WARRI, NIGERIA - Gunmen kidnapped passengers from a bus near Nigeria's southern oil hub of Port Harcourt, witnesses said Wednesday, in the latest of a series of kidnappings in the restive region.
Witness Precious Awuse told AFP the incident happened on Tuesday morning on a road in the Emohua area of Rivers state, a frequently traveled kidnapping hotspot.
"We were driving a few kilometers (miles) behind the 18-seater bus when the hoodlums struck and we had to abandon our own bus and flee for safety before the arrival of the police to the scene of the incident," Awuse said.
"They were dressed in police uniform and had barricaded the road," said Alaowie Tonye, another passenger who also saw the kidnapping.
After they fled, the attackers vandalized the bus in apparent anger, he said.
Rivers state police spokesman Nnamdi Omoni said the kidnapping was being investigated but did not give an exact figure of those abducted.
Kidnapping for ransom has long been a problem in southern Nigeria and has typically targeted prominent individuals and their families.
In August and September 2017, there were a wave of attacks against at least three commercial buses, indicating sustained economic hardship was making anyone a target.
While Nigeria's economy is fueled by the oil pumped in the south, the region suffers from chronic poverty and pollution.
In 2016, oil militants demanding a greater share of crude revenues slashed production with a wave of attacks on pipelines, tipping Nigeria into a recession from which it is only starting to recover.