Freed Journalists Unite With Families, Narrate Ordeal

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LAGOS, July 18, (THEWILL) - Four journalists kidnapped penultimate Sunday in Abia State today returned home to the warm embrace of their wives, colleagues and family members at exactly 07.50pm (WAT) at the Ladi Lawal Press Centre, the secretariat of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos Council.

Lagos State NUJ Council Chairman, Alhaji Wahab Oba, Zone G Secretary, Mr. Adolphus Okonkwo, Assistant State Secretary, Mr. Sylva Okereke, Lagos-based journalist, Mr. Sola Oyeyipo and their driver, Mr. Yekinni Azeez, walked into the hall at the secretariat amidst excitement.

The freed journalists flew to Lagos from Port Harcourt in a chartered aircraft provided by the Rivers State government.

Speaking after their arrival, National President of NUJ, Mr. Mohammed Garba commended journalists across the country for the professional manner they handled the saga.

Garba as well commended the Nigeria Police for the role they played in the pursuit of the kidnappers despite the inadequacies in equipment, thus calling the Federal Government to look into the issue of welfare for the police urgently ahead 2011 elections.

According to him, as the chief negotiator with the kidnappers, they were desperate because they were jobless, the Federal Government should look into the issue of provision of employment opportunities for youths across the country.

Garba said the government should look into the entire security apparatus in the country and make amends quickly now that kidnapping was no longer restricted to one part of the country.

At the reunion held at the secretariat, Oba, who was enraptured with joy, commended the efforts of the Nigeria Police in the entire saga. According to him, for the constant chase of the kidnappers by men of the Nigeria Police, the entire experience would not have ended by now."

Oba relieved his experience as stated herewith: "Until 2.00am today (yesterday), it appeared as if the next minute would be the last. We were being moved from one part of the bush to the other because the police was closing in on them. The Nigeria Police deserve to be commended for their dexterity while the whole saga lasted.

"The kidnappers were also very disturbed about how the media was on top of the situation and that made them to complain to us openly that it is money they wanted. At a point they tied something round my neck and I had written my will because it was me, Chairman, chairman, they were mentioning. I told Sola that he should tell my wife that God will take care of her. We slept in chains and they never allowed us to rest especially when they heard the police were coming.

"The journey started last Sunday, but thank God today because we returned hale and healthy. We were released at about 2 a.m. we thought we could not live again because we were stranded in the bush in agony, frustration and hopelessness.

"We must appreciate the Nigeria Police again. They tried to rescue us, but the kidnappers confronted the police with sophisticated weapons. When the police officers heard the sound of their guns, they retreated. When the bush became hot for them, the kidnappers had to let us go. At a time, the kidnappers started saying these people are powerful people with the manner the police are pursuing us and the way the media are airing the incident. The police mounted pressure, but they have some informants in the community. This made it difficult for the police to capture them.

"We declared fasting and prayers last Friday. At a point, Adolphus who appeared bold started weeping profusely while Sola confessed that he would start going to Church if ever he regained his freedom. We were tied in chains and rarely slept all the nights. When we want to sleep, the kidnappers would ask us to move because police are coming. The police constantly kept them on their toes.

"We must thank God for the effort they made to secure our release. But they were handicapped considering the weapon of our captors. Let us agitate for the Nigeria Police for the government to equip them appropriately. Please let us give three ‘Gbozas’ to the Nigeria Police for what they have done in this instance," Oba said.

Oba quickly read through a sheet of paper which the kidnappers gave then after their release. In the paper, the kidnapper cited "unemployment, non-payment of workers’ salaries for months by the Abia State government, lukewarm attitude of the federal government to the amnesty programme and bad governance, which has subjugated the Ngwa people."

Oba added that the kidnappers promised to "continue until the government address all their concerns and fears" which they said, had brought untold frustration in their fatherland.