By Umoh-Obong Kingsley |
The Akwa Ibom State Command of the Nigeria Police Force, in conjunction with the Military and the Department of State Service (DSS), has rescued an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and eight other victims who were held captive by suspected kidnapping syndicates in Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo Local Government Areas of the state.
The state Commissioner for Police, Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi, disclosed this during a press briefing at the Force Headquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia, Uyo on Saturday, saying that they combed the forest and rescued a total of 9 kidnap victims, including an INEC staff, Mr Otobong Sylvester Ukpong, six elderly women, two men and a 14-year old girl.
According to him, this was in continuation of the operation of 16 August, 2018, where a young boy of 9 years old, Joseph Monday Udo of Ikot Inyang Abia in Ukanafun LGA, and a yet to be identified young lady who is presently in coma, were rescued.
In that operation, the police boss said, a police officer, Sergeant Sheddrach Stephen, was gunned down, and a rifle belonging to the slain police officer and various other items including bulletproof vests, and ammunitions were recovered.
The rescued victims are Otobong Silvester Ukpong from Iwekem community in Etim Ekpo; Mrs Darlington Moses, Ikot Ama Ikpe, Etim Ekpo; Mrs Victoria Peter, Ikot Inyang Abia, Ukanafun; Mrs Eno Itohowo, Ikot Inyang Abia, Ukanafun; Mrs Eno Peter Udoh, Ikot Inyang Abia, Ukanafun; Mrs Betsy Ime, Ikot Inyang Abia, Ukanafun; Imaobong Sunday Thomas (14 years), Ikot Inyang Abia, Ukanafun; Mr Uduak Fred, Ikot Esop, Etim Ekpo, and Mrs Esther Jimmy Okpon, Ikot Inyang Abia, Ukanafun.
Narrating their ordeals, the victims said that the hoodlums took them into the forest and held them captive demanding varying amounts ranging from N500,000 to N10 million naira each to gain their freedom, while those whose relations could be contacted to bargain their freedom, were condemned to death, until the police combed the forest and rescued them.
The INEC official, Mr Otobong Sylvester Ukpong, said that he was on his way to work on that fateful day (5th June, 2018) when about three fully armed men on motorcycles accosted him and dispossessed everything he had including his money and mobile phones, and beat him up before covering his face and took him into the thick forest. They demanded the sum of N10 million as ransom for his freedom.
It would be recalled INEC in the state had earlier threatened that elections would not be conducted in Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun LGAs if its staff, Otobong was not rescued.
Speaking with the Chairmen of Ukanafun LGA, Rt. Hon. Uko Idiong, and Etim Ekpo, Mr Udeme Eduo, they said the state Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, has done everything humanly possible to bring the hoodlums to a round table discussion, and declared his preparedness for reconciliation and rehabilitation for the hoodlums in other for them to surrender arms and embrace peace but they turned down the invitation.
Recently, the Governor went to the cult-stricken communities in the two local governments with relief materials for the affected families, where he pledged to empower the hoodlums should they surrender their arms.
Meanwhile, the hoodlums have not come out to define their missions and grieve, all they say at every opportunity is that government should give them money before they lay down arms. Investigations revealed the majority of the hoodlums are not indigenes of the state as most of the accomplices so far arrested are from the neighbouring states. The government has put in place many palliatives provided they are ready to lay down arms and embrace peace.
The Commissioner of Police, Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi, assured the good people of Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun LGAs the commitment to restore peace and security to their communities and every other parts of Akwa Ibom State, saying that there is relative peace in other parts of the state except the two local governments. He urged hoodlums to shun cultism and other crimes, lay down arms and embrace peace.
It could be recalled that the police, in an operation, had earlier gunned down a notorious kidnapper, Emmanuel Ime Akajombo, and his second in command, Unyime Akpan, and recovered several items including AK47 rifle with seven rounds of life ammunition, five locally made pistols, and 11 motorcycles. Five kidnap victims were also rescued.