Reports suggest that Nigerian gunmen attacked two tugs belonging to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) on Wednesday. The tugs were apparently in Nembe waterways in the heartland of kidnapping, Bayelsa State.
News reports call the gunmen ‘pirates’, but obviously the incident occurred in local waterways rather than blue water; we’ll skip the legal niceties. The reports (which are slightly confused), states that gunmen attacked the tugs at around 0130 local time Wednesday and that ‘two’ Captains were abducted.
Local media including Vanguard and Sweetcrudereports.com quoted a source as saying, “The incident occurred at Peter Town in Nembe. The tugboats were on transit to Port Harcourt when the bandits double-crossed them, robbed them and whisked the captains away”.
The source added: “The unknown gunmen shot sporadically into the air, creating panic in the area before whisking the two captains away to unknown creeks. The victims must have been abducted for ransom.”
The tugs are named as the MV Ebizar and MV Somke (also called ‘Smoke’ in one report), but neither are listed on vessel tracking sites. Reports suggest the kidnapped Captains are Mr T. Monday (Captain of the MV Ebizar) and Mr E. Messiah (MV Somke), although these names have not been officially confirmed.
This is not the first time Agip tugs have been targeted by gunmen. In January, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) claimed responsibility for the attack and abduction of an Agip engineer and boat Captain along the Nembe-Bassanbiri waterway in Bayelsa. Given their apparent presence in the region, there seems no reason to doubt the credibility of this report.
Crew abduction is currently rife in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea, with at least 11 crew kidnapped from their ships in the last 10 two weeks. Last week, three Indian crew from the Asha Deep were rescued by the Nigerian Navy.