These are not the best of times for residents of Anambra State. They are living at the mercy of kidnappers. So dreadful is the situation that many of them are already relocating from the state. There is hardly a week now that a bigwig is not abducted by one of the numerous kidnapping gangs in the state.
Before now, armed robbery was the crime that thrived in the state. But that has since been taken over by the apparently less risky and yet more lucrative kidnapping ‘business’. Worse still, some of the victims are killed by their captors even after ransoms are paid on them by their relations or they vanish without any trace.
For more than one year now, two traditional rulers abducted by kidnappers in the state, Igwe Lawrence Oragwu of Adazi Nnukwu, Anaocha Local Government Area, and Igwe Jerome Okoli of Ihembosi, Ekwusigo Local Government Area are yet to be found.
The kidnapping of the traditional ruler of Ukpo community in Dunukofia Local Government Area, Igwe Dr. Robert Eze, on August 1, 2012, has forced the vigilance groups and the state police command to re-adjust their strategies.
The abducted monarch is the younger brother of renowned oil magnate, Prince Arthur Eze. Last week, the vigilance groups in Ihembosi community, Ekwusigo Local Government Area combed every nook and cranny of the local government area, apprehending two suspected kidnappers and rescuing two victims in the process.
The suspects and their victims were quickly handed over to the police command in the state, which has also arrested more suspects. The State Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), under the leadership of James Nwafor, moved into remote areas regarded as flashpoints of kidnapping activities and made some arrests.
The Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi, in conjunction with the state police command, led by Bala Nasarawa, also went to Nkpor to seal off a hotel named Arthur Gardens for allegedly being a hideout of kidnappers.
The sealing of the hotel has generated serious controversy in the state with some people who spoke with The Nation on Saturday claimed the action was political. But some of the suspects in police custody, who spoke with our correspondent, blamed poverty for delving into kidnapping.
The Nation on Saturday checks revealed that many kidnapping suspects were being detained at the office of the State Security Service (SSS) in Awka. But many Anambra residents are not happy that the suspects are being kept in the custody for too long without being arraigned. In fact, some of them are calling for jungle justice against the suspects, which they believe is the only remedy to kidnapping not only in the state but in Nigeria.
The suspects being held include Onyema Odoh, a native of Nsukka, who specialised in supplying arms to the suspects; Okwuchukwu Udoh from Alor, Idemili South Local Government Area and Ifeanyi Okoye from Obosi, Idemili North Local Government Area.
Others include Ikechukwu Chiajunwa from Obosi; Chijioke Udoh from Oraukwu, Idemili South; Onyeka Ajato from Awka; Uchechukwu Akujinma from Obosi and Chinedu Eze from Ideato, Imo State.
Also, in the custody of the police are Ikechukwu Nwali from Ezza, Ebonyi State; Ikenna Ezike from Otolo Nnewi, Anambra State; Omaliko Ugochukwu from Abatete, Idemili North Local Government Area; Uchenna Chukwuneke from Anam, Anambra West Council and Obed Ikenna from Ebonyi State.
Speaking with The Nation, Chinedu Eze confessed that he only joined a kidnapping gang led by a man called Mopol about two weeks before he was arrested. He said his gang was responsible for the kidnap of a known Banker at Nkpor in the commercial city of Onitsha recently, shortly after the banker returned from his base in Lagos.
On his part, Omaliko Ugochukwu said he joined his kidnapping gang in order to make enough money to cater for his family and girlfriends. He said the gang’s leader, known simply as Nkwucha and now on the run, had already led them to snatch an Infiniti car, adding that their plan was to sell it and use the money to settle down to kidnapping business.
Ugochukwu said he had just completed secondary school at Okpatu secondary school in Abagana when a friend named Ebuka introduced him to ‘kidnapping business’.
For Onyema Odoh, an indigene of Enugu State who supplied guns to kidnappers, each gun sold for N50,000. They included pistols and cut-to-size barrel guns, which he said he imported from Benin Republic, having lived there for years selling motor parts.
Another suspect, Okwuchukwu Odoh, who was involved in the kidnapping of the Head of Service (HOS) Orumba South Local Government Area some weeks back, said his was a four-man gang. He said their victim’s family paid N2 million ransom before he was released, adding that the weapons recovered from them included two AK47 magazines containing 45 rounds of ammunition, one locally made cut-to-size gun and a double-barrel gun, among others.
He said he delved into kidnapping business because of the kind of money the people in it were making, adding that he made N400,000 from his first operation.
Another suspected kidnapper, Chijioke Udoh, got into trouble with the kidnapping of an 83-year-old man from Oraukwu, over whom a ransom of N1 million was paid. Udoh, a 24-year-old man from Oraukwu community, told our correspondent that his cousin, Chigoziri, introduced him to kidnapping, adding that other members of their five man gang were on the run.
He blamed the devil for his foray into the business, saying he joined the gang as a result of poverty.
Uchechukwu Akujinwa confessed that he was among those who threatened to kidnap Chief Rommie Ezeonwuka about three weeks ago and robbed one Jimmy Okonkwo when he was coming back from a security meeting at Rojenny Games Village more than one week ago.
Other suspects spoke in the same vein. But they all vowed never to go back to the trade if they regained their freedom.
The Public Relations Officer of the Ananmbra State Police Command, Raphael Uzoigwe, told The Nation on Saturday that the arrest of the kidnapping suspects was the beginning of new things to come in the state in terms of security.
He said the command was still combing the nooks and crannies of the state for the kidnapping suspects on the run.
The Commissioner of Police, Bala Nasarawa, who addressed a meeting of all his officers in the state on the issue, charged them to live up to their responsibilities as the custodians of the state’s security system.”Since the bird has learnt to fly without perching, we the hunters have also learnt to shoot without missing. We have a job in our hands and we must finish the job,” he said.
via The Nation
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