Police Deploys Special Squad to Rescue Journalists

The Nigerian Police force says it has deployed a special detective squad to ensure the release of the Chairman and other members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) who were kidnapped at the weekend near Aba in Abia State.

This is coming on the heels of an order from the federal government to ensure the immediate release of the kidnapped Journalists on Sunday July 11, 2010.

Spokesperson of the Police force, Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu revealed that the Inspector General of Police [IGP], Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, has ordered the deployment of special detectives from Imo and Akwa Ibom States to assist in the rescue of five journalists kidnapped on Sunday.

Ojukwu, said on Monday, that the police are concerned about the abduction of the NUJ Council�s Chairman, Mr. Wahaab Oba, his Secretary, Mr. Sylva Okereke, Zonal Secretary, Mr. Adolphus Okoronkwo and a reporter with the Abuja based Fresh Fact newspaper, Mr. Shola Oyeyipo, which took place in Abia State while they were returning from the National Executive Council [NEC] meeting of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) held in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.

He said the police chief has directed that the journalists be rescued “unhurt and their abductors fished out and brought to justice.”

The statement also said the Force Headquarter had directed that the journalists be rescued unhurt and their abductors fished out and brought to justice, urging members of the union “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.”

Asked to comment on why it was so easy to kidnap the four executive members of the NUJ when the IG announced a fortnight ago that 10, 000 policemen, including anti-terrorists squads had been deployed to Abia and other South east states to tackle the problem of kidnapping and bank robberies, Ojukwu said those were the issues the IG would trash out when he got to the area.

It has also been gathered that the IG would not only meet with governors of the South East on the issue, but would also meet with community and traditional leaders over the roles they are expected to play in tackling the embarrassing crime in the zone.

A senior Police officer told pressmen that in spite of the deployment of such large number of Policemen to quell these crimes, especially kidnapping, it had become obvious that leaders of these communities and even senior traditional rulers, were working in concert with the kidnapping gangs for financial benefits hence their refusal to assist the police with information as to whereabouts of the criminals.

“However, having noted the lackadaisical attitude of these community leaders and having been convinced that kidnapping was a communal problem in the East, the Police will soon come out with additional strategies to put the kidnappers in check.”

The kidnappers, according to Akinola Ariyo, the union�s financial secretary, gave a deadline of 5pm on Monday for the ransom of N250 million to be paid.

Meanwhile, State governors and members of the NUJ have said they are on top of the situation and also assure the families of the kidnapped victims to remain calm.

Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State has offered to assist the union in whatever way possible to secure the release of their members still in captive in Abia State.

The Governor of Abia State, Chief Theodore Orji, last night expressed his optimism that the five journalists kidnapped at a border town between his state and Akwa Ibom would soon be released. He told our reporter during a telephone conversation that since the ugly incident was reported to him yesterday he has been on it round the clock.

The South East governors of Abia, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi, and Anambra states also pledged to ensure that Oba and his colleagues regained their freedom hale and hearty without further delay.

In a visit to the homes of the affected victims by the NUJ Vice Chairman, Mrs. Oba and the other wives decried the kidnap of their husbands and are making a passionate appeal for their release.

Speaking on the abduction of her husband yesterday, Mrs. Barakat Oba expressed concern over the deteriorating state of health of Oba�s 80-year old mother, adding that now that the breadwinner of the family had been kidnapped, “what on earth do I know would happen to mama?”

She said: “I only pray that my husband returned safely. I thank everybody for your concern and pray for the family. We really appreciate your concern.�

Mrs Anthonia Adolphus, who couldn’t say much, managed to say the family believed that their breadwinner would come back alive, “because he does not deserve the treatment he is going through.”

Mrs Okereke, who broke into tears upon seeing newsmen, said she had handed her fate to God Almighty and was praying fervently for the safe return of their breadwinner.

She said it has been so traumatic for the whole members of the family since the news was broken and appealed to the kidnappers to have mercy on their captives who are also fighting their cause in the country.

In a reaction at Oba’s home in Arepo, NUJ Vice Chairman, Mr. Deji Elumoye said the State Executive Council of NUJ had visited the place to calm the family who might be afraid of the development.

He said that the union was on top of the situation and had since spoken with Oba and Okonkwo to know how they were faring in the hands of the kidnappers.

Elumoye said: “We will only appeal to our members not to write any story that could jeopardize our moves of securing the captured safely from the hands of the kidnappers.”

He also called on members to keep calm, saying that the executive council had contacted appropriate authorities for the security of the kidnapped journalists.

According to the Vice Chairman, “for now, we are yet to know their location but we have spoken with them on the telephone this morning.”

The state wing of the National Association of Women Journalists also organized prayer session for the captured journalists at the NUJ, Secretariat Ikeja.

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