Nigeria hunts kidnappers of two German workers

Nigerian security forces on Saturday intensified efforts to track down the kidnappers of two German construction workers in Port Harcourt, the country's oil hub.

Nigeria hunts kidnappers of two German workers
A file photo of workers on a Niger Delta oil field in 2006. Photo: DPA

“We are fervently searching for the abductors with a view to securing the release of the Germans,” Rivers state police spokeswoman Rita Abbey told AFP.

“The Germans were taken across the sea. But we hope to track down their captors very soon,” she assured.

Abbey said a soldier was shot and wounded when unknown gunmen seized the two workers of construction firm Julius Berger in Port Harcourt on Friday. She could not confirm a report in the local press that the man had died.

“We are acting on the assumption that two German citizens have been kidnapped in Nigeria,” a spokesman of the German Foreign Office told news agency DDP in Berlin on Saturday.

The ministry’s crisis division is working intensively for the release of the two men, the spokesman said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the incident, the latest to rock oil-rich Nigeria in recent months.

The Niger delta, home to the country’s multi-billion-dollar oil and gas resources, has seen numerous kidnappings targeting foreign energy firms in the past two years.

The attacks are often claimed by some militants who demand a greater share of oil wealth for the region’s inhabitants, while others carry out kidnappings for ransom or political reasons.

A Julius Berger employee abducted in March in Nigeria was released after several hours.

A senior Nigerian official of Julius Berger said the construction firm was “monitoring the situation” in the Niger delta following the kidnapping, but refused to say whether the incident could prompt it to pull out of the region.

Julius Berger, the Nigerian arm of German Bilfinger Berger, began operating in the country in 1965. Nigerian investors own 50.04 percent of the company while foreigners own 49.96 percent.

Several foreign firms, including French tyre company Michelin and oil servicing firm Wilbros, have left the Niger delta because of security problems.

The unrest has reduced Nigeria’s oil output by a quarter, causing Nigeria to lose its position as Africa’s biggest oil producer to Angola, according to April figures from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).



Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

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In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

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