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Nigerian Oil Union May Exit Violence-Prone Niger Delta

Nigeria's senior oil workers say they are considering withdrawing from the unruly oil producing southern region if the current violence is not halted. Gilbert da Costa in Abuja has details in this report.

One of Nigeria's most powerful oil-workers union, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), will hold an emergency session on Friday to discuss the growing insecurity in the Niger Delta.

PENGASSAN, which represents senior Nigerian oil workers, says it will consider whether to pull its members out of the region.

The Niger Delta has seen an unprecedented spate of violence and kidnappings of foreign oil workers over the past year, instigated by ransom-seeking gangs.

Oil union president Peter Esele describes some of the security procedures oil companies and workers are employing to stay safe in the violence-prone region.

"We have an understanding with the oil companies, once we notice things like that, various security measures are put in place; nobody goes out, everybody remains inside," he said. "And if you are not at work, the information flows from the phone and text messages are sent that these are no-go areas; don't go there. We've also been able to identify the flashpoints in Post Harcourt especially. Once anything is happening, in less than five minutes the whole thing is on the phone; everybody is talking and we are advised for our own safety not to go that area."

Gunmen kidnapped the mother of a state legislator in the Niger Delta Monday night. The 11-year-old son of another legislator abducted earlier was released Tuesday. It is not clear whether ransom money was paid for the child's release.

The country's best-known armed group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which carried out kidnappings and attacks in the region, says it may resume raids at the end of this month.

Kidnappings for ransom are frequent in Nigeria's delta region. Armed gangs have mostly abducted foreign oil industry workers, but recently began including relatives of local officials they think can afford to pay for their release.