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Abductors of four Nigerian journalists reduce ransom demand

world Updated: Jul 16, 2010 14:43 IST

PTI
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With public outcry mounting against their action, gunmen who kidnapped four Nigerian journalists drastically reduced their ransom demand.

Abductors of four Nigerian journalists who initially demanded a ransom of $ 1.67 million have suddenly become cautious to public outcry and lowered their request to $ 200,000, the reporters' union has said.

They had kidnapped the Lagos State Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) council's chairman Wahaab Oba, his secretary Sylva Okereke, zonal secretary Adolphus Okoronkwo and a reporter with the Abuja based Fresh Fact newspaper Shola Oyeyipo in the oil producing Delta region on Sunday.

"They have reduced the ransom to $ 200,000 and negotiation with them is ongoing. We're likely going to get some success story", Deji Elumoye, vice chairman of Lagos NUJ told reporters on Thursday but failed to disclose if they're ready to pay any ransom.

Their action caused public outcry with the oil rich country's Inspector-General of police forced to relocate to the region while federal legislators threaten to make the government declare state of emergency in the region that has become notorious for frequent kidnapping.

Information minister Professor Dora Akunyili had condemned the abductions saying, "Government finds this ugly development quite disturbing, sad and clearly unacceptable".

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in a statement, condemned the kidnapping stating, "We are shocked by this brutal attack against our Nigerian colleagues and deeply worried for their immediate safety," Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa said.

The NUJ members were returning from a summit of the national executive in the Southern city of Uyo when they were abducted at gunpoint.

Abduction is very common in the country's Niger Delta region but this is the first time journalists became victims.

Barely a fortnight ago, 12 foreign oil workers were abducted by gunmen and released after intensive efforts by the country's navy.

The kidnapping of journalists is a departure from the usual onslaught in Nigeria where the perpetrators often go after foreigners, oil company workers, rich business men and government officials.

Many of the assailants are suspected to be militants who have fought for resource control in the region for a decade but now local unemployed youths are also involved in the crime.

They also cite environmental degradation and infrastructural neglect as reasons for their violent activities which include kidnapping and requesting for ransom before the victim’s release.

An amnesty programme by the West African country's government in which the militants exchanged their arms for some monetary compensation was delayed due to the ill health of former President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua who died in May.

His successor President Goodluck Jonathan promised to carry on with the amnesty and recently brought in some foreigners to train the militants to become useful members of the society.