Nigerian Defence Headquarters is to crush pro-Biafra Niger Delta militants who hijacked a merchant ship at the weekend. The hijackers give the federal government 31-day ultimatum to release Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra or they will blow up the vessel
NIGERIAN Defence Headquarters has vowed that some suspected Pro-Biafran militants, who hijacked a merchant vessel off the coast of Nigeria on Friday, January 29, would be treated as criminals and saboteurs.
The ship, believed to be an oil tanker, was hijacked by some militants, who issued a 31-day ultimatum to the federal government to release the detained Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra. The ultimatum at the weekend was given by one ‘General Ben.’ Kanu is being prosecuted by the Department of State Services for running an illegal organisation, IPOB, threatening to break away from Nigeria to create an independent country; importing radio transmitters and making inciting and seditious statements, while his co-accused persons had been charged with possession of firearms.
While some maritime industry sources claimed that the vessel was an oil tanker seized about 160 kilometres off the Bakassi Peninsula near the border with Cameroon, the Defence Headquarters, on Tuesday, February 2, said the ship was seized about 7.5 nautical miles off the Port of Cotonou.
The Punch quoted Defence sources saying that the operatives of the Nigerian Navy were on the trail of the captured vessel and the hijackers.
One of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the hijackers had threatened to blow up the ship and its crew members if the government refused to release Kanu, who is currently being detained and undergoing prosecution for treasonable felony, after 31 days.
Brig. Gen. Rabe Abubakar, director of Defence Information, confirmed that some militants hijacked a vessel on Friday off the Nigerian coast, but threatened that the military would deal decisively with those he called criminals and saboteurs.
The vessel, named MT LEON DIAS, was hijacked outside Nigeria’s territorial waters about 7.5 nautical miles off the Port of Cotonou. The vessel was under the watch of the Navy of Benin Republic.
“I must add that on this issue of militancy, there are no more militants now, what we have are criminals. The Amnesty programme has taken care of the militants. The military will treat those behind such acts as criminal and saboteurs; the law will take its course; the security agencies will do their job.
“The country’s interest is above any other person’s interest. We have to work towards the enthronement of peace and stability because development can only take place in an atmosphere of peace,” he said.
Abubakar admitted that there “were some sort of threats,” but he was not specific on the 31-day ultimatum issued by the hijackers.
A Bulgarian-based Maritime News had said, “The group boarded the tanker from two fast boats and took control of the vessel and locked the crew in the mess room before heading for the Niger Delta,” reports AP.
However, Uchenna Madu, factional leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra, explained that the said ‘General Ben’ was one of the Niger Delta militants, who had volunteered to join forces with the secessionists groups.
“Ben is not a separatist but some Niger Delta militants have shown interest in working with us,” said Madu.
— Feb. 3, 2016 @ 12:40 GMT