Some Nigerian scientists searching for crude in Lake Chad have been kidnapped.
Although the exact number of victims has not been confirmed, a spokesperson of the state oil firm, NNPC, confirmed the kidnap to PREMIUM TIMES.
Sources in Borno had earlier told PREMIUM TIMES that the victims were abducted on Tuesday by suspected members of Boko Haram.
Though security agencies have not spoken officially on the incident, sources in Borno said the scientists and engineers who were moving alongside some personnel of the Civilian-JTF, were ambushed near a village called Jibi in Gubio Local Government Area.
A top personnel of the NNPC currently on exploration duty in Alkaleri Local Government Area of Bauchi State confirmed that the whereabouts of some officials could not be ascertained.
The source, who pleaded not to be named due to the sensitivity of information, said most of the personnel that are “supposed to be at the location where they were reportedly attacked could not be reached through their special devices of communication.”
“I have just received a call from our head office asking us to confirm the attack if we have had any contact with our personnel who were supposed to be at the location where they were reportedly attacked.
“We tried reaching some of our boys that were recently deployed from Alkaleri project site through our crew channel and we could not get them”, he said.
PREMIUM TIMES checked the Specialist Hospital, Maiduguri, where a source familiar with the incident said most of the attacked personnel were abducted.
A medical personnel who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES on strict condition of anonymity confirmed that a large number of injured persons were brought into the Accident and Emergency department late Tuesday evening and were being attended to.
The NNPC spokesperson, Ndu Ughamadu, confirmed the kidnap to PREMIUM TIMES.
He said those abducted were not NNPC direct staff but sub-contractors.
A department in the NNPC responsible for the exploration sub-contracted part of the work to the Geology department of the University of Maiduguri as part of efforts to encourage indigenous scientists, the spokesperson explained.
It is those employees of the university geology department that were kidnapped, he said.
The reported attack is coming five days after the Nigerian Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, issued a directive for the arrest of the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, within 40 days.
The kidnap also comes about two months after the NNPC management announced that it was resuming oil exploration around the Lake Chad area following assurances by the Nigeria military that the security situation had improved in the area that was once under the control of Boko Haram.