‘How We Were Kidnapped’
Four journalists that were ambushed and kidnapped last Sunday have narrated how they ran into armed gunmen along Ikot-Ekpene-Aba road.
This comes as the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mr. Ogbonna Onovo yesterday ordered the deployment of special detectives from Imo and Akwa Ibom State to handle the case.
Also, Senate President David Mark has called on the kidnappers, who have demanded a ransom of N250 million, to release the journalists without any condition.
Those abducted are Chairman Lagos State Council Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Wahab Oba, Secretary of Zone G Adolphus Okonkwo, Acting Secretary Lagos State Council Sylvester Okereke, Lagos-based journalist Sola Oyeyipo and the driver of the vehicle.
In phone conversations with NUJ National Secretary Leman Shuaibu, Oba and Okonkwo said they were taken unawares.
Wahab had travelled to Ibadan, Oyo State, last week Tuesday for the Press Council week of that chapter. From there, he proceeded to his hometown of Ilorin in Kwara State to see his aged mother.
He left for Abuja last Wednesday for another official assignment. Okonkwo and Okereke flew into Abuja for that same event. They all left the capital city together on Thursday for Akwa Ibom State to attend the NUJ National Executive Council (NEC) meeting.
On Friday, they attended the opening ceremony, the closed-door meeting on Saturday and left Uyo by 8am the following day. It was on their way back that they were attacked in a Serene Space bus around 10am.
The journalists told Shuaibu that there was a convoy of three vehicles transporting all of them. The first one was attacked by the gunmen who were operating in a Volvo car. They shot into the air while two of them jumped into the bus and forced the driver at gunpoint to follow their vehicle, they said.
Immediately, the two other cars swerved towards another direction. They stopped at some point and fled into the bush. They emerged 30 minutes later and re-boarded their vehicles.
The kidnappers contacted the NUJ National President Garba Mohammed three hours later. They also spoke to the Vice-Chairman of Lagos NUJ Deji Elumoye and demanded for N250 million ransom.
By 1pm yesterday, the kidnappers had not backed down. They spoke to Shuaibu and maintained that they were still waiting for the money. Oba and Okonkwo, were however, allowed to speak to Shuaibu.
The journalists said they were in good condition but were anxious to regain their freedom. Shortly after that, the phone was snatched from them. The kidnappers then asked Shuaibu to ensure that the ransom is paid to avoid any ugly incident.
Hundreds of journalists trooped to Oba's residence in Arepo, Ogun State, yesterday. A prayer session was held for the release of their colleagues.
Meanwhile, the SSS and police are already tracking the kidnappers. Also, Onovo has directed special detectives from Imo and Akwa Ibom States to ensure their release.
The directive was contained in a statement signed by Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Force Headquarters Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu. It said Onovo had directed both Imo and Akwa-Ibom Police Commands to assist in securing the release of the journalists.
According to the statement, the police is deeply concerned about the incident. The force urged members of the NUJ “to be calm over the abduction of their colleagues. We are actually working to rescue your people now in bondage but let me tell you that their kidnappers will be arrested, I can assure you that your colleagues would return to you safely like nothing ever happened to you.”
In another statement in Abuja issued by Shuaibu, the NUJ official urged journalists to remain calm as the union is on top of the matter. Oba’s wife, Barakat, expressed concern over the deteriorating state of health of his 80-year old mother. “What on earth do I know would happen to mama?”she asked.
Another NUJ official, Elumoye, appealed to journalists not to write any story that could jeopardise “our moves of securing the captured safely from the hands of the kidnappers.”
“For now, we are yet to know there location but we have spoken with them on the telephone this morning,” he explained.
The state wing of the National Association of Women Journalists also organised a prayer session at the NUJ Secretariat, Ikeja.
On his part, Senate President David Mark yesterday condemned the spate of kidnappings and abduction and tasked security operatives to “rise up to the challenge and save the citizens of his avoidable hostility in the hands of criminals.”
“No responsible government would allow this to continue,” said the Mark. He added that “we must all rise to the occasion and curb the menace.”
In a press statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary Mr. Paul Mumeh, the Senate President told the kidnappers to release forthwith the abducted journalists unconditionally, saying, “Enough of this embarrassment, we cannot continue to allow this to happen; criminality of any form is condemnable, it cannot be our way of life.”
Mark called on communities, especially traditional rulers, to join the fight against kidnapping. He sympathised with the families of the victims and the NUJ.