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Terrorism: We Have Not Moved Staff From Abuja, Says Total

By The Citizen
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A French oil giant, Total, has denied media reports that it is relocating its staff from the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to other parts of Nigeria due to safety reasons, adding that  it is still re-evaluating its activities in the country because of the security situation but it has not moved any of its staff from Abuja, as at yesterday.

A top management staff of Total told The Guardian authoritatively last night that neither any of its expatriate nor Nigerian staff had been relocated.

On Friday, an executive of the oil company was quoted as saying that its staff had been relocated from the Abuja, following the kidnapping of a French national last month.

Total's Chief Executive, Christophe de Margerie, reportedly said the company had to limit the number of staff at potential risk.

'What we do first is to limit the number of expatriates, not because they have more rights to be protected than the others, but because they are a more interesting target, if I may say,' de Margerie told France 24 television.

'In Nigeria, we have three installations… We moved our people from Abuja, which is the city that is most at risk, to Lagos and Port Harcourt, and if necessary, we move them back to Paris,' he told the TV channel on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

De Margerie also said that Total had moved some of its personnel out of Algeria.

This followed last week's siege at an Algerian gas plant by Islamist militants, which ended with heavy loss of life among foreign hostages, prompting the oil major to take extra measures to protect its staff in the northern African country.

'In Algeria, those who were in the desert, we brought them back to Algiers, and those who had no need to stay in Algiers, (they were) repatriated to France,' he said.

'But at the same time, we carry on, we must not stop (production), we're continuing at the same pace, but with a lower headcount,' he added.

Although it was the first time in recent history that a company had said it evacuated foreigners from Abuja due to security concerns, Reuters reported that Western diplomatic sources said that embassies were not planning to remove families of their staff from Abuja.

There's no doubt that the reported French move may have raised concerns in government, with officials of the Jonathan Administration said to be moving swiftly to douse the tension created by Total's action.

The Islamist group, Ansaru, based in Nigeria, kidnapped a French national last month in the Rimi town, close to the Niger border.

The group threatened to continue to target the French because of the country's support of military action in Mali and its decision to ban the full-face veil in France.

Last week, Ansaru claimed an attack on a military convoy taking troops from Nigeria to Mali in Kogi State.

The group, whose full name is Jama'atu Ansarul Musilimina Fi Biladis Sudan (Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa), reportedly broke away from Boko Haram.

In recent weeks, it had claimed responsibility for a dawn raid on a major police station in Abuja in November, where it said hundreds of prisoners were released.

According to agency reports, Britain last year put Ansaru on its official 'terrorist group' list, saying it was aligned with al Qaeda and was behind the kidnap of a British and an Italian killed earlier this year during a failed rescue attempt.