19 November 2013, Sweetcrude, Lagos – THERE are indications that the management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency may have facilitated the payment of $2 million to secure the release of the two American sailors seized by kidnappers last month.
An operative of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, has alleged that the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Administration Agency, NIMASA, paid part of the money used to secure the release of the kidnapped American sailors who were freed last week.
The militant group which had in the early days of the American hostage issue, claimed to have a link to the captors, however opened up on how the Americans regained their freedom.
In a statement issued Saturday night by its spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo, MEND said the NIMASA contributed a large chunk of the $2 million demanded by the militant group.
“Following the due process, a ransom of $2 million in cash was paid, with a larger percentage of it coming from an embarrassed Nigerian Maritime and Safety Administration Agency, NIMASA,” the militant group alleged.
This appears to be the first time that specific details of a ransom payment have been made public as a result of a kidnapping incident in Nigeria’s Niger Delta.
Although the authenticity of the claim could not be ascertained, MEND noted that the hostage situation “ended on a happy note” and they claim to have in some way influenced the positive outcome.
The statement which is an update on ‘Hurricane Exodus’ from October 27 to November 16, 2013, said: “We first broke the news of the hostage release exclusively to Ms Debora Patta, of CBS News who was hesitant to use the information days before it was made public by a US State Department’s spokeswoman.
Also, Jomo Gbomo asked the Nigerian and South African authorities to release MEND leader; Mr Henry Okah who is currently serving a jail term in South Africa on terrorism related charges. They also made demand for the release of other members of the group.
“We urge the governments of South Africa and Nigeria at this time to allow the bud of peace and security a chance to sprout by releasing the Okah brothers and other political hostages incarcerated on trumped-up charges,” the group said.
The group also claimed responsibility for the killing of some soldiers and a policeman at the Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC, jetty in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital.
“On Wednesday, November 13, 2013, soldiers of the Joint Task Force, JTF, and a policeman, were killed around the Agip jetty in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, after trying to intercept MEND fighters on a reconnaissance mission. Contrary to speculations, they were not attempting to carry out a kidnap operation.”
“Some respite came to the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta region from October 27 – November 01, 2013 when ‘Hurricane Exodus’ was downgraded to a gentle breeze as a mark of respect to the late Vice Admiral Mike O. Akhigbe (Rtd) whose flagship finally sunk after a valiant and protracted battle with cancer.
“The late Vice Admiral Akhigbe (Rtd) was the leader of the disbanded MEND Aaron Team selected and mandated by the group to dialogue on its behalf with the government of the late President Musa Yar’Adua on issues that led to our insurgency before any amnesty could be considered. But, they were never given that opportunity after President Goodluck Jonathan became president following the death of President Yar’Adua”, MEND recalled.
The secrecy behind the ransom and the latest revelation by MEND has also raised doubts over the correctness of the claim by the US government that no ransom was paid.
There are two angles; its either the NIMASA connection is correct or the whole story was cooked-up by MEND.
Further checks revealed that the entire ransom was paid either directly from Edison Chouest; the ship’s owners or by a Kidnapping and Ransom insurance company which, according to Captain sources, sailors working in the area subscribe to.