Maiduguri, Nigeria — On Tuesday reports came flooding out of Borno State in north-east Nigeria that up to ten hostages were taken after a brief gun battle by the Nigerian based Islamist terror group, Boko Haram. The ten hostages were professors and researchers from the geology department of the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) and were contracted to conduct geological surveys for the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) within the Lake Chad Basin region for suspected massive oil reserves.
The university geological research team convoy were on their way back from several surveys sites in the Magumeri region of Borno State when they along with their security detail from the local Civilian Joint Task Force came under attack by an unknown number of Boko Haram fighters near the village of Jibi. A spokesperson for UNIMAID stated that the research team had been working in the area for about a month and claimed that it was clear that Boko Haram had studied the research teams movements and ambushed them.
As soon as the report of the attack and kidnapping hit the Nigerian forces in the area, it was reported that they “sprang into action” and immediately sent in reinforcements to the area, which included the Nigerian Armed Forces Special Forces. Within 24 hours the Nigerian military released a press statement claiming that its special forces were able successfully rescue the hostages from Boko Haram with Nigerian Public Relations Director, Brigadier General Sani Kukasheka Usman stating:
“Yesterday Tuesday 25th July 2017, at about 3.00pm, suspected Boko Haram terrorists ambushed the escort and team of Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) staff returning from oil exploration at Barno Yasu, Magumeri Local Government Area of Borno State. On receipt of the information, the Brigade mobilized and sent reinforcement [sic], search and rescue party that include the Armed Forces Special Forces and guides that worked and pursued the terrorists throughout the night. So far, they have rescued all the NNPC staff and recovered the corpses of the Officer, 8 soldiers and a civilian have who have been evacuated to 7 Division Medical Services and Hospital. The team recovered 4 vehicles one of which include a gun truck mounted with an Anti-Aircraft Gun, 2 white Hilux taken away from NNPC staff and 1 blue Hilux belonging to CJTF. They team also recovered large quantities of arms and ammunition, several spare tyres, many jerry cans of containing Petroleum, Oil and Lubricant, assorted drugs, Improvised Explosive Device (IED) making materials, reflective jackets and a Motorola handheld radio, among others. The team also neutralized many of the terrorists. The troops are not relenting in the pursuit, search and rescue effort.”
However, local Borno State officials told Reuters that this Nigerian Army ‘triumph’ is not accurate claiming that up to 30 civilians and members of the military have been killed in the rescue attempt of the UNIMAID research team by Boko Haram. Bun Bakar the regional secretary for the Civilian Joint Task Force also told Reuters that up to sixteen of his fighters assigned to the security detail were also killed.
Deputy Director of Information Ahmed Mohammed for UNIMAID also reported that four other UNIMAID staff members assigned to NNPC’s geological research group were still missing, three of which could be Yusuf Ibrahim, Dr. Solomon M. Yusuf, and Haruna Dashe the very same men named in a picture released by Boko Haram today seen here from Sahara Reporters on their Twitter feed.
According to Reuters the Nigerian government and military has declined to comment on the true fate of these hostages and whether or not this situation is over is still unknown. What is known is that the NNPC which has several billion dollar oil deals staked in the Lake Chad Basin, with the likes of the China State owned Petrochina and the U.S.’s oil giants, ExxonMobil and Chevron. Have announced today that it is suspending its oil exploration within the region with The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu claiming the suspension comes for a huge security risk within the region coming from Boko Haram.
“Obviously the security outfits should take a second look at what has happened and any area where Boko Haram is operating; we need to see how to provide more protection in those areas, certainly we will not go back unless they give us security clearance.” Kachikwu said in a press release.”When we will resume will be obviously be decided upon the security on ground. So my simple answer will be that provided that there is sufficient clearance, I don’t see why we will not continue to explore oil [sic].”
And this is not good news for at least the oil giants of the West, Exxon and Chevron who are a risk of losing billions in their investment within the northern Nigerian region, and due to this could make this incident fall under the auspices of a risk to U.S. interests overseas. Which has quite the potential to having elements of the U.S. military stepping in and assisting with the eradication of this ‘risk to U.S. overseas interests’ possibly with an increase of logistical and drone support to U.S. Special Forces assisting the Nigerian special operations in the hunting and destroying of Boko Haram.
Featured image courtesy of the Nigerian Army