Nigerian kidnappers unlikely to be terrorists - expert

(Reuters file)
(Reuters file)

An international risk management expert believes the Nigerian group that has taken a New Zealander hostage is unlikely to be a terrorist organisation.

Jamal Khan is among a group of expat contractors taken by armed militants near Calabar in south Nigeria on Wednesday. Their local driver was shot dead as their four car convoy was ambushed.

The workers -- including three Australians, a South African and a Nigerian -- work for cement company Lafarge Africa, which is affiliated to Australian company Macmahon, a company which offers mining services to clients in South East Asia, Mongolia and Africa.

Speaking from Sydney, Shannon Sedgwick of Global Media Risk suspects a terror group like ISIS or Boko Haram is not involved.

"It sort of leans towards more being a criminal organisation, which is a good thing for the families and the company involved," says Mr Sedgwick.

"The kidnappers are motivated by a monetary gain, which means it's in their best interests to keep the hostages unharmed and return them safely."

So far, the hostage takers are yet to make contact with our Government officials, Nigerian police or Mr Khan's family about any potential ransom demands.

Prime Minister John Key has ruled out opening the country's chequebook, saying giving in to criminal elements is effectively putting "a bounty on the head of any New Zealander who travels to a dangerous part of the world and potentially makes the situation worse."

Mr Sedgwick says the hostage takers have been organised in their approach and had "done their homework" before seizing on the expats.

"Companies such as Macmahon have an insurance policy that would cover kidnap and ransom," the former Australian military officer explains.

"That insurance would pay for the services of a crisis management company to conduct hostage negotiation and manage the disruption to the company and manage the expectations of the family."

While governments in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia have adopted the same no-ransom policy as New Zealand, other countries like France have met ransom demands from terror groups like ISIS using backdoor payments.

However, Mr Sedgwick doesn't believe those measures will be used by our officials.

"France tries to keep it behind the scenes. They use an intermediary or a middle man to conduct the negotiation and payment, so the payment isn't coming directly from them.

"However, I don't think Australia or New Zealand would do that for their citizens because I think it's just opening them up to more risk than what it's saving. It's just not worth it -- in my opinion -- to pay ransom, even through an intermediary."