By Umoh-Obong Kingsley
The Akwa Ibom State Command of the Nigeria Police Force, in conjunction with the military and the Department of State Security Service (DSS), has rescued an official of the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and eight other victims who were held captive by suspected kidnapping synidicate in Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo local Government Area of the State.
The State commissioner of Police Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi, disclosed this during a press briefing at the force Headquarters, Ikot Akpan About, Uyo on Saturday, saying that they combied the forest and rescued a total of 9 Kidnap Victims, including an INEC staff, Mr Otobong Sylvester Ukpong, six elderly women, two men and a 14-year old girl.
In that operation, the police boss said, a police officer, sergeant Sheddrach Stephen, was gunned down and a rifle belonging to the slain police officer and various other items including bulletproof vests and ammunitions were recovered.
The rescued victims are Otobong Sylvester Ukpong from Iweken Community in Etim Ekpo; Mrs Darlington Moses Ikot Ama Ikpe, Etim Ekpo; Mrs Victoria Peter, Ikot Inyang Abia, Ukanafun; Mrs Eno Itohowo, Ikot Inyang, Abia Ukanafun; Mrs Betsy Ime, Ikot Inyang Abia,Ukanufun; Imaobong Sunday Thomas (14years) Ikot Inyang Abia, Ukanafun; Mr Uduak Fred, Ikot Esop, Etim and Mrs Esther Jimmy Okpon, Ikot Inyang Abia,Ukanafun.
Narrating their ordeals, the victims said that the hoodlums took them into the forest and held them captive demanding varying amount ranging from N500,000 to N10 million naira each to gain their freedom, while those whose relations could be contacted to bargain their freedom were condemned to death, until the police combed the forest and rescued them.
The INEC official,Mrs Otobong Sylvester Ukpong, said that GE was on his way to work on that fateful day(5th June, 2018) when about three fully armed men on motorcycles accounted him and dispossessed everything he had including his money and mobile phones and beat him up before covering his face and took him into the thick forest. They demanded the sum of N10 million as ransom for his freedom.
It would be recalled INEC in the state had earlier threatened that the elections would not be conducted in Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun LGAs if its staff, Otonbong was not rescued.
Speaking with the Chairman of Ukanafun LGA, Rt.Hon. Uko Idiong, and Etim Ekpo, Mr Udeme Eduo, they said the Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, has done everything humanly possible to bring the hoodlums to a round table discussion and declared his preparedness for reconciliation and rehabilitation for the hoodlums in other for them to surrender arms and embrace peace but they turned down the invitation.
Recently, the Governor went to the cult – stricken communities with relief materials foe the affected families, where he pledged to empower the hoodlums should they surrendered their arms.
Meanwhile, the hoodlums have not come out to define their missions and grieve, all they say at every opportunity is that government should give them money before they lay down arms.
Investigations revealed the majority of hoodlums are not indigenes other state as most of the accomplices so far arrested are from the neighbouring states. The government has put in place many palliative provided they are ready to lay down arms and embrace peace.
The Commissioner of Police, Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi, assured the good people of the Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun LGAs the commitment to restore peace and security to their communities and every other parts of Akwa Ibom State, saying that is relative peace in other parts of the state except the two local governments. He urged hoodlums to shun cultism and other crimes, lay down arms and embrace peace.
It could be recalled that police, in an operation,, had earlier gunned down a notorious kidnappers, Emmanuel Ime Aka Jombo, and his second in command,Unyime AKpan, and recovered several items including Ak47 rifle with seven rounds of life a ammunitions, five locally made pistols, and 11 motorcyclesso, five kipnap victims were also rescued.