By Emmanuel Una
On Tuesday, 13th October, 2020, Mayen, wife of Judex Okoro the Sun newspaper Correspondent in Cross River was abducted at Big Qua Town, the heart of Calabar Municipality by three gunmen. As at the time of writing this report on Thursday morning, where the mother of four was taken to was yet to be known.
This is the trend of events in Calabar, the Cross River State capital in the past few years with kidnapping taking place every every time and this has effectively turned the city from its once glorious status as the paradise city where many found solace and safety to an ignoble den of kidnappers and robbers who rob, abduct, kill and maim at will.
Teachers, medical doctors, pastors, motor mechanics, drivers, journalists, students and anyone who can afford a few thousands are all targets. This is different from kidnappers in other places who target the rich and expatriates with big bank accounts who could cough out millions of money as ransom. Here in Calabar, it is indeed a case of just anyone with few bucks to settle the boys.
It is difficult to run a comprehensive register of those who have been abducted in the recent past as many as four or five persons have fallen victim on just one street and hardly can anyone in the city say he does not know one or two persons who have been abducted with ransom paid. Recently, the following persons were abducted in the city. Dr Anthony Egbe of the University of Calabar, Mr Efiom Edem Asuquo, Dr Vivien Otu, Mr Felix Ekpenyong a student and son of permanent secretary in the state, four Chinese nationals: Kan Jinxi, Hunji Chan, Jian Jijun, Chen Quin working for a construction firm, Danatrite others are Glory Okon, wife of a well known Calabar man, Abonima, Mrs Agube, wife of Appeal Court judge, Ms Etim, Ignatius Agube whose police orderly was killed, Matata twins, Ekanem Iyamba, a broadcaster with FRCN Fm station in Calabar, and a Cameroonian diplomat whose name was not made available by the police.
Some victims have not been lucky to return home alive even after ransom was paid. Among those are Peter Etim, a broadcaster with the state broadcasting station, Cross River Broadcasting Corporation, CRBC, another is a trader, an eighty-year-old man from Anambra state, Odinka Odinka whose business mall is located along Target Road.. They have both not been seen several months after they were abducted. Etim was abducted in December 2018 while Odinka was kidnapped in 2019. Another victim. Jones who died in captivity, the hoodlums brought the body in the dead of night and took away the wife who was only released after another ransom was paid which according to the kidnapper was for “suffering” them by dying in captivity. Before now, there had been abductions of , Seyi Adekunle, a Pastor with Living Faith Church, aka Winners’ Chapel who was praying with some of his pastors at his church location opposite the Margaret Ekpo International Airport Calabar to prepare for the next day’s service when gun men stormed the place and dragged him into one SUV and drove off.
Obong Ude, the owner of Udensco filling station located along Eta Agba Road was abducted and taken to an unknown destination and the family made to cough out some millions of naira as ransom.
Within the same period another oil merchant, Chief Agbor was abducted at Ikotenim the eastern axis of the city and a ransom extorted from him before he was set free.
The amazing thing about these abductions is the fact that the hoodlums usually storm the homes of their targets both in the day and night to take their victims away while a few others are taken close to their homes without any challenge from the plethora of security agents on the roads. The ever bubbling night life in the city has been brought to its knees while many residents assume a low profile life while some have relocated to other places to avoid the prying eyes of the hoodlums and their informants.
These abductions are by no means exhaustive as so many lecturers in the University of Calabar have fallen victims to this nefarious acts, prompting the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to embark on industrial action to drive the school authorities to beef up security within and around the school. So also are medical doctors in the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital who have become regular ‘customers’ and cash cows to the hoodlums.
The Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, has several times called their members out on strike to demand for a stop to the abduction of their members
The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria in the state led by Dr Lawrence Ekwok had to issue a statement warning the hoodlums to steer clear men of God to avoid incurring the wrath of God through extortion of what he called “blood money from pastors”
The State Governor , Senator Ben Ayade worried by the high rate of kidnappings during his first tenure sent a Bill to the State House of Assembly to seek death penalty for convicted kidnappers and for the state to confiscate property belonging to the convicted kidnappers and this was passed into law.
Apart from the anti-kidnapping law, the properties of kidnappers are being demolished . Last month, Mr Alfred Mboto, the Permanent Secretary, State Security Adviser’s Office led a team of police men to demolish several houses belonging to known kidnappers, yet this has not deterred the activities of these hoodlums.
On Monday, 12th October more than twenty hoodlums were arrested in Akpabuyo, in the outskirts of Calabar by soldiers who mounted security checks along the Bakassi – Calabar road but this does not seem enough deterrent to the kidnappers.
The Cross River State Police Commissioner, Mr Abdulahi Jimoh said several hoodlums have been arrested in the recent past and some charged to court and that no effort will be spared in ensuring a crime free Cross River State.
“I am using this opportunity to appeal to all those who have criminal intent or who are engaged in criminal activities to abandon their heinous ways of life or relocate to another state.”