In spite of the fact that kidnapping now attracts a life sentence in Bayelsa State, courtesy of the new law signed by Governor Seriake Dickson, some dare-devil criminals have abducted six foreign sailors off the Bayelsa coastline.
The kidnappers reportedly kidnapped a Russian, three Ukrainians and two Indian sailors and demanded $1.3 million ransom.
The incident was said to have occurred along the coastal areas of Brass and Southern Ijaw local councils of the state on Sunday.
Confirming the incident, the police public relations officer of Bayelsa Command, Mr Fidelis Odunna, stated that the police anti-kidnapping squad was already trailing the suspects to secure the victims' freedom.
"We have already dispatched our men to track down the kidnappers. Contact has been established with them and they are asking for N200 million," he said.
The attacked vessel, according to the police, has been identified to be Armada Tuah operated by the Lagos-based Century Group with a crew of 15. LEADERSHIP could not immediately confirm the position of the vessel as at the time of the attack.
"Three of those abducted are from Ukraine, two from India, one from Russia. And one of the kidnappers called to demand the sum of N200 million (one million euros or $1.3 million)," said the police. "We have deployed intelligence personnel in search of the six workers." Another independent security company known as Maritime Risk Expert confirmed that the attack would be the third offshore kidnapping in the area in 10 days, following the attacks on Esther C and Walvis 7 on Feb. 7 and Feb. 10 respectively.
Five Indian sailors were in December kidnapped in a pirate attack around Mithras Bayelsa waterways and were later released.
FG Joins Forces With Cameroun To Track Kidnappers
Meanwhile, the federal government has said that it will collaborate with Camerounian security agents and other international allies to track down the kidnappers of a French family of seven in northern Cameroun.
The inspector-general of police, Mohammed Abubakar, who spoke yesterday while fielding questions from journalists when he received members of the Nigeria Football Federation in Abuja, disclosed that he was in touch with Camerounian diplomats in Nigeria and that both countries would synergize to rescue the abducted foreign nationals.
He said, "The French president did not accuse Nigeria. What I do know is that some persons were kidnapped in Cameroun. I am in touch with the Camerounian ambassador here in Nigeria. So, we are working jointly to arrest the people. However, you will not expect us to discuss the details of such issues on the pages of newspapers."
French President Francois Hollande had accused Boko Haram militants from neighbouring Nigeria of abducting a French family of seven, including four children, in northern Cameroun on Tuesday.
The French nationals have faced the risk of attacks following France's intervention in Mali last month to help oust Islamist rebels occupying the country's north.
"They (French family) have been taken by a terrorist group that we know and that is in Nigeria. I see the hand of Boko Haram in that part of Cameroun. France is in Mali, and it will continue until its mission is completed," Hollande told reporters during a visit to Greece.
The men on motorcycles, armed with Kalashnikovs, intercepted the family in their car at 0700 GMT and forced them to drive to the nearby Nigerian border, an aide to the governor of the province told an online media. The four-wheel-drive vehicle was later found.
When contacted over the issue, spokesperson of the Department of State Service, Marilyn Ogar, said it would be too premature to comment on the incident, pointing out that the SSS would rather hold on to its traditional mode of secret policing.
Kidnapped French Nationals Are In Nigeria - Cameroun
The Camerounian foreign ministry has said that Islamist militants believed to have abducted a French family of seven, including four children, in Cameroun have taken them into Nigeria.
A junior minister in the Camerounian foreign ministry, Joseph Dion Ngute, made this claim in a statement late Tuesday. The kidnappers had crossed the Nigerian border with their hostages, he said.
He added that security in the Dabanga area, 10km from the Nigerian border, had been reinforced and "urgent measures" put in place to find the hostages.
It is the first case of foreigners being seized in the mostly Muslim north of Cameroun, a former French colony.
Also speaking on French television yesterday, French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that there was conclusive evidence that the kidnappers were Boko Haram, but could not establish a strong link between France's intervention in Mali and the kidnapping.
"We believe it's the Boko Haram group that carried out the kidnapping, but we don't know for sure. Unfortunately, terror breeds terror," Mr. Le Drian told France 2 television. "Now this group is taking children."
The kidnapping highlights the growing risk of attacks on French nationals and interests in Africa since Paris sent forces into Mali last month to help oust Islamist rebels occupying the country's north.
However, Boko Haram has not confirmed that it is responsible for the kidnapping.
France intervened in Mali last month after Islamist rebels seized control of the north of the country and pushed south towards the capital Bamako.
French president Hollande said the kidnappings would not stop France from pursuing its operation in Mali.
Mr. Le Drian's predecessor, defence minister during France's 2011 intervention in Libya, said the kidnapping could be a turning point.
The kidnapping of the family brings the number of French nationals held hostage in isolated regions of West and North Africa to 15.