Three employees of a bank, with headquarter in Lagos state, were attacked and kidnapped by armed bandits in the evening of Friday, 15 February 2019.
The attack occurred along Olu Obasanjo Way in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
According to reliable sources, the kidnapped men, Sola Agoro, Ebenezer Sowumi and Alex Okocha, were on a visit to the city. While heading to their hotel in the company of a Police escort, a vehicle suddenly crossed the SUV conveying them. Some men came down and shot at the Police escort seated at the front seat of the SUV, disarmed him and whisked away the other three occupants of the SUV. Though report stated that the driver – whose name was given as Erastus – was shot dead, however, Nnamdi Omoni, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), later confirmed this information as untrue, and that though he (Erastus) was severely wounded he is still alive.
According to Omoni, officers of the River State Police command immediately swung into action in order to rescue the men from their abductors. However, this turned out to be an exercise in futility, as the abducted bank workers were later found dead. Curiously, no ransom was demanded for their release.
This made the public to question the rationale behind this senseless killing. Some residents wondered if this is an attempt to wipe out members of the Yoruba race and other ethnic minority from the oil-rich city of Port Harcourt.
In a statement, Omoni, the force PPRO said “there has been an increasing act of violence leading to killings, attacks, and Kidnapping of innocent visitors particularly non-indigenes of Rivers state in recent times by gunmen. Foreigners to this part of the country also constantly experience this”.
“This is the fourth time in the last six months people – mostly local visitors – are been attacked, kidnapped and killed in this manner. Observed trends show increasing kidnapping appeared to be targeted at not only the popular rich in the city but also taking ethnic dimension”, Omoni said.
This recent attack, among others, led to an anti-police protest. Given the increase in the rate of crime, insurgencies, inter-ethnic violence, and religious militia presence in most towns and cities including the FCT, the protesters questioned the competence of the police to secure the life and properties of residents of Port Harcourt city and Nigeria at large. According to sources, the political class is guilty of overheating the polity in this part of the country using divisive tactics of ethnicity and violent militia groups to cause instability and security concerns for the populace.
During the 2019 general election campaign, both ruling and opposition parties were found to be intimidating the business communities in Rivers state – ‘’saying that multinationals operators and private sectors operating in the state are partly to be blamed for not faithfully complying with the local content policy implementation as enshrined in the Act’’. According to the Governor, indigenous people of Rivers State including militants that enjoyed amnesty in the past have now been trained and capable of handling contracts and employment as a way of re-integrating and empowering the people. Denying Rivers indigene job opportunities in the state will only aggravate the unemployment situation for the indigene of the state.
The Police spokesman said, that this recent killing is already causing uncontrollable ethnic violence in the State. He warned the worrying groups and the state government not to allow re-occurrence of this kind of violent ethnic militia attacked that occurred between militant Ijaw youth/ Egbesu Fraternity and O’odua People’s Congress (OPC) in the past which resulted in the untimely death of residents of the state.
The incessant kidnapping and killings of Yoruba and minority in Port Harcourt is already been perceived as a target against the ethnic minority in the state. This situation is now generating anxiety and agitation.
In the Month of February 2019, the Yoruba community and other minority ethnic groups took to the street of Port Harcourt protesting and accusing the government and police authority of insensitivity to the various killings and marginalization of an ethnic minority in the state. The consequence of this anxiety greatly manifested in the protest led by one Mr Damilare and men of the notorious O’odua People’s Congress (OPC) – Port Harcourt calling government and the security agencies to bring the perpetrators of this heinous act to book.
The Police Public Relations Officer assured the public that the Rivers state police Command will unravel the criminals behind these heinous acts of violence and bring them to book.