Another crisis involving OFWs, this time in Nigeria

DFA Press Release – Philippine Ambassador to Nigeria Masaranga R. Umpa reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs that a two-man consular team will immediately proceed to Port Harcourt, in southern Nigeria, to coordinate with police authorities and the employer of three Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who were abducted by an unnamed group in the morning of 4 August 2006.

Ambassador Umpa informed the Department that the General Manager of the Overseas Technical Services (OTS) confirmed to him at 3:00 p.m., 4 August 2006 (Nigeria time), the incident that was reported to the Embassy in the morning of the same day by a Filipina residing in Port Harcourt.

The three OFWs are working for the OTS, a UK subsidiary of US-based Michael Baker Corporation, at the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) plant. They were kidnapped around 6:45 a.m., 4 August 2006, at Bonny Island, Rivers State along “Monkey Village” or near the NLNG company vicinity, Ambassador Umpa said, adding that no group has yet to claim responsibility for this incident.

In the meantime, the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, DFA is coordinating with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in informing the families of the three OFWs on the incident and in providing the necessary support services as efforts are being exerted to free the hostages. For this reason, the Department would not disclose of the names of the abducted OFWs until the families have been fully informed of the incident and assistance are provided by OWWA.

Ambassador Umpa said the consular team, composed of Vice Consul Randy B. Arquiza and Consular Assistant Efren Pasculado, will coordinate with the police and OTS in Port Harcourt on measures to ensure the safety and release of the OFWs. The Ambassador added that the General Manager of OTS assured him that mechanisms are now in place to secure the release of the three OFWs and German worker who was also abducted a day earlier by the unnamed group. The OTS is waiting to hear from the abductors on the conditions of the workers, the General Manager added.

According to Ambassador Umpa, the NLNG complex in Bonny Island is one of the world’s largest plants, exporting eighteen million tons of frozen pressurized gas in tankers to power stations in Europe and the United States. The major shareowner of NLNG is the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. The gross revenue earnings of Nigeria in the oil and gas sectors have caused a rift between the government and multinational companies, on the one hand, and local tribal communities, on the other.

The Ambassador noted that this is the third time OFWs have been abducted in Nigeria. The first case involved Anthony Santos of the American firm Wilbros who was abducted together with eight other foreign oil workers on 18 February 2006 and released on 2 March 2006. The second case involved Pacifico Gajo and Joseph Doctolero, both of Petroleum Geo Services, who were abducted on 20 June 2006 near Port Harcourt and release on 25 June 2006. ###

Blogger’s Note: A global nation like the Philippines that has one of the biggest number of migrant workers abroad cannot avoid problems such as this. By sheer arithmetic, more harm may befall a Filipino than any other nationality on land and sea just because of our huge presence in countries big and small, rich and poor. Have we become inured to news about such abductions since Angelo dela Cruz was captured and released in 2004? Perhaps. But behind every incident is a family on standby, awaiting news about their loved ones with bated breath. And it is to them and to these workers that our prayers must go to.

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

Share This Post On