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nerPostTitle">COMMISSIONER, 16 OTHERS GET BAIL OVER KIDNAP Written by furtune Politics Mar 2, 2010

Commissioner, 16 others get bail over kidnap
By Modey Peters
March 2, 2010 05:53AM (L) Nicholas Ayuwa, Chairman, Obubra Local Government, whose wife was kidnapped and Raymond Obeten(R), Cross River State Commissioner. He was arrested as one of the suspects in the kidnap of the wife of the chairman of the Obubra LGA in Cross River State.

After four days in detention, the Cross River State Commissioner of Sports and Youth Development, Raymond Obeten, two members of the state's House of Assembly, Messrs Fabian Okpa and Moses Onoh, 11 councillors, and two others have regained their freedom. These politicians – all from Obubra Local Government Area – were arrested last week by the police in connection with the kidnap of Tina Ayuwa, wife of the chairman of the local government by some unknown persons in Calabar two weeks ago.

The arrests came on the heels of a statement by the deputy governor of the state, Efiok Cobham, accusing politicians in Obubra of being behind the repeated kidnap of Mrs. Ayuwa who is yet to be released, 17 days after her abduction. Mrs. Ayuwa was kidnapped on February 13, at the husband's Calabar home. The husband, who witnessed the incident, said the kidnappers have reduced the ransom initially put at N200million to N70million. Mrs. Ayuwa was also kidnapped last year and was released only after her husband paid a ransom.

The arrests of these prominent Obubra politicians have, however, further strained the relationship between them and the council chairman. The commissioner and the two lawmakers were detained at the Juvenile Welfare Centre of the Criminal Investigation Department [CID] block of the Cross River State police command in Calabar. The councillors and other suspects were detained at the ground floor, in a cell opposite that of criminals. The Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Francis Adah and some of his colleagues visited the police command to plead for the release of the men on bail while investigation continues.

There are fears that the kidnap might be part of the intense jockeying for positions ahead of the 2011 general elections. But Mr. Ayuwa said his family should not suffer for this.

'Please help tell the kidnappers to leave my wife alone and rather kidnap me because she is not a politician,' Mr. Ayuwa said.

Arrest and detention
The police have also arrested all political appointees in Obubra, including executive of the local council chapter of the PDP in Obubra.

'Arrest and detention of suspects will continue until kidnappers of Mrs. Ayuwa are brought to book,' a police source said in Calabar at the weekend.

The kidnappers have beat down the ransom price, from N200m to N100m and now N70m,' Mr Ayuwa said in Calabar. 'What I offered them on phone was turned down and they described it as being too negligible to guarantee the release of such a high profile kidnap victim.' He said he sought to know from them where they expected him to raise such an amount when the entire statutory allocation of Obubra was not as much, 'moreso as the money does not belong to me but is meant for salary of workers and development projects.'

The chairman also denied owing any contractor, ruling out the theory that the intermittent kidnap of his wife was due to contractual indebtedness. He challenged any contractor to prove to the world that job executed has not been paid for in the local government. 'It is not true that my administration is owing any of the contractors. We have paid all those who have completed their jobs,' he said. The police are yet to ascertain the hideout of the kidnappers, but Etim Dickson, the police public relations officer. said they are investigating the incident within and beyond Cross River State.