Six foreign workers taken hostage February 18th by militants in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region have been released. Efforts are continuing by the Nigerian government and the petroleum industry to win freedom for the remaining three captives, two Americans and a Briton.
Meanwhile, local groups in southern Nigeria are trying to gain greater control of the region’s resources and oil profits. Michael Collier is vice president of Willbros Group, the independent contracting company that employs the industry workers. He tells Voice of America reporter Howard Lesser the six freed hostages are safe and appear to be in relatively good condition. Arrangements are being made for them to return home to their families.
The militants holding the workers are members of a group calling itself the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). The MEND movement and other residents of southern Nigeria are demanding greater local control over the region’s oil wealth. They are also pressing the government to release two jailed leaders of the Ijaw ethnic group and are demanding compensation for environmental damage they say has been caused by oil industry development