Four Nigerians charged with abduction of nine foreigners

25th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Four Nigerians, including the elder brother of the suspected mastermind of last month's deadly car bombings here, were on Thursday formally charged with the abduction of nine foreigners working for the Addax oil firm.

Charles Okah and the three other suspects allegedly "conspired to attack by force of arms, four Indians, three French nationals, two Russians at Bonny anchorage between August 1 and October 2, 2010," according to the charge sheet read in an Abuja magistrate court .

Addax Petroleum Nigeria is an affiliate of Geneva-based Addax and Oryx Group, an international oil and gas exploration company focused on West Africa and the Middle East.

The four accused all pleaded not guilty to charges of "criminal conspiracy, to wit abduction, criminal intimidation and threat to life and causing grievous hurt."

Magistrate Oyebola Oyewumi adjourned the case till December 23 and ordered their remand in custody of the state security service.

Henry Okah, ex-leader of MEND, accused by Nigeria's intelligence agency of being behind the October 1 Independence Day bomb attacks in Abuja, is the younger brother of Charles Okah.

MEND -- the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta -- which claims to be fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue, has also been seen as an umbrella organisation for criminal gangs.

It is believed to have splintered, particularly over the amnesty granted by government to more than 20,000 ex-militants last year.

The recent attacks come ahead of elections set for next April. President Goodluck Jonathan, who is running in the elections, is from the Niger Delta and faces pressure to resolve the situation in the region.

The younger Okah who lives in South Africa, was arrested there on October 2, a day after the Abuja blasts that killed 12 people.

A South African court on Friday denied him bail after prosecutors accused him of orchestrating the independence day blasts.

He has said he is innocent. He will be put on trial on terrorism charges next year.

© 2010 AFP

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