Filipina kidnapped in Nigeria feared dead

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE first Filipina to be abducted in Nigeria is feared dead after her kidnappers called up her husband to say she tried to fight them off and jumped from their boat, a source said yesterday.

Jane Gregorio, 30, younger sister of the victim Josebeth, said Manouch Foroozon, Josebeth’s Iranian husband, had called them up to tell them about the kidnappers’ claim, but that they didn’t believe it.

“The kidnappers called him [Foroozon] up to say that my sister tried to fight them off and then jumped into the sea, but we don’t think she would do that,” Gregorio said.

Josebeth, 37, was abducted at midday Wednesday from the center of Fort Harcourt in Rivers State, the center of Nigeria’s oil industry, by gunmen who immediately switched off her phone and took her to an unknown destination.

Gregorio said Josebeth was aboard her car and a mere 2 km away from her residence when the gunmen blocked her way, marched her off to a bus, and then transferred her to a boat.

“She was probably on her way to the bank. She was close to a bank,” Felix Ogbaudu, a state police commissioner, was quoted as saying in Lagos Wednesday.

Josebeth’s abduction followed the kidnapping Tuesday of a Filipino employee of Netco Dietsmann—the Nigerian arm of a Monaco-based oil services company—who was seized from a company car heading for the airport in Owerri, the capital of Imo State.

The latest two incidents bring to 26 the number of Filipino nationals being held hostage in southern Nigeria. The other 24 were seized from a cargo vessel in Nigerian waters in January.

Their kidnapping prompted President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to slap a temporary ban on Filipinos going to work in Nigeria, where nearly 4,000 are already employed.

Gregorio, a resident of San Jose in Occidental Mindoro, arrived at the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday to ask help from Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr.

She said Josebeth and Foroozon, a businessman, had been staying in Nigeria for 17 years, and that they partly owned a construction company and had been managing a bazaar there.

“My brother-in-law [Foroozon] told us that he was able to talk with my sister over the phone on Wednesday night, but they were cut off after a militant grabbed her cellphone,” Gregorio said.

“We believe that my sister is still alive, and we are asking the government and President Arroyo to help bring her back.”

Conejos said the report that Josebeth is already dead was still to be verified, adding the case was a police matter.

“The amount of work we are doing to obtain the release of the Filipina and the other Filipino hostages in Nigeria is the same,” he said. “We are doing everything we can.”