Nigerian militants have kidnapped three Indian petrochemical workers from their residence near Port Harcourt, Saturday. There are currently 15 foreign workers being held in the oil-rich, restive and impoverished Niger Delta, amid militant threats to intensify attacks ahead of the presidential handover on May 29. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Port Harcourt.

Military officials say militants armed with dynamite and machine guns originally seized 10 workers, employed by the Indonesian company, Indorama, but that seven were released after a firefight.

They said a Nigerian driver was killed in the crossfire and that at least one civilian was injured.

Officials said the militants then managed to escape.

An Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Indian officials were in touch with Nigerian authorities for a quick release of the hostages.

About 100 foreigners have been kidnapped this year, mostly from the oil sector. Most are released after their employers pay ransoms of up to one million dollars for a group of hostages.

Award-winning local journalist Ibiba Don Pedro says hostage taking has become very lucrative. "There are people who do not want this problem to go away. There are so many people who are making so much capital out of it," she said.

There was also recently an attack on the home of Nigeria's Vice President-elect Goodluck Jonathan, previously a governor in the Niger Delta region.

He escaped unharmed but several policemen were killed in the violence.

A former militant, Stanley, says activists are hoping he will help the region, but are angry with his statements so far.

"What happened was the vice president made a nasty statement. He said the militants are criminals," he said. "As things are headed now, we are not expecting our brother Jonathan to fight for their cause. The best thing the federal government, what the oil companies could have done, is that, they could have set out an implementation committee, where they will create an avenue, where they will create committees in different areas that produce oil, they will budget those moneys to those areas. So that they can implement basic amenities in those areas. These politicians, if the federal government, gives them money they do not do anything. They embezzle the money, they eat the money, that is why the people are angry with them." 

President Olusegun Obasanjo is due to hand over power to the first university graduate to become president in Nigeria, the ruling party's Mussa Yar'Adua, formerly a northern governor, on May 29.

Labor unions are planning a two day stay at home protest starting May 28 to contest an election international observers and the US State Department described as seriously flawed.

Lawyers also staged a strike action protest Friday against what they called massively flawed elections, as some of the court cases to dispute legislative, gubernatorial and the presidential election began.