Hostages rescued in Nigeria

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Nigeria’s military rescued all members of an oil survey team kidnapped by suspected Boko Haram militants, it said in a statement, after they were taken in the country’s conflict-ridden north-east.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said suspected members of the Islamist insurgency had kidnapped 10 members of a university research team the firm contracted to prospect for oil in Nigeria’s north-east.

The corpses of nine soldiers and a civilian were also recovered during the rescue, the military said. NNPC did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

The state oil company has been surveying more than a year for what it says could be vast oil reserves in the Lake Chad Basin, a region wracked for eight years by an Islamist insurgency, which has killed at least 20,000 people and forced some 2.7 million to flee.

Nigeria relies on oil for two-thirds of its revenue. The NNPC is trying to reduce its reliance on crude from the southern Niger Delta where militant attacks cut production by more than a third in 2016, deepening the recession in Africa’s biggest economy.

NNPC spokesman Ndu Ughamadu said contractors working as consultants had been kidnapped near Jibi in Borno state on Tuesday.
“About 10 members of the University of Maiduguri geology and surveying department were abducted by suspected Boko Haram members,” Ughamadu said. The group included academic staff, drivers and other contractors.

The university said some of its lecturers, accompanied by security staff, had not returned from a prospecting trip on Tuesday. Its spokesman said the university was waiting for a report from security agencies.

Boko Haram, which attained international notoriety after kidnapping 270 girls from their school in the town of Chibok in 2014, is trying to create an Islamic state in the Lake Chad Basin area.

The conflict has not deterred NNPC’s search for oil in the region.
“We are working with security agencies for an early return to the Chad Basin,” aiming for drilling to start in the fourth quarter of the year, NNPC chief Maikanti Baru said at the beginning of July.



In May, NNPC said it would resume oil exploration in the north-east “on the heels of the improved security situation”.