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West African ‘pirates’ are revolutionary rebels, says freed Filipino seafarers

West African ‘pirates’ are revolutionary rebels, says freed Filipino seafarers
Raffy Ayeng January 29, 2020

ABDUCTORS, who spread fear and terror in West African waters and are responsible for the rising cases of kidnapping in Nigeria, Cameroon, Benin, among others, are mostly ex-militant members of a group who steal crude oil fromtanker ships and sell it to buyers on the black market.

In an exclusive interview by The Manila Times, the two freed Filipino seafarers said most of their abductors were former high-ranking officials of the Nigerian military who broke away from the government.

The seafarers were hired and represented by their company, Eastern Mediterranean Manning Agency Inc.

“We learned that the abductors are former high ranking officials of the Nigerian military.

They alienated themselves from the government and turned to kidnap for ransom schemes,” said “Chris,” a deck rating who flew back safely to the Philippines last January 24 after their release on January 21 at the Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

They said the groups target ships and abduct its crew in exchange for a big amount of money to sustain its operations.

“Most of them were addicts and maybe involved also in drug trafficking, aside from kidnapping. I saw one of them smoking bricks of marijuana for several days in the camp where we were held for 22 days, which they called ‘No Man’s Land,’ according to “John,” a native of Iloilo province.

They claimed that these rebels are targeting ship owners and pressuring them to directly buy fuel products from them, which they smuggle somewhere in Nigeria, and not to acquire from the government.

“That was part of their rebellious act, to paralyze the operation of the oil-rich produ ction of Nigeria and buy fuel products directly from them,” the seafarers said.

Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa. It holds the largest natural gas reserves on the continent and was the world’s fourth-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in 2015.

Furthermore, the seafarers also revealed that aside from them, there were still other nationalities such as Chinese, Indian and European seafarers being held.

They said they were divided by the abductors into separate camps, depending on the batches of the victims. The freed Filipino seafarers were among the eight crewmembers of the seized Greek oil tanker MT Happy Lady moored in the port of Limbe, in the city of Doula in Cameroon.

“Kaming walo lang sa camp namin. May mga iba pang nationalities at nakikita lang namin sila sa isang common holding area. Some of them are already there five months ago,” they said.

The two profusely thanked the quick action of their company.

According to Eastern Mediterranean Manning Inc. General Manager Capt. Edgardo Flores, the government, particularly Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) chief Hans Leo Cacdac, thru a call to UFS President Engr. Nelson Ramirez has offered help to the freed seafarers.

Flores lamented that some personnel from OWWA did not respond soon enough to their request for help.

The seafarers are now in the process of counseling and stress debriefing and will undergo magnetic resonance imaging to know if they sustained head injuries.

The waters around West Africa remains the world’s most dangerous when it comes to piracy, according to latest report of the International Maritime Bureau’s last year.