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JOURNALISTS KIDNAP SAGA

By NBF News
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Onovo, IGP
It appears the efforts of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA) to help the police track down the kidnappers who took four journalists for ransom early this week is yielding results.

Saturday Sun learnt that the detectives from Israel were able to track the spot where the hostages where kept in a village in Ngwa, Abia State.

On getting to the spot, the kidnappers who had been alerted by the villagers had relocated to an unknown place before the police arrived. They only met an empty room with wallets and documents belonging to their victims.

It was gathered that the Israeli detectives came on the invitation of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA) to help the police in eradicating the menace. The Israeli detectives immediately swung into action on getting there.

The Israeli intelligence officers were deployed to Abia and other South east states in a last ditch effort by the Federal Government to free the four journalists and two others from the camp of the kidnappers and rid the region of the social malady.

Meanwhile, reports reaching us from Obingwa say that most of the villagers had fled the community for fear of being lynched by youths who seem to be in control of the game. One of the villagers, who has relocated to Umuahia to stay with his children, told Saturday Sun that he fled for fear of a fatal onslaught. 'The police and our youths are behind these kidnaps. No parent can control a child who has sworn to join these criminals. The police threatened to arrest the parents. That is why we all ran away from the area. I am now a fugitive.' When asked why they refused to give information to the police, the old man, who is in his late 70s, explained that his neighbour's house was burnt at night for giving information to the police.

Security sources informed Saturday Sun that caution and restraint by the detectives had as at Thursday stopped the police from a headlong armed confrontation with the kidnap suspects.

The joint Israeli/Nigerian detectives spotted the point where the kidnappers moved the journalists from, but could not confront them after they got information of their hideout for fear that if that fails, the villagers would become the ultimate victims. The sources from which the cops got their information had pleaded with them to tread cautiously as the hoodlums may unleash mayhem on them if the police fail in effectively routing them in a situation of armed confrontation.

Even religious leaders in the Abia State are not spared in the fear the kidnap saga spreads. A Methodist cleric told Saturday Sun that three days praying and fasting was declared for the release of the journalists and for a successful kidnap-free conference of the clerics in Abia. 'The Methodist Church is organizing a conference that all the leaders all over Nigeria are expected to attend. If these men can pick journalists who have nothing, then no one is spared in this madness. We are currently seeking divine intervention that our bishops will not be kidnapped during the conference.'

Onovo's effort so far
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ogbonna Onovo has since commenced a tour of the South East to sensitize the states to the need to fight kidnap. According to our source, the IGP has since ordered that road blocks should be dismantled.

Before then he had also spoken of a plan to launch a house-to-house search for the journalists.

The police boss fingered some policemen as collaborators in the social malady that has enveloped all the five states in the South East and other parts of the country.

The IGP announced the detention of the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of Osisioma Police division in Abia State, DSP Egbe for allegedly sponsoring kidnapping. Egbe was arrested last month as part of investigation to unravel the connection of senior police command in aiding and abetting kidnappers in the state.

Onovo, who relocated to Abia State on Tuesday, had vowed to fish out those who kidnapped the journalists at Umuafor Ukwu, Obingwa LGA.

Onovo regretted that his appointment heralded with jubilation among his kinsmen in the South East has been rubbished by the spate of crime in the zone. He was said to have beckoned to the traditional rulers to fish out those who habour hostages in their communities. Failure to comply would make him to apply force to achieve results.

'I know how happy our people were when I was appointed IGP. Will it be our people that will remove me through their deeds?

'We are ridiculed by this act and whatever happens, we are not going to keep quiet over this. Stringent measures will be adopted on the issue.'

He regretted that the police force had been infiltrated by bad elements that had become merchants and were using their uniforms to do business with criminals.

He assured that such officers would be fished out and appropriate sanctions meted out to them.

Meanwhile, reactions continue to trail the rampant kidnap from the past to the present case. The respondents most of whom have been victims relived tales of their agony in the hands of kidnappers.

Uzor (businessman)
To God be the glory. All things work together for the good of those who believe in Him. Last month, my cousin was abducted and we had to cough out N3m to secure his release. I was with him in the car but I managed to escape. I ran to the nearest police station and was told by the police on duty to go and pray for their release. They were sincere enough to tell me to go home and pray. Their excuse was that kidnappers had killed many of their men.

Steve Eke (banker)
Why should the police wait till journalists are abducted before they start acting? In fact, I am actually calling on all those who intend to kidnap to go for journalists as they are the key to our problem in Nigeria.

I came back from London and as a good son I decided to travel home and see my parents in Enugu. I was kidnapped and my family had to part with as much as N10m to secure my release. It was a horrible experience and the police did nothing about it. No one is safe in this country. For now Lagos seems safe from kidnap and once it becomes bad, I will not hesitate to leave the country.

Professor Wale Omole
There is no need to spend money on foreign investigators when even a local policeman can solve this problem. There are tools and once the police are empowered, kidnapping will be a thing of the past. Our problem is that Nigeria is a failed state. The police operate under a government that is not ready to make them function. The first duty of every government is to provide security for the people and every other thing will fall in place. Nobody is safe in Nigeria. It is not only common in the East, it is everywhere.

Chinedu Okezie (businessman)
I am not celebrating the abduction of those journalists, but I thank God that it happened at this time. You can imagine the squad that was sent to rescue them. Everybody in my family is now resident in Lagos for fear of what they would do. My brother was kidnapped and we paid to secure his release. What did the police do? Rather they asked us to bring money for investigation. It would be suicidal to involve the police who would make matters worse.

The police are aware of worse crimes that have Obingwa as the headquarters, yet they refuse to make that area safe. All they do is to wait by the road to collect money from free citizens. I won't be surprised if they are even the kidnappers.

Mike (tailor)
Nobody should blame the police but our governor who has turned Aba into a den of armed robbers. There is a spot at Abala Ngwa where arms are produced in large quantity and the police have done nothing about it. Let them close that place down and crime rate will be checkmated in Aba.