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HOW THEY WERE FREED

By NBF News

Graphic details have emerged of how the four journalists and their driver, kidnapped eight days ago at Umuafo Ukwu near Aba, Abia State were released in the early hours of yesterday.

Their eventual release which threw the area into jubilation, preceded three days of intense search by security operatives.

No part of the adjoining communities and the surrounding forests perceived as haven for kidnappers was spared.

Giving a graphic account of how the kidnapped men were released, a competent police source told Daily Sun that for 'the past three days, the state Commissioner of `Police, Mr Jonathan Johnson and the Aba Area commander, relocated their offices inside the forests of Obingwa in search of the kidnapped journalists and the abductors.'

The intense search paid paid off Saturday afternoon when a man said to be the elder brother of the kingpin of the kidnap gang and who claimed to have arrived from the USA, was arrested at Obiete Ibeme, few kilometers from Umuafo Ukwu.'

The arrested man, whose name could not be obtained at press time, was said to have been used as a decoy by security operatives who warned the kidnappers the consequences to their family and entire Obiete Ibeme community if the kidnapped journalists were not released. Perhaps, moved by the threat, the journalists were released before dawn on Sunday.

Released victims fly home from Port HarcourtFrom HENRY CHUKWURAH, Port Harcourt

The freed officials of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) departed Port Harcourt International Airport for Lagos, yesterday evening. The chairman of The Lagos State council, Wahab Oba, three other journalists and their driver flew to Lagos aboard a chartered airplane with registration number ZS - SME, courtesy of the Rivers State government.

The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Rotimi Amaechi, Blessing Wikina who was at the airport to see off the journalists on behalf of the governor urged them to see their abduction as part of the hazards of the journalism practice and urged them to be more dedicated to the profession and service to the nation.

Responding, the Lagos council chairman, Wahab Oba expressed gratitude to all Nigerians, particularly journalists for their reports, which, he noted, put the kidnappers under pressure. Oba also paid glowing tribute to the relentless effort of the police in ensuring their release. According to him, the police helicopter came very close to the abductors' hideout and hovered several times to the extent that the kidnappers became jittery.

He said from then on the kidnappers were under severe pressure and had to let them off the hook.

At a point we gave up hope -Okereke
Mr Sylva Okereke, assistant secretary of the Lagos NUJ also speaks.

'The experience was as hard. If I had done eight days in that trouble, I wonder what Jonah had done in the belly of a fish for 30 days. It is an experience I would not wish even my worst enemy to have, if I have any.

'The experience was too hard to describe.
There were points at which I almost lost hope. I can liken it to a child in coma. Each day we would see new diagnoses. Everyday we would have fear, everyday we would lose hope. Some days they would raise our hope that we would go, the next day they would dash the hope. At a point we gave up hope.

'There was a time they said we should pray our last prayer. I told them that even before now, I had prayed my last prayer, because for me I was not thinking of myself, because I thought that the end has come. I was only thinking of my family. And I celebrated my birthday on Thursday July 15, inside the forest. In fact I have a good story to tell, which I will do in a book.

It is a whole lot of experience which cannot be concluded easily. All we are saying is that police has done a very nice job, they have tried. All they need is to be equipped the more. If you see the rifles these guys are using? They said that they have no employment, that some of them are Okada riders, that they have no job, and that was why they were fighting. They were moving from one location to the other every two hours, because the police were trailing us. They kept getting information that police were coming, because they were making contacts with somebody regularly.

'Anytime we want to sleep, they would chain our legs. When it was raining, we were under the rain and when the sun comes out, we were under the sun. Speaking at Executive Chambers of the Government House, where he presented the released journalists to the Governor Chief Theodore Orji, the Inspector General of Police Mr Ogbonnaya Onovo said that the police would go after the boys who kidnapped the journalists.

'We are going after these bad boys and while doing that we will inconvenience people,' the police boss said.

Governor Theodore Orji thanked the police for their gallantry in rescuing the abducted newsmen but told them that it was an experience, which will enable them to fight for freedom at all cost.