Suspected Boko Haram insurgents have kidnapped 10 members of a geological research team from the University of Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria, according to a statement from the state oil company.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) has been surveying for more than a year for what it says could be vast oil reserves in the Lake Chad Basin, a region wracked by Boko Haram's eight-year insurgency. At least 20,000 people have been killed and millions have been forced to leave their homes and flee to neighboring countries.
Boko Haram is also known for kidnapping civilians, especially young women and boys, for recruitment purposes. The most prominent one was when they abducted 276 girls from a government school in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria. Since then at least 100 of the girls have been rescued.
Two-thirds of Nigeria revenue comes from oil. But constant attacks on energy facilities in its southern Niger Delta oil heartland last year cut production by more than a third, deepening the recession in Africa's biggest economy.
NNPC spokesman Ndu Ughamadu said the contractors were kidnapped near Jibi village in Borno state on Tuesday afternoon.
"About 10 members of the University of Maiduguri geology and surveying department were abducted by suspected Boko Haram members," Ughamadu said, noting that the group included academic staff, drivers and other workers. The university is still waiting for a report from security agencies.