminal, river-crossing manifolds, and a military houseboat. The damage has resulted in cutbacks of 455-thousand barrels of oil per day. Thirty percent of those losses were absorbed by the Delta’s leading foreign oil producer, Royal Dutch Shell.

Professor Hudu Ayuba Abdullahi teaches political science at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria in northern Nigeria. He tells English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser about the situation, including the risk to long-term security: “We are not dealing with an organized terrorist group. We are dealing with a group of individuals, not organized. What these groups are looking for is not a settlement. Once they get what they want, I think these people will be freed.”

As for the Nigerian government’s recent helicopter raids on militant positions, Professor Abdullahi adds, “I think it’s a kind of political situation in the area, so we really need to discuss a solution. I don’t really think force is the only answer.”