Five oil workers have been kidnapped in Nigeria’s restive southern Niger Delta region, an area regularly hit by militant attacks and abductions, police told AFP on Friday.
Suspected militants seized the workers on Wednesday near the Ajoki community, which borders Edo and Delta States, said Delta State police spokesperson, Andrew Aniamaka.
“The police in partnership with the military are working to ensure that the victims are rescued unhurt with the perpetrators arrested and brought to book,” Aniamaka said.
The workers are employees of Sahara Energy Oil Company, a Nigerian energy firm.
The oil workers were in a boat en route to an offshore location when the gunmen” arrived, said local resident Ajugu Fidelis, who witnessed the abductions.
“(They) stormed the waterside and ordered the workers into their boat amidst sporadic gunshots and sped off to an unknown location.”
The incident happened a few hours after the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), a rebel group known to attack oil pipelines, issued a statement warning the government it was ending a 2017 ceasefire agreement.
The NDA’s targeting of oil and gas infrastructure in 2016 led to a slump in output that helped tip Nigeria into recession.
Kidnapping has long been a problem in Nigeria’s southern states where high-profile individuals, including the families of prominent politicians, are regularly seized.
But as the economy stalled in recent years, the abductions have begun to happen further north as well.
On Tuesday, two Americans and two Canadians were kidnapped by unidentified armed men in an ambush in northern Kaduna state.
Two of the group’s Nigerian police escorts were shot dead during the abduction.