By NBF News
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The Federal Government has described the abduction of four journalists as a challenge to security agencies to reinforce ongoing security operations in Abia State.  Mr. Wahab Oba, chairman of Lagos State council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and three other journalists, were kidnapped on the Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road, on Sunday.

The others are Mr Adolphus Okonkwo, Zonal Secretary of the NUJ for Zone G, Sylvester Okere, Secretary of the Lagos State Council of the union, Mr Sola Oyeyipo and the driver.

Prof. Dora Akunyili, Minister of Information and Communications said in a statement yesterday that government finds the development ugly, disturbing, sad and clearly unacceptable.

According to the statement; 'the Federal Government wishes to reassure all Nigerians of adequate and radical response in the search for sustainable solution to this new wave of crime.  'In this direction, I wish to reaffirm the confidence of the Federal Government on the ability of Nigeria police, and security agencies in the country to free the journalists from their captives within the shortest possible time.

'The police and all security agencies have a responsibility to ensure that the perpetrators of this dastardly act are brought to book.

'The Federal Government charged governments of Abia, Akwa Ibom and neighbouring states, community leaders and well meaning Nigerians to work closely and in partnership with the police and security agencies to fish out the gunmen from their hideouts.

'Finally, government also appeals for calm while efforts are being made to free the journalists. Our hearts go to the NUJ and the affected families,' FG said.

Meanwhile, Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, had ordered the deployment of a crack team of detectives from Imo and Akwa Ibom to assist in efforts to rescue the abducted journalists.

The Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), ACP Emmanuel Ojukwu, said yesterday that the IGP gave the order to the commissioners of police in the two states on Sunday.

Ojukwu said the police were deeply concerned about the abduction of the journalists, who were returning from the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) held in Uyo. The abductors had demanded a ransom of N250 million to ensure their release.

He said the IGP directed that the journalists be rescued unhurt and their abductors 'fished out and brought to justice.'

On whether the police had established contact with the kidnappers, Ojukwu said: 'We are making significant progress to rescue the victims and restore their freedom.'

He said efforts aimed at freeing the men and re-uniting them with their families were ongoing and reiterated the directive of the police to the public not to pay ransom for the release of their kidnapped relations.

In the meantime, NUJ has urged journalists to be calm over the abduction of their colleagues.

In a statement in Abuja, the NUJ National Secretary, Mr. Shuaibu Leman, said: 'We urge you all to remain calm as the union is on top of the kidnap of our members. We are sure they will soon regain their freedom, keep hoping and praying with us.'

Similarly, the NUJ, Akwa Ibom council in a statement signed by its Secretary, Mr. Joseph Effiong, challenged governors of the South East and South South to find lasting solutions to the incidence of kidnapping currently crippling their geopolitical zones.

While strongly condemning abduction of NUJ leaders 'and every other act of kidnappings and criminality perpetrated in the South East, South South and any other part of the country, the council said the inability or refusal of the affected states and Federal Government to tackle kidnapping bogey headlong was making nonsense of the nation's re-branding and image laundry exercise.

'We cannot be talking about rebranding and achieving reputable image globally when kidnappers and assassins walk on our streets in broad daylight unmolested despite the proliferation of checkpoints by the police and the military on our deplorable federal and even state roads.

'We believe that the security agencies, especially the Nigeria Police, would live up to their promises to secure the unconditional release of our colleagues, and also make sure that the incidence of kidnapping in the country is brought to an end,' the council said.

Speaker, House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, has called on relevant security agencies in the country to join forces with the Nigeria police to smoke out the kidnappers.

In a statement issued in Abuja by his Special Adviser (media), Mr. Ebomhiana Musa, the Speaker urged all well meaning Nigerians to rise in unison and condemn the dastardly act.

He assured Nigerian, especially journalists that their abducted colleagues would soon regain their freedom, given the fact that all relevant government agencies had mobilised towards rescuing them.

The Speaker who expressed concerns that kidnapping had assumed a frightening dimension and national embarrassment, stressed the need to strengthen the relevant anti-terrorism departments of the police and deploy them to the kidnapping prone states of the country.

Meanwhile, the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) has urged the Federal Government to tackle the menace of kidnapping headlong.

It also tasked the Inspector General of Police to bring the menace under control.

'These latest victims of kidnapping show the level of insecurity in Nigeria. We cannot afford to continue to allow these criminals to hold the nation to ransom'' spokesman for the SNG, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said.

Also speaking, a member of the Board of the Nigerian Press Council, Mr. Olisa Egbunike, blamed the government and security services for treating kidnapping with kid gloves.

Egbunike said the continued incidence of kidnapping, especially in the South East, could be blamed on greed as well as absence of job opportunities for the youth.

Egbunike, a former secretary of the NUJ, Lagos council, appealed to the kidnappers to release their victims.

The National Chairman, Citizens Popular Party (CPP), Chief Maxi Okwu, noted that kidnapping had become the biggest criminal activity threatening human existence in the South East.

Okwu also blamed various strata of government for failing in their primary function of providing security for the citizens.

'It's unacceptable that these criminals have become larger than life and cannot be handled by the nation's security apparatus,'' he said.

The President of the NGE, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, said kidnapping was unacceptable and should not be tolerated.

Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Segun Oni, had also lent his voice to pleas for the release of the journalists.

Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Wale Ojo-Lanre, Governor Oni said: 'Journalists are too important to the corporate existence of Nigeria and survival of our democracy than to be subjected to harrowing experience like the one the abducted media men are being subjected to.'

He said journalists must be allowed all the freedom they needed to perform their social responsibilities, adding that a situation where men of the pen profession, who fought for the independence of Nigeria, were made to perform their duties under an atmosphere of uncertainties was dangerous to the survival of the country.

In her reaction, Mrs. Fatima Abdulkareem, president of the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to wade into the matter.

'There is need for the president to order every security apparatus to join in the search for the journalists and ensure that they are released unharmed.