The joint task force (JTF) in the Niger Delta has released the contract staff of Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) who were arrested over the attacks on oil installation in the region.
The staff identified as Kelvin Mordi, Samuel Emiko, Henry Arogboritse, Isaac Edemde, and Alfred Timede were reportedly picked up in Warri South West local government area of Delta state while on patrol of oil facilities along the Utunana flow station.
The action of the military had sparked public outcry, with community leaders demanding for their immediate release.
Godspower Gbenekama, spokesman of Gbaramatu kingdom in Warri south west, condemned the arrest, demanding the immediate release of the suspects.
He accused the military of intimidating youths of the community.
“The soldiers arrested them in a speed boat, which had the inscription of Chevron. They had their identity cards on. So, there is no case of mistaken identity. Far from it,” he had told reporters.
“After their arrest, the soldiers moved to different communities and started harassing our people. They invaded buildings and tortured youths just to coerce them to accept membership of militant groups.
“Their tactics will not work. We demand the immediate release of our innocent boys, and ask the military to stop this intimidation.”
However, Gbenekama confirmed that the youth have regained their freedom.
He said they were released late Wednesday, disclosing that the suspects revealed that they were under severe torture in custody.
“The 19th Battalion of the Nigerian army, Koko, released the youth on Wednesday night,” he said.
“Chevron and our community leaders confirmed to the military that the boys were chevron surveillance workers under the Pipeline and Facility Surveillance Programme.”
Efforts made to reach Isa Ado, spokesman of JTF, to speak on the development did not yield result as he did not respond to calls, and the SMS sent to his telephone.
Also Deji Haastrup, Chevron’s spokesman, was not within reach, as his mobile telephone was switched off.
The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), a new militant group, has claimed responsibility for recent attacks in the Niger Delta.