Tuesday, February 2, 2016 6:07 pm
Niger Delta pirates have hijacked a Bulgarian oil ship and threatened to blow it up with its foreign crew if authorities do not release, Nnamdi Kanu, leader of Indigenous People of Biafra. The ultimatum expires in 31 days.
Maj. Gen. Rabe Abubakar, the Defense Ministry spokesman, confirmed the hijacking occurred on Friday and called it “an act of sabotage.” Other officers on Tuesday said that the navy is in pursuit of the captured vessel.
Maritime industry reports indicated the vessel was an oil tanker seized about 100 miles (160 kilometers) off Nigeria’s Bakassi Peninsula, along Nigeria’s southeastern Atlantic Ocean coastline, near the border with Cameroon.
“The group boarded the tanker from two fast boats and took control over the vessel and locked the crew in the mess room” before heading for the Niger Delta, the Bulgarian-based Maritime News reported.
The ultimatum from the separatists was given at the weekend by “General Ben.” Ben is not a member of IPOB.
“Some Niger Delta militants have shown interest in working with us,” said Uchena Madu, a leader of the Movement for the Actualization of a Sovereign State of Biafra(MASSOB).
The hijacking — the first such act claimed on behalf of Biafran agitators — indicates they could be working with some Niger Delta oil militants blamed for recent bombings of pipelines in the oil-rich south, escalating conflict in a country already burdened by Boko Haram’s deadly Islamic uprising in the northeast and violent ethno-religious confrontations between farmers and herders in central Nigeria. On top of all these, Nigeria is suffering from an oil slump never witnessed in two decades.
Nigeria’s secret police, the DSS on Oct. 17 detained Nnamdi Kanu, who is also director of pirate Radio Biafra.
He had since been charged with treasonable felony.
Nigeria’s Igbo people prosecuted a civil war to create a separate state of Biafra in the southeast that killed a million people in the 1960s. Many Igbos charge they still suffer discrimination.
In an apparently unrelated development, pirates seized the Greek-owned chemical tanker MV Leon Dias off Nigeria’s coast, according to an official of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to reporters.
He said it was hijacked on Friday, other reports said Sunday, and diverted to an oil terminal off Cotonou, capital of neighbouring Benin.
Maritime News said the chief officer was seriously injured and is being held hostage with four other seamen.