A lawyer acting for more than 60 militants arrested last month said on Wednesday the militant gang leader and two of his followers were removed from prison by the secret service last week.

Nigeria’s armed forces on November 20 arrested gang leader Obese, whose real name is Tamunotonye Kuna, and more than 60 of his followers who were believed to be behind the kidnapping of 19 oil and construction workers in the Niger Delta.

Ken Atsuete, legal council to the arrested militants, said a judge ordered that the militants be remanded in Port Harcourt Federal Prison on November 29 but last week officers from Nigeria’s State Security Service (SSS) took Obese and two of his senior followers to another location.

The SSS were not available for comment.

“From November 29 until December 16, nothing whatsoever happened to these boys, only for the SSS officers to come to the Port Harcourt Prison on December 16 to take Obese and his second and third in command away to an unknown and undisclosed location,” Atsuete said.

“The whereabouts of Obese and his second and third in command is unknown while the remaining 62 have been remanded in the Port Harcourt prison.”

Obese, a former commander in Nigeria’s main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), was one of thousands of gunmen who signed up for an amnesty brokered last year by President Goodluck Jonathan.

He said when he was arrested he had grown disillusioned with the amnesty because, unlike his former leaders, he had seen no benefit from the programme.

Militant groups in the Niger Delta have said kidnappings and attacks on oil pipelines are part of a fight for a fairer share of the oil wealth generated in their backyard.

But the line between militancy and crime is blurred as gang leaders have grown rich on the spoils of kidnapping for ransom and the theft of industrial quantities of oil.

Enhanced by Zemanta