Kidnapped Journalists: Force HQ Deploys Special Team

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LAGOS, July 12, (THEWILL) - In what it described as a threat to national security, the Nigeria Police today deployed a special detective team to ensure the release of four members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) kidnapped at the weekend near Aba in Abia State.

The Force Headquarter took the step about 24 hours after Lagos State 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 were kidnapped while returning from the National Executive Council meeting held at Uyo in Akwa Ibom State.

A good number of journalists and non-journalists trooped into the residence of Oba in Arepo, Ogun State where a divine intervention was sought to ensure that the kidnapped journalists, mainly comprising the Lagos council’s executives.

But in his directive, Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ogbonna Onovo ordered the deployment of special detectives from Imo and Akwa Ibom State to ensure the release of four kidnapped journalists.

The order was conveyed in a statement signed by Public Relations Office of The Force Headquarter, Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu, announcing that Onovo had directed both Imo and Akwa-Ibom Police Commands to assist in securing the release of the kidnapped journalists.

The statement 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.

It thus 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."

In a statement he issued in Abuja, NUJ National Secretary, Mr. Shuaibu Leman appealed to all the journalists "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."

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?"

In his 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."

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

As at this morning, the whereabouts of the kidnapped journalists were still unknown as the kidnappers have remained incommunicado since 1.10 pm on Sunday.

Wahab, three journalists and a driver were kidnapped around 10.00 am on Sunday by unknown gunmen in Aba, Abia State, Nigeria, while the kidnappers have demanded for a whooping N250 million ransom.