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Niger Delta: Whereabouts Of Three Kidnapped Dutch Nationals Still Unknown

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BEVERLY HILLS, CA, May 05, (THEWILL) â€' Over 24 hours after they were kidnapped in the Niger Delta, the whereabouts of the three Dutch nationals abducted by gunmen suspected to be militants remain unknown.

Though both the Joint Task Force (JTF) anti-kidnapping squads in Delta and Bayelsa States are said to have been placed on red alert over the kidnapping, no word has been heard concerning the incident.

Local sources however disclosed that the two Nigerians identified as Comrade Sunny Ofehe,who is the founder/Chief Executive Officer of Netherlands base NGO, Hope for Niger Delta Campaign and Mr. Femi Soewu, who were seized alongside the foreign nationals are now safe as they are being kept in an undisclosed location for security reasons.

The Dutch nationals abducted were identified as Mr. Erhard Leffers (Male), Marianne Hendrick-Voxs (female), Mr. Jandries Groenenedijk (Male).

They were said to have visited the Dodo River communities in Bayelsa State on a fact-finding mission during which they were conducted round a local hospital in Amutu II which served over 16 communities along the Dodo River.

The local hospital which was reportedly built under the Chevron's GMoU programme in the area was said to have attracted the attention of the foreign nationals following a presentation made about it by the leadership of Dodo River communities in Holland in December last year.

Sources said that the victims were conducted round the hospital by the traditional ruler of Iduwuni Kingdom, HRM. King Joel Ibane ( Ogiobo IX) to see how they could attract material support to meet the health care needs of the people but were seized at the community jetty by the gunmen.

The gunmen were said to have appeared in a Passport boat, shooting sporadically with their AK-47 rifles and operated in a commando style, seizing their victims, after the monarch had bade them farewell.

One of the Nigerian journalists on the trip, Mr. Joe Ogbodu, told newsmen that several persons in a second boat quickly jumped into the river to escape being hurt as the gunmen made away with every valuables in the boat including laptops, ipads, phones, cameras among others.

'I was on the boat with the three Dutch nationals and two Nigerians where the gunmen rounded us up at Letugbene community and ordered everybody to lie face down in the boat.

'They collected all our belongings including handsets, cameras, IPads among others. I heard them say 'take the white men away'. I don't know if the other Nigerians were equally seized because at the time they left, we couldn't find the two Nigerians.

'Some persons in the second boat including community leaders from Dodo River jumped into the river following the heavy shooting. We learnt some of them are missing including the Holland- based-Nigerians who came with the foreigners,' the journalist who survived the attack said.

Giving a graphic details of the situation before the incident, he said the community people gave the visitors a rousing welcome after which they were conducted round the hospital project in the area.

He said the people were very happy with the visitors particularly the fact that they showed interest in their community and were willing to do their best to attract material support to the hospital.

It would be recalled that in 2009, the facilitator of the trip, Comrade Sunny Ofehe, alongside one of the kidnapped victims, Mr. Jandries Groenenedijk, had visited the community and made a short documentary that emphasised the deplorable water being consumed by the locals.

Following several cases of ailment resulting from bad water consumption, the community people were said to have through a GMoU programme they had with Chevron built the local hospital which the Dutch nationals visited to see to how they could mobilise support for the sustainability of the project.

Meanwhile, the leadership of Dodo River federated communities led by Berry Negerese, who was said to have made the presentation about the community in Holland has condemned the dastardly act, saying it is not the culture of the people of the peace-loving community to hurt their visitors.

Negerese said a team had been deplored to comb the communities, stressing that serious pressure is being mounted on the kidnappers to release the foreigners who were only in the community to help see how their living condition could be improved.

The radical Ijaw youth group, the Ijaw Youth Council (Worldwide), has however condemned the abduction of three Dutch nationals in Letugbene community in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

IYC described the abduction as a criminal act which everyone who loves the Niger Delta should condemned.

A statement signed by its spokesman, Eric Omare, said security agencies, community leaders and security committee of the IYC have been put on alert to ensure the release of the victims.

'The attention of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Worldwide was this morning drawn to the kidnap of three Dutch Nationals at Letugbene Community in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State by armed men. The IYC in the strongest terms condemn this barbaric act.

'This is an act of a criminal few and does not represent the collective aspirations of the Niger Delta people. It is unfortunate that criminal elements could kidnap foreigners who were on a charity mission to part of the Niger Delta on the invitation of the Dodo River Communities of Bayelsa State and facilitated by Netherland-based Niger Delta Activist, Mr. Sunny Ofehe.

'The IYC wishes to state clearly that this incident has nothing to do with the Niger Delta agitation; rather it is a clear case of criminality.

'Our preliminary investigation shows that the kidnappers may be from the Ekeremor Local Government Area and Southern Ijaw Local Government Area axis of Bayelsa State.

'Traditional Rulers, Community leaders and other Ijaw leaders of thought in Ekeremor and Southern Ijaw Local Government Areas of Bayelsa State have been contacted to ensure the immediate release of the Dutch Nationals.

'They must ensure that every home, family and community in those local government areas are combed to ensure the immediate release of the three Dutch nationals, one of whom is said to be asthmatic.

'The IYC working with Nigerian security agencies wants to assure the families of the Dutch Nationals and the Dutch Government that the kidnapped victims would regain their freedom as soon as possible.

'This unfortunate incident does not represent the character of the Niger Delta people. Niger Deltans are law abiding and hospitable people.

'The IYC would ensure that the kidnappers are brought to justice to serve as deterrent to others. We once again call for the strict implementation of the Anti-Kidnapping laws of Bayelsa and Delta States which prescribes death penalty for kidnappers.

'This is the only way kidnappers would be deterred and arrest the increasing tide of kidnapping in the Niger Delta region,' the statement said.