At least five expatriates and two Nigerians were on Wednesday kidnapped at the Idundu area of the Calabar-Oban Road by suspected militants.
The incident happened at about 6am when the foreigners and their Nigerian colleagues, working for MacMahon Construction Company, were on their way to work.
The construction firm is located at the Mfamosing Plant of the United Cement Company of Nigeria Limited in the Akamkpa Local Government Area of Cross River State.
The company is said to be one of the major contracting firms to Lafarge Holcim, owners of UniCem.
The workers, who were conveyed in four MacMahon vehicles, had been escorted by a security pickup that had four armed policemen when they were attacked by the gunmen before the Idundu Bridge.
The armed police escort team could do nothing while the attack lasted.
One of the expatriates identified as Tim Croot, an Australian and the driver of one of the vehicles, identified as Henshaw, were said to have escaped, while another driver, Matthew, was killed in the process.
It was learnt from a reliable source that those kidnapped were Jack Countentz (Australia); Mark Gabberdy (Australia); Peter Zoutenbier (Australia), Wayne Smith (South Africa), Jamal Khan (New Zealand), Austin Enok (Nigeria) and a driver identified as Howel (Nigeria).
An eyewitness, Akan Akpan, said the kidnappers came down from the bridge where they had kept their boat’s engine running for almost an hour before taking the expatriates and the Nigerians away.
He said, “I was coming back from the farm this morning when the incident occurred. The kidnappers came down from the bridge, shot the driver of the vehicle and took the victims away through the river.
“The vehicles conveying the expatriates and the two Nigerians were abandoned by the roadside with the dead body of the driver. From all indications, it appeared like the expatriates were going to work at the Lafarge Holcim plant in Mfamosing.”
A statement issued by the Communications Officer of Lafarge, Viola Graham-Douglas, confirmed that the kidnapped expatriates were MacMahon contractors.
In a short message, Graham-Douglas said, “One of our contractors, MacMahon, has informed us that a security incident has occurred on the road from Calabar involving some of their employees.
MacMahon is working with the security agencies to resolve the situation.”
Meanwhile, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Jimoh Ozi-Obeh, has said the police are working with the Nigerian Navy to ensure that the victims are released safely.
“The police are aware of the matter. Five persons were kidnapped. They include two Australians, one South African and two Nigerians. The driver of the vehicle was shot dead. The police will ensure that the victims are released unharmed,” he assured.