Kidnappers on the Prowl


Delta State has become an attractive haven for kidnappers thus making people live in perpetual fear of being possible targets

|  By Vincent Nzemeke  |  May 6, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

SUNDAY, March 17, will linger on in the mind of Goddy Okoh (not his real names), a lecturer in Delta State University for various reasons. It was the day when friends, families and members of his church gathered to hold a thanksgiving and celebration service to mark his election as the chairman of a professional association in the state. It was also the day his wife, Maria was abducted by some kidnappers a few meters away from their home in Ekerejeta, Abraka.

Kamene Okonjo
Kamene Okonjo

The thanksgiving service which was well-attended had barely begun when words filtered in that ‘mama’ as she is fondly called had been abducted. Disconcerted by the news, Okoh cancelled the event and began to make efforts to rescue his wife. He informed some close associates and reported the matter at a nearby police station. When efforts to reach his wife and the abductors on phone failed, he returned home and joined the rest of the family as they waited with bated breath for the kidnappers to make contact.

Recounting the events of that fateful day, Okoh said he was terrified because “I didn’t know what they would do to her. I have heard many stories about abduction but I didn’t believe someone like me or my wife could be a victim. I’m not a politician or a very rich man, why would anyone want to kidnap me?”

More than 24 hours after the incident, the abductors finally made contact. They called Okoh with a private line and demanded for a ransom of N10 million to be paid the next day at an undisclosed location. They also threatened to ‘deal’ with his wife should he fail to pay the ransom.

“These people were very professional. They called me with a hidden number and demanded for N10 million. They told me my wife was okay but threatened to deal with her if I failed to deliver the ransom. I pleaded with them to let me talk to her but they refused and ended the call”.

The next time they called, the abductors told Okoh that they had reduced the ransom to five million because his wife pleaded with them. They asked him to get the money ready that evening and wait for further direction on where to drop it in exchange for his wife. The abductors also warned him not to inform the police if he wants to see her again.

Sensing that the abductors were desperate, Okoh patiently waited for the next call. When they called, he told them that he had N1.5m cash and pleaded with them to accept it. The ransom was eventually paid and the abductors let Maria go.  Pathetic as Okoh’s case appears, he was lucky to have returned home with his wife alive. There are countless cases of kidnapped victims who have been killed even after the agreed ransoms were paid.

Heavily armed kidnappers
Heavily armed kidnappers

It is no longer news that kidnapping is on the rise in Delta. The state which is the third largest producer of crude oil in the country, is fast becoming a haven for kidnappers. In the last few months, the media has been awash with the abduction of different categories of people in the state. Last year, Hope Eghagha, the state’s commissioner for higher education, was abducted by some gunmen in Abavo. He was released after spending more than a week in the kidnapper’s den. In what is perhaps the most high profile kidnap case in the state, was that of Kamene Okonjo, mother of Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, the finance minister, who was abducted at her home in Ogwashi-uku. She was released after an undisclosed ransom was paid to the abductors.

As the trend continues to grow, citizens of the state have become apprehensive. Some have even devised means of protecting themselves and their loved ones from kidnappers. Joshua Eze, a civil servant in Asaba, said he doesn’t allow his wife and children to go out alone. “We live in fear here and everybody tries to protect himself and those around him. Personally, I don’t allow my wife and children to go out on their own. Once my wife picks them from school every day, I ensure that they stay indoors”.

As part of efforts to checkmate kidnapping, the Delta State House of Assembly recently passed an anti-kidnapping bill in the state. The bill which advocates death sentence as penalty for kidnapping is yet to be assented to by Emmanuel Uduaghan, the state governor.

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