by Stanley Azuakola
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) yesterday revealed that it collected a ransom of $200,000 before releasing 48-year-old Mrs. Auguster Douglas-Ayam, a sister to the Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Research, Strategy and Documentation, Oronto Douglas.
In an online statement released on Saturday night, the spokesperson of the group, Jomo Gbomo, also restated its earlier claim that it was responsible for the explosion at the Warri refinery, giving details of how it carried out the operation and promised to continue attacking oil installations in the Niger Delta region.
The militant group said: “The sister of Mr. Oronto Douglas was released unharmed, as we promised. She, however, had developed high blood pressure and malaria while in captivity.
“Contrary to the claim by the Douglas family that no ransom was paid, MEND can authoritatively confirm that the sum of $200,000 was paid as ransom.”
Speaking further, Gbomo said: “In the early hours of Wednesday, October 23, 2013, an armed auxiliary outfit (referred by the authorities as pirates), attacked a United States flagged oil supply vessel and singled out the two Americans on board.
“This action (kidnap of two Americans) was also to show their disdain and content for an ongoing Joint Naval Exercise with foreign navies in the Delta region. We have informed their abductors that Mr. Henry Okah (one of the leaders of MEND, serving jail term in a South African prison.) would have wanted the men released as soon as possible.
“The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which we earlier infiltrated with the full recruitment of a high-level agent, resulted in the successful sabotage from within (of Warri refinery) on October 22, 2013.
“Throwing a spanner in the works does not require rocket science or commando skills to execute. It only takes a belief in our cause to make things happen.”
MEND also stated that in neighbouring Rivers State, on the same day the Warri refinery was sabotaged, a Joint Task Force (JTF) escort gunboat was engaged in a shootout in the Andoni Local Government Area.
Contrary to the version given by the JTF, the militant group maintained that the soldiers were not ambushed but confronted, claiming the attackers were not armed robbers but MEND fighters.
It castigated repentant militants, challenging them to come out of their hiding place.
The statement added: “Some so-called ex-militants and jobless youths, who have sold their birthrights for handouts, were again paid to declare that militancy ended in 2009.
“As they continue to delude themselves, display their ignorance and irrelevance, the region, as can be seen by the world, is in turmoil. That can no longer be hidden.
“We dare the so-called ex-Generals to come out from their hiding in Abuja into the creeks, to restore order.
“The Niger Delta amnesty office in the presidency issued a contradictory statement that MEND only exists on cyberspace. This same office made a public appeal to MEND, to refrain from our threat to attack mosques in retaliation to Boko Haram’s attacks on churches.”