The Chairman of the Lagos State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Mr. Wahab Oba, on Wednesday morning spoke from an unknown location, where he and four others are being kept by a gang of kidnappers.
He said in a telephone conversation with the National President of the NUJ, Mallam Mohammed Garba, that the kidnappers had so far treated them well since they were seized in Abia State on Sunday.
But he urged Nigerians to pray for their quick release because there was nothing better than freedom.
The other journalists kidnapped by the gunmen at Umuafor Ukwu, Obingwa Local Government Area are — the Assistant Secretary of the Lagos State council of the NUJ, Mr. Sylva Okeke; Secretary, NUJ Zone G, Mr. Adolphus Okonkwo; and a member, Mr. Shola Oyeyipo.
They were returning from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State after a National Executive Council meeting of the union when they were kidnapped along with their driver, Mr. Azeez Abdulrauf.
Part of the conversation between Oba and Garba was relayed to a delegation from the Lagos State Government by the state NUJ council Vice-Chairman, Mr. Deji Elumoye.
Elumoye said the conversation between Oba and Garba went thus, “We are okay in the hideout. They have treated us well so far. There has not been any form of harm done to us; but nothing is as good as having your freedom. Please pray for us.”
The Leader of the Lagos State delegation and Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele, urged the Federal Government to immediately put in place, steps to curb the rising wave of poverty in the country.
The Council of Lagos State Indigenes, led by its President, Mr. Sumbo Onitiri, was also at the NUJ secretariat on a solidarity visit.
Expressing surprise over the incident, the council called on the National Assembly to urgently pass the anti-terrorism bill pending before it, as a way of fighting the scourge.
Earlier, a delegation of the state NUJ officials, had paid a solidarity visit to the families of the kidnapped journalists at Journalists’ Estate, Arepo, Ogun State.
As at 9.30pm on Wednesday, the whereabouts of the journalists and their driver were still unknown but a source told one of our correspondents that the kidnappers insisted on collecting N250m as ransom before they could free them.
Although the source hinted that the captives might be freed last night, Garba confirmed that the kidnappers had refused to back down on their demand.
He said, “We are in touch with them (kidnappers), I still spoke with them this (Wednesday) afternoon but they insisted on their demand for N250m.
“ We don’t know where are we going to get such an amount of money; but we are still talking.”
The NUJ President, who had on Tuesday night relocated to Umuahia, the Abia State capital, also confirmed that he was in touch with the kidnapped journalists.
“I spoke with Wahab this (Wednesday) morning, he sounded okay. The others are okay too,” he said.
But Onovo, who reiterated the determination of the police to apprehend the kidnappers and free Oba and others, warned against the payment of ransom to secure the release of kidnap victims.
He said in a statement quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria on Wednesday that ransom encouraged kidnapping
The statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu, added that the IG “frowned seriously at the attitude of some citizens who pay ransom to kidnappers, to secure the release of their beloved ones.”
According to Ojukwu, Onovo warned that the police would take “serious action against persons who encourage the vice (kidnapping)” by such payment.
He urged that cases of abduction should be reported promptly to the police.
“The Nigeria Police Force has over 400 kidnappers in its custody and had rescued many victims from the clutches of criminal,” Ojukwu added.
Onovo, who addressed officers and men of the Imo State Police Command, took a swipe at the police commands in the South-East.
He said that it was regrettable that kidnappers and armed robbers were having their way in spite of the many police checkpoints on the highways in the zone.
The IG said the police had no reason to fail in the execution of their duties because they were now better equipped to fight crime.
He attributed the increasing wave of crime to the lack of commitment to duty by many policemen.
Onovo said, “You know what our mandates are. You have done well in maintaining peace and order. But you have failed in preventing crimes. There are over 5,000 policemen in this state.
“I can’t understand how kidnappers abduct people in Abia State, pass through Imo State to Anambra State without being arrested.
“I can’t understand how kidnappers enter churches and kidnap innocent worshippers. You can’t tell me that not even one person among you knows where these people are.”
Onovo, who is touring the commands in Zone 9 of the NPF, expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the police within the past one year.
Recalling the kidnapping of four journalists and their driver in Abia State, the IG said he was optimistic that they (the journalists and their driver) would soon regain their freedom.
He put the figure of kidnap suspects being prosecuted in the zone at 350.
The Imo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Aloysuis Okorie, had earlier told Onovo that more than 600 persons were arrested for various crimes within the past one year in the state.
Okorie disclosed that five policemen died during gun duel with armed robbers during the period.
Source: Punch Newspapers – www.punchng.com