Fresh controversy trails release of Dutch nationals kidnapped in Bayelsa

“What about the ransom paid to free the Dutch? Why are they not talking of that one and rather denying the paltry N3.45 million.

The Chairman of the Dodo River Regional Development Association in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa, Berry Negrese, has denied allegations that he bribed the Commissioner of Police in the state, Hilary Okpara, and Governor Seriake Dickson’s aide to facilitate the release of three Dutch nationals abducted in the area recently.

Mr. Negrese said the allegation was made by some politicians that he was forced to pay N3.45 million as bribe to Mr. Okpara and the Special Adviser to Governor Dickson on Security, Bernard Kenebai, for the rescue operation of the abducted Dutch nationals and for bail bonds for the detained Nigerian hostages.

There was a report that Messrs. Okpara and Kenebai were involved in the extortion of the money from Mr. Negerese for security mobilization to facilitate the release of the victims.

Mr. Negrese, who reportedly ‘facilitated’ the release of the foreign hostages, was commended by the Ijaw Youth Council for his role shortly after the victims were released.

He said he has been under pressure since the extortion story, which embarrassed the authorities, became public.

An embattled Mr. Negrese, a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, chieftain in Bayelsa, took steps to wriggle out of the controversy and retained the services of some reporters to do damage control reports.

While briefing reporters in Yenagoa on Thursday, he admitted that he made contact with the kidnappers of the three Dutch nationals but denied bribing the police.

He said the bribery allegation was a calculated attempt to rubbish the professional effort adopted in the rescue operation of the expatriates, but did not mention anyone as being behind the allegation.

“The report by the online news medium is untrue and a fabricated report targeted at rubbishing the efforts of the Police and the government. Police and the Ijaw Youths body, they should be commended for a good effort at the rescue operation, the report is a ridiculous lie,” he said.

Mr. Negrese explained that “the police only asked me for the phone number with which the kidnappers used in contacting me; while I was still trying to negotiate and find a way to pay small ransom for the kidnappers out of fear for the safety of the Dutch nationals, the police called me that they had secured their release. I was surprised at the speed and professionalism.

“I am from community in which such funds mentioned as bribe can be used for development projects. I challenge the writers of the report to come out with evidence of such money. I, on behalf of my community, apologise for any embarrassment the publication may have caused the police commissioner and the state government,” he said.

In a reaction to the bribery allegation, an ex-militant leader from the area who was part of the search party raised to ‘fish out’ the expatriates told PREMIUM TIMES that the bribe story was a smokescreen to divert attention from the ransom deal.

“There is no where you do these deals without money exchanging hands, the denial is not convincing, it is political,” he said.

“What about the ransom paid to free the Dutch? Why are they not talking of that one and rather denying the paltry N3.45 million.

“It is common knowledge that before you free a hostage you must confront and overpower the kidnappers so why did the police who claimed credit for releasing the victims not make any arrest.

“Everyone knows how these things work, any release of kidnappers without arrest is ‘arrangee’ after settlement,” the source told PREMIUM TIMES on Friday.

It would be recalled that suspected kidnappers had a fortnight ago abducted three Dutch nationals and two Netherlands based Nigerians along the waterways of Letugbene, Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

The gunmen, however, released the Nigerians, Femi Soewu and Sunny Ofehe hours after the kidnap but withheld the three Dutch nationals: Erhard Leffers, Marianne Vos and Jan dries Groenendijk.

The kidnappers had demanded a N20 million ransom to release the victims who were eventually released on Saturday night.

The police confirmed the release but denied paying any ransom.


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