24 Jun 2016

No ransom demand from NZer's kidnappers

7:59 am on 24 June 2016

Kidnappers of seven workers, including a New Zealander, in Nigeria are yet to make any ransom demands - but are believed to be a criminal gang with financial motives rather than terrorists.

The abducted New Zealander is a permanent resident of Australia, and has been named by Nigerian media as Jamal Khan.

He was kidnapped along with three Australians, one South African and two Nigerians when up to 30 armed men attacked a convoy on the outskirts of the city of Calabar in the south of the country early on Wednesday morning. A Nigerian driver was shot dead.

All eight were employees of Perth company Macmahon Holdings, which has an annual $25 million contract with local cement works LafargeHolcim.

Nigeria correspondent for British newspaper The Times Jeremy Kelly said it was not unusual that so soon after a kidnapping there had been no report of a ransom demand being made.

"Those who are behind this sort of crime, they are keen to get as far away as possible from the scene, so then they can start negotiations, if indeed they do want to go down that path," he told Morning Report.

ABC Perth reporter Graeme Powell said it was likely the group were criminals after a financial payout.

The terror group Boko Haram operates in the northeast of Nigeria and the kidnapping occurred in the south.

"What's happened in the past couple of years is because the price of oil is so low these criminal gangs are trying to find other ways of making money and they're taking hostages."

Prime Minister John Key said it was not unusual in Nigeria abductions to be motivated by money.

"At this stage, there's been no communication between the potential kidnappers and their family or anyone involved in the government."

The government would not pay a ransom, he said.

"And the reason for that is: we think, if we pay the ransom, we potentially put a bounty on the head of any New Zealander who travels to any dangerous part of the world."

The company that employed the seven men, MacMahon, said in a statement that it was working to ensure their safe return.

LafargeHolcim said it was informed of a "security incident" by MacMahon and the Australian company was working with security agencies to resolve the situation.

The Nigerian police and navy were also believed to be involved.

New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is contact with the kidnapped New Zealander's next of kin and said it was seeking further information on the situation. It declined to comment further citing the sensitive nature of the case.

The ministry has also been in contact with Australian authorities and the mining company.