Polish hostages released by Niger Delta rebel group
Villagers from the Niger Delta
The two Polish oil rig workers, kidnapped in the Niger Delta on October 26th, have been released without harm. According to Reuters, the 4 others captured have also been let go. It is unclear whether the $50 million ransom demanded was paid to secure the end of their captivity.
Soldiers from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta have allegedly claimed responsibility for abducting the foreign workers. Unfortunately none of the media outlets are reporting much about the history or extent of the problems that exist for the people of the Niger Delta as a result of the repression from Nigerian government forces and resource exploitation by major oil companies, primarily Shell.
Despite the fact that Nigeria (specifically the Niger Delta) is Africa's biggest oil producer, the lives of the majority who live in the area have worsened as the drilling, refining and exporting have increased.
As a recent National Geographic report stated:
Everything looked possible—but everything went wrong.
Dense, garbage-heaped slums stretch for miles. Choking black smoke from an open-air slaughterhouse rolls over housetops. Streets are cratered with potholes and ruts. Vicious gangs roam school grounds. Peddlers and beggars rush up to vehicles stalled in gas lines. This is Port Harcourt, Nigeria's oil hub, capital of Rivers state, smack-dab in the middle of oil reserves bigger than the United States' and Mexico's combined. Port Harcourt should gleam; instead, it rots.
And this is why the mainstream news coverage of the kidnappings betray the public by not informing us of the socio-politico-environmental context of the abductions. Why are people so desperate that they have gone down the path of violence to secure a better livelihood for their communities? Of course, there is no guarantee the rebels would not waste the 'black gold' resource on more arms if they took over the oil fields completely. Nevertheless, the current situation in the Niger Delta in north-west Africa, which continues to impoverish the local people, is completely unacceptable and cries out for international attention and action.
Surely the social and economic development of the region which actually produces the oil is not too much to ask of the Nigerian government? If they had not neglected it for so long and if oil companies had demanded more gvt. investment to aid the region, such kidnappings would probably not be taking place now.
But alas, this is just another sorry saga in the long list of people and regions abused by their government and rich multinationals.