Kidnapped septuagenarian re-unites with family after 10 days in captivity

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He was kidnapped on Tuesday, October 27, 2009 by a five-man gang of gunmen who seized him from his dinner table at his Isuofia residence in Aguata Local Government Area of the state.

Seventy-eight-year-old Pa Simeon Soludo, father of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the February 6, 2010 governorship election in Anambra State, was, however, released on Wednesday night, precisely 10 days after his capture.

Details of the behind-the-scene negotiations with his abductors leading to his release were unclear last night but Pa Soludo reunited with his family around 10 pm on Wednesday.

As early as 10 am yesterday, newsmen who had received the information early in the day had thronged the Soludo family house in Isuofia to confirm the authenticity of the news or otherwise.

But security men keeping guard at the compound sold a dummy. “Pa Soludo had been rescued from his kidnappers but he is sleeping,” one of them said. Then, the wait began.

However, at about 10.55am, a black Peugeot 406 Salon car with registration number AZ182-RSH pulled up at a corner of the compound with two persons and the driver.

Now, an old man with a slight bald wearing a glittering white jumper lace, adorning a red cap for titled men in Igbo land, black sandals and a swagger stick alighted from the back seat of the car.

It was Pa Soludo. But journalists were promptly stopped from talking to him or taking photographs by security personnel and one of his sons, Kenneth, who helped him into the house.

The man looked somehow frail and Kenneth said he was still in shock and needed some rests.

It was actually gathered that Pa Soludo and those who accompanied him were returning from a hospital where he had gone for first aid medical check-up.

Family members declined comments on their patriarch's release when THISDAY visited the compound at Isuofia.

A dependable family source who preferred anonymity, however, said about N10 million ransom was eventually paid to the kidnappers before the release of Pa Soludo.

According to the source, the money was said to have been dropped for the kidnappers at midnight on Wednesday somewhere at Oko, Orumba North Local Government Area of the state.

THISDAY checks revealed that the kidnappers dropped off Pa Soludo that Wednesday night at Uga, some 10 kilometres from Isuofia, though in the same Aguata Local Government Area.

Soludo has, however, expressed gratitude to God for the release of his father.

He said: “I'm very excited and I give all glory and adoration to God Almighty. I think God has answered the prayers of millions of Anambra people and Nigerians. So, we simply say to God be the glory.

“We are emboldened by the experience that we passed through for the nine days he was in captivity. So we have resolved to serve Anambra and to serve Nigerians. And it has emboldened us also to make kidnapping a history in the state and wherever we can find it.

“It's a harrowing experience and you don't wish that for your enemies so to speak. But it brought home realities about insecurity of lives and property in the state and the need for all of us to rededicate our lives to make it better than we met it.”

The state police command has confirmed that some people had been arrested in connection with the kidnap of Pa Soludo.

A deputy Commissioner of Police in the Command, Mr. Oshodi Glover, told journalists at the Soludo family house in Isuofia that the command was still working on the matter and would like to be discreet about it at the moment.

“Please, don't let me reveal anything yet. There will be time for that and not now,” he said.

Oshodi who was accompanied by Mr. Chris Ezike, an Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of the Inspector-General of Police's monitoring team, however denied knowledge of any ransom paid.

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division has shifted to November 13, 2009 the much-expected judgment in the application filed by PDP candidate in the 2007 governorship election in Anambra State, Dr Andy Uba, seeking to be automatically sworn in upon the expiration of the tenure of Governor Peter Obi on March 17, 2010 without any election.

Uba is relying on the strength of the Certificate of Return issued to him by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the gubernatorial election held in the state in 2007 to make his application to the appellate court.

The court presided over by Justice J.S. Ngwuta had in its sitting penultimate week adjourned indefinitely for ruling after counsel in the case adopted their written addresses.

Though no official reason was given for the shift in date for the ruling, THISDAY checks revealed that the development may not be unconnected with the ongoing industrial action embarked upon by the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) over unpaid wages as well as government's alleged refusal to implement agreement it reached with the union concerning improved salary structure.

A reliable source told THISDAY that the five judges had arrived the state on Wednesday preparatory for the judgment.

Another account also had it that there were a series of petitions against delivering the judgment in favour of Uba that have been forwarded to the Presidency in Abuja.

Efforts to get a response from court officials failed. The court's Deputy Registrar, Mrs. Angela O. Otaluka, was only sighted serving “Hearing Notice” on the parties in the dispute.