On May 4, 2020, at about 7:00pm, unknown gunmen who operated in a motorcycle and Toyota Sienna space bus abducted a female on-air presenter, Chinenye Iwuoha, working with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Pacesetter FM, in Umuahia, Abia State capital.
The locus in quo is a stone throw to Amakanma Housing Estate in Umuahia South Local Government Area of the state.
Chinenye was going home after the close of the day’s work when the gunmen reportedly trailed the Hilux van she rode with the station’s General Manager, Uche Ndukwu.
After forcibly stopping their vehicle, the gunmen confirmed Chinenye’s identity before she was spirited away.
But before leaving the scene, the hoodlums reportedly shot the company’s driver, one Kingsley Onyeokuche and sped off with their captive, perhaps to stop him from giving them a hot chase.
The kidnappers later contacted the station and demanded N20 million ransom if they wanted the lady released alive.
Less than three weeks after the incident, some unknown gunmen on May 27, 2020 also went after the Assistant Manager of News and Current Affairs of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) Channel 6 Aba, Mrs. Chinyere Okoye and kidnapped her.
The victim was with the Enugu NTA Zonal Office before she was recently transferred to Aba.
Aba is a city in the southeast of Nigeria and the commercial center of Abia State.
Like Chinenye, Mrs Okoye had also closed for work after supervising the 7 pm News bulletin on Wednesday and was heading home when the incident happened.
But unlike Chinenye, Chinyere actually drove to the gate of her house at Obikabia Road, Off Ogbor Hill, waiting for her people to open the gate of the house, when the hoodlums who were evidently lurking to await her arrival, emerged from their hideout and picked her up to an unknown destination in her own car.
It was learnt that her people, on opening the gate, could not see her, a situation that threw them into panic as none of them could account for her whereabouts.
The woman’s husband was said to have on the same Wednesday night put a call across to his wife’s line, but the call was answered by one of the suspected kidnappers who told him his wife was with them with assurance that they would call him back later.
The abductors however reportedly called the victim’s husband on Thursday morning and demanded an undisclosed amount as ransom.
Also on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, gunmen also struck in Nasarawa as they abducted the state Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Bishop Joseph Masin.
He was kidnapped in his home at about 11pm.
We are worried by separate reports of recent target and abduction of journalists in Abia state by unknown gunmen.
Similar incident in Nasarawa involving the state chairman of CAN is equally saddening.
It is however more worrisome that in the three incidents, the unknown gunmen are demanding ransom, creating the impression that the crimes were motivated by ransom.
Although kidnapping for ransom is not new in Nigeria, the trend however suggests that perpetrators are not well deterred by government.
We recall the celebrated case of kidnap kingpin, Chukwudi Onuamadike a.k.a Evans, which reveals the super level that kidnapping has reached in Nigeria.
Evans collected ransom in US dollars, up to one million. Sometimes he keeps his hostages for months until they complete payment of the ransom.
Since June 2017 when Evans was arrested, he has been on trial and the case appears not to be moving fast.
We are not unaware of a report by a geopolitical intelligence platform, SBM Intelligence, which reveals that at least $18.34 million had been paid to kidnappers as ransom between June 2011 and March 2020 while the larger proportion of that figure was allegedly paid out between January 2016 and March 2020, indicating that kidnapping is becoming more lucrative in the country.
We condemn kidnapping under any guise and remind the government that the security and welfare of its citizens are its primary duty.
We therefore urge the government to act fast and secure the release of these hapless Nigerians in the custody of their abductors.
We also demand that government should not only smoke out the rings of criminals who perpetrated this heinous crime and bring them to book to serve as deterrence to others but also urgently recalibrate the nation’s justice system in such a way that kidnapping, a low risk high reward crime, is made a high risk low reward adventure.