Kidnapped Filipinos in Nigeria to be released

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE 24 abducted Filipino seamen in Nigeria remain healthy and could be released soon, an official said yesterday.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Eduardo Malaya said the Philippine envoy to Nigeria had reported that the Filipinos were supposed to be released last Saturday, but they could be released anytime following talks with their captors.

“The negotiations are being hastened and Ambassador [to Nigeria Masaranga] Umpa has reported to us that we may be getting the news of release soon,” he said.

The Filipinos were seized from a German-owned but Nigerian-flagged cargo ship off the coast of the West African state on Jan. 20. Reports later said that the Movement for the Emancipation for the Niger Delta was behind the abduction, but the group denied taking the Filipinos.

On Tuesday, a Nigerian newspaper claimed that seven of the 24 Filipinos were seriously ill, but Malaya denied the report yesterday.

“Umpa did not mention anything about Filipinos being critically ill,” he said.

“Umpa said in his latest meeting with the Nigerian negotiator that the hostages were in good condition and being treated well.”

Malaya said the abductors were demanding the release of a Nigerian provincial governor and a leader of a political group in exchange for the Filipinos.

The rebels were also demanding a Nigerian government investigation of a local fund scam, he said.