Rivers residents groan under kidnappers’ siege
In Rivers State, kidnapping has become a nightmare, forcing residents to live in fear. writes on how the kidnappers operate and the ugly experiences victims go through.
RDaily Trust ivers State, which was known for peace, serene and green environment, is becoming unsafe. Residents, especially those in Oyigbo, Port Harcourt, Eleme, Ubima and Ahoada, among others, are living in fear. Commuters that ply the Elele-Ubima-OmeleruOwerri road have tales of woes to tell as kidnappers seem to have a grip on them. While these criminal elements operate at random, the security agencies look the other way. Kidnapping seems to be a profitable business as persons who indulge in it see it as an easy means of getting rich quickly.
Those that are involved in the crime appear to be well organised. They work in a coordinated form. It is said that the bandits have a transport and logistics department. They also have information technology, contact, information, finance and security departments.
The transportation and logistics department handles movement of their captives from the point of abduction to the final destination. It involves the use of vehicles, boats and trekking. The use of vehicle starts when the victim is abducted and dragged into a waiting vehicle. The captive is finally taken into a thick forest where he is handed over to another group that will take the person on a long trek that will finally end up in their den.
The information technology department handles all communication matters, such as profiling the victim’s phone contact, applications and financial capability. Those in charge of this unit also monitor the inflow of text massages to know when bank alert comes in.
A kidnap victim told our correspondent how his abductors intercepted an alert of N500,000 from his phone immediately he was abducted.
“I was coming from a church programme in Eleme to Oyigbo, and in-between Abonchia and Oyigbo, some group of boys came out from the bush and blocked my car. They ordered me out and matched me to the bush. We trekked for more than six hours before we got to the place I was held captive. They collected my phone and asked for the password. As soon as the phone was opened, an alert of N500,000 came in; that was how they got to know about the money. My wife rallied round and brought N200,000. When she came they abducted her and asked me to go and withdraw the money. I did and handed over to them and was set free,” he said.
The contact and information department takes care of contacting the victim’s relatives to negotiate ransom, while the information personnel give information on who to kidnap. Those in this category live within the community and assess their victims to know their financial capacity.
The security department secures and guides victims not to escape. They also monitor movements of the area they operate so as not to incur the wrath of the security agencies. The finance department takes care of negotiations with victim’s family, as well as the collection of ransom.
A journalist who was kidnaped recently in Port Harcourt narrated his experience.
“I was coming back to Port Harcourt, and as soon as I got to Igwurita, a vehicle with about five young men barricaded me. Suddenly, two heavily armed men pulled out from the car and asked me to come down. They dragged me into their vehicle and zoomed off while the two others drove off in my car. They blindfolded me. Inside their den, I met other persons held captive. Some of them have been there for months because their relatives were not able to pay ransom. There were those that had health challenges. Some of them died and were buried inside the bush.
“All of us were chained and blindfolded. The only time they remove the hood is when they want to serve us food. There was a particular pregnant woman who was bleeding profusely. She was later set free because of her health condition. The day she was set free, all the people in the forest rejoiced and were singing praises to God,” the journalist who pleaded anonymity said.
On how the ransom is paid, a source said when they have settled on a particular amount the abductors will tell the victim’s negotiator where to drop the money. They normally position themselves in different parts of the bush, and the money moves from one hand to another before it finally gets to their main boss.
In less than one month, no fewer than 20 persons were abducted in Oyigbo, about 10 kilometres to Port Harcourt. Recently, a woman was abducted on her way to church at the popular High Tension-Umusoya road. An eyewitness, Nelson Akpan, said when he saw the way they stopped the woman’s car, he thought they were Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) personnel as they were all wearing black cloths. He said they pushed her into their vehicle, blindfolded her and drove off.
Two weeks ago, a businessman was abducted in his shop at Oyigbo. The man was whisked away by gun-wielding men. A relative of the victim, who simply gave her name as Monica, said her brother was abducted on his way to the house after closing for the day’s work.
She said they kept him in their custody for one week before they demanded a ransom of N50 million, putting the family in confusion. “At the end of the day, God manifested himself and he was freed. We actually paid some ransom,” she said.
The Anglican Bishop of Ahoada Diocese, The Rt. Rev. Clement Ekpeye, was kidnapped at his residence in Odemerenyi in Ahoada. However, the intensive pressure mounted by the church and prominent citizens of the state forced the criminals to free the bishop.
The activities of kidnappers along Elele-Omeleru-OzuobaOwerri road have become a source of worry to many motorists that ply the road. Also, the Port HarcourtElele-Owerri road and UbimaOmeleru road, all in Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state, have become a trap. Passengers and motorists are abducted along these routes, which traverse thick forests. Ironically, despite the presence of combined team of security operatives, kidnappers are having a field day.
In August this year, the Rivers State police command rescued eight persons from an 18-seater bus hijacked at night by gunmen along Elele-Omarelu road. The police public relations officer, Rivers State command, DSP Nnamdi Omoni, confirmed that six of the victims were held captive for days before they were rescued.
There are two categories of kidnappers that operate within Elele, Omerelu, Ozuoba and Ubima areas. One kidnap for ransom and the other kidnap for rituals.
A victim, Precious Isiguzo, who escaped from kidnappers’ den, narrated how she ran away from ritual kidnappers operating at Chokocho, near Igwurita.
“Inside the bush I saw how humans were slaughtered. Those criminals told us that they dealt on human parts and not for ransom. A girl was butchered and one of the abductors immediately put up a call to somebody that he should come and pick the parts,” she said.
However, the commissioner of police, Rivers State command, Ahmed Zaki, said the command had increased its patrol along the notorious routes and would sustain the aggressive onslaught against the kidnappers, who he described as the common enemies of the command.
He said he had directed his officers and men to redouble their efforts at raiding all criminal hideouts in the state.
Suspected kidnappers during their parade by the Rivers State Police Command in Port Harcourt