South Sudan said military escorts would be provided to oil workers in the Upper Nile oil fields following the abduction of six oil workers in about two weeks.

oilSpeaking to journalists at Adar and Gumry oil fields in northern Upper Nile region, Petroleum Minister Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth said on Tuesday evening the recent kidnapping cases would not impede oil production in the area, assuring oil operators that security will immediately be reinforced to protect oil workers.

“The president has instructed all the security forces to provide maximum security for the protection of oil workers. So we will make sure that even if it one person is going out for operation, they will be escorted,” Gatkuoth said.

“We ask the oil workers both South Sudanese and foreigners to cooperate with us to ensure that protection is given to all of them,” he added.

On March 8, rebels allied to former deputy president Riek Machar abducted two Indian nationals working for the Dar Petroleum Operating Company (DPOC) in Adar oil field, northern Upper Nile.

Another kidnapping of four oil workers also took place on March 18 in Gumry oil field, just few kilometers from Adar. Among the abductees were three South Sudanese and a Pakistani national.

Gatkuoth said negotiations are underway for the release of the abducted oil workers, but warned that the government would not listen to any demand for ransom payment.

War-torn South Sudan relies on oil revenue to finance 98 percent of its annual budget. But production has been affected by civil war that broke out in December 2013.

The country’s oil output is currently estimated at 130,000 barrels per day, down from 350,000 bpd in 2011. Enditem

Source: Julius Gale, Xinhua/