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Nigeria: Hostage rescue a boon to shaky presidency

Nigeria: Hostage rescue a boon to shaky presidency

Nigeria's military launched a coordinated air, naval and ground assault to free 19 hostages held on militant camps in the oil-rich southern delta, apparently routing the gunmen without causing any casualties.
Such an operation in the OPEC-member nation has been unheard of in the four years since a low-level insurgency have targeted oil pipelines and expatriate workers in the creeks of Niger Delta. Botched rescue missions have, in the past, killed hostages and left many private firms to negotiate through the murky back channels that run between criminal gangs, militants and local politicians in the region roughly the size of Portugal.
But the success of Wednesday night's attack could prove to be a boon for President Goodluck Jonathan as he tries to hold off competitors in next year's election.
"The way the Nigerian political game is being played, I think for the resolution of this issue alone, Jonathan will breath a sigh of relief knowing that he has done well," said Charles Dokubo, an analyst at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs.
The military raided the camp late Wednesday, freeing hostages taken from oil rigs operating for London-based Afren PLC and U.S. firm Exxon Mobil Corp. The seven kidnapped from the Afren platform included two U.S. workers, one Canadian, two French and two Indonesians. Exxon Mobil's Nigerian subsidiary said its eight hostages all were local workers.
The remainder of those rescued were Nigerian workers for construction company Julius Berger Nigeria PLC.
Thursday, a statement from Jonathan's spokesman Ima Niboro praised the military for its decisive action.
"While the federal government will continue to take all necessary steps to guarantee the safety of lives and property, as well as the security of oil workers and installations in the Niger Delta, President Jonathan assured all law-abiding citizens that they have nothing to fear," the statement read.
For Jonathan, the success of the operation grants him relief as well. Nigeria's government coffers bleed black from oil revenues and ensuring the continuation of the country's current production at 2.2 million barrels of oil a day.
The success will satisfy foreign oil firms working in the restive delta and Western powers, as the majority of Nigeria's easily refined oil gets sent directly to the insatiable U.S. gasoline market.
The rescue also burnishes national security credentials for Jonathan, a marine biologist who became president after the May 5 death of Nigeria's elected leader Umaru Yar'Adua. He faces what could be a fiercely competitive battle within the ruling People's Democratic Party to be anointed its presidential candidate in polls likely to be held by April. The party has secured the nation's presidency since democracy took hold more than a decade ago using voter intimidation, fraud and ballot stuffing.
Among those challenging him are former military dictator Ibrahim Babangida, former vice president Atiku Abubakar and Aliyu Gusau, Jonathan's former national security adviser. All boast security experience in governing a nation with more than a hundred ethnicities and fraught with religious tensions.
A recent analysis from U.S. security think tank STRATFOR said that for Jonathan to become candidate for his party, he must manage tensions in the Niger Delta and win over rival politicians. It also said Jonathan will need to work toward avoiding disruptions in oil production and then must redistribute the region's oil revenues throughout the rest of the country.
Dokubu said security is the key issue in the next election.
"Any government in power or whatever political (group) that does not deal with the issue as a national problem is going to lose the election," he said.
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Associated Press writer Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria, contributed to this report.
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Online:
http://www.afren.com
http://www.exxonmobil.com
http://www.julius-berger.com/


Updated : 2021-10-19 09:30 GMT+08:00