Nigerian militants could demand $1m for NZer

Nigerian militants could demand $1m for NZer

Prime Minister John Key says any ransom demanded for a Kiwi worker held in Nigeria would not be paid by the New Zealand Government.

A four-car convoy carrying the group of expats working as cement contractors were ambushed after their lead local driver was shot dead yesterday afternoon.

It's believed two workers managed to escape, but it's unclear whether the New Zealander was among them.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has confirmed it is in contact with his family who live in New Zealand. A Nigerian media outlet has named him, but that hasn't been confirmed by our authorities.

"At this stage, there's been no communication between the potential kidnappers and either their family or anyone involved in the Government," says Prime Minister John Key.

"From our point of view, we know the name of the individual and the next of kin have been made aware of the situation but for obvious reasons we won't be naming the individual in question."

Waikato University Professor, Alexander Gillespie, says our government has a strict 'no ransom' policy.

"The evidence is very clear. For countries that actually pay money for hostages, you create an incentive for your citizens to become targets while they're overseas and, therefore, governments won't pay for them to come back.

"This approach is exactly the same for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. I imagine [the New Zealand government] will stick to the policy," Professor Gillespie explains.

Mr Key agrees with this.

"In the case of the Government, our very strong policy is not to pay ransom," he said.

"The reason for that is if we pay the ransom we'd put a bounty on the head of any New Zealander who travels to a dangerous part of the world and potentially makes the situation worse."

MFAT's Safetravel website says there's a "high threat" of kidnapping in Nigeria, with expatriate workers at oil and gas facilities at particular risk.  The vast majority of them are financially motivated.

"It's likely he's been taken because he's a westerner. Westerners are very high-profile targets. The amount of money involved, if you're in north Africa, it's about $2 million dollars. Getting down to the more tropical belt in Nigeria, it's around $1 million dollars US for his return."

The New Zealand man's family has asked for privacy, as they await news.