28 January 2013, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive officer of Total, the French oil giant with considerable investment in Nigeria, says the company has its expatriate employees from Abuja following the kidnapping of a French national last month.
This is the first time in recent history that a company has said it has evacuated foreigners from Nigeria’s capital due to security concerns, Reuters reports.
Western diplomatic sources told Reuters earlier this week that embassies were not planning to remove families of their staff from Abuja.
“What we do first is to limit the number of expatriates, not because they have more rights to be protected than the others, but because they are a more interesting target, if I may say,” de Margerie told France 24 television at the weekend.
He did not elaborate on the number of staff moved.
“In Nigeria, we have three installations … We moved our people from Abuja, which is the city that is most at risk, to Lagos and Port-Harcourt, and if necessary, we move them back to Paris,” he told the TV channel on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Extremist group, Jama’atu Ansarul Musilimina Fi Biladis Sudan, kidnapped a French national last month in the remote northern town of Rimi, close to the Niger border.
The group threatened to continue to target the French because of the country’s support of military action in Mali and its decision to ban the full face veil.
JAMBS, which broke away from Boko Haram, claimed an attack on a military convoy taking troops from Nigeria to Mali last week in Okene.
The group, thought to be a breakaway from better known Islamist sect Boko Haram, has risen to greater prominence in recent weeks.
It claimed responsibility for a dawn raid on the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Abuja in November, where it said hundreds of prisoners were released.
De Margerie said Total had also moved some of its personnel out of Algeria.
Last week’s siege at an Algerian gas plant by Islamist militants, which ended with heavy loss of lives among foreign hostages, also prompted the French oil major to take extra measures to protect its staff in the northern African country.