By Tony Edike
Enuguâ€”KIDNAPPINGÂ which has lately un settled residents of Enugu State and other states in the South East zone has taken a dangerous dimension.
The illicit â€˜human kidnap for ransom tradeâ€™ which started few years ago in the Niger Delta region has taken a strong root in the Igbo speaking states of the country.
Enugu which used to be the most peaceful state in the Eastern region has now been turned into a den of kidnappers and armed robbers, who appeared to have laid siege on the coal city and Nsukka.
In recent past, police men serving in the state had come under severe attack of dare-devil armed robbers, who killed some cops and set their patrol vans ablaze.
The latest of such attacks was the invasion of Aninri Police Division in Ndaabor by a gang of armed bandits who killed two policemen and set ablaze the police station and several vehicles parked within the premises including police patrol vans.
Such unprovoked attack on police stations within the South East zone had become a regular occurrence but surprisingly the police authorities have not succeeded in checkmating the armed men who delight in setting policemen and their vehicles ablaze after confiscating their weapons.
The Enugu State Police Command led by Commissioner Mohammed Zarewa, has repeatedly assured of its readiness to tackle the hydra-headed problem of kidnapping and armed banditry which had seriously threatened security in the state.
So far, various strategies adopted by the command to curtail the menace of these men of the underworld have not yielding much dividends and the war appears to be raging.
Recently the police command paraded 22 armed bandits including suspected kidnappers who confessed to be responsible for several kidnap cases within Enugu and other neighbouring states.
The arrest of a five-man gang of kidnappers was highly commended as police sources said that singular feat has helped the police in unearthing other kidnap cases within and outside the state. Police authorities described the arrest of the gang as a â€œbreakthroughâ€.
Besides, the Oji River Police Division also made an arrest of one Titus Obika, a notorious criminal that had reportedly terrorized Oji River local government in the past few years.
He walked his way into police net when he resorted to kidnapping which the criminals now regard as more lucrative than armed robbery.
On Friday, June 25, 2009, Obika kidnapped a 7 year-old boy, UzochukwuEsiobu a native of Enugu Inyi from his school at Inyi in Oji River council, locked him up in the booth of his Mercedes Benz car and was driving to an unknown destination when an informant alerted his mother.
The woman quickly mobilized some people who pursued the kidnapper to a neighbouring village. They were lucky to have caught him at a police checkpoint where the boy was rescued.
The lucky boy, his parents and the kidnapper were brought to Enugu where the police narrated the story to reporters.Â Obika is now being interrogated by operatives of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) in Enugu while his car has been impounded.
The lad has since been returned to his parents.
Worried by the incessant cases of kidnapping in the South East, the Inspector General of Police, Sir Mike Okiro recently ordered the reintroduction of police checkpoints in states within the zone.
The Enugu State Police Command wasted no time in deploying policemen to former checkpoints and went ahead to create new ones with specific instructions to the policemen to conduct stop and search on motorists.
In the last few weeks, those police checkpoints on the highways and major roads and streets within the state capital had been active.
In fact, it was this exercise that led to the arrest of the five-man gang of kidnappers within Enugu metropolis while returning from Nsukka where they had gone to negotiate for a camp where they would detain their captives.
The renewed determination by the police force to eradicate kidnapping notwithstanding, incidence of kidnapping has continued to dominate crime diaries of various police commands in the state.
Most worrisome aspect of the inhuman trade is the kidnapping of both the rich and the poor.Â The wealthy people who drive porch cars and jeeps now move with police escorts while the poor masses have left their security in the hands of God.Â Hardly a day passes without a case of kidnapping being recorded in the state.
Only last Saturday, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Sullivan Chime, Mr. Dan Nwomeh was kidnapped by unknown persons. He was abducted at about 10.30 pm from his residence in Independence Layout Enugu.
Nwomeh had driven his official car to his residence and was blaring the horn to enable his households open the gate when some armed men emerged from nowhere and forced him out of the car.
He was immediately taken away by the hoodlums and by press time Thursday, the police said his whereabouts remained unknown.
The police and government officials expressed concern that his abductors have not called either his family or the government to make any demand a situation that has thrown his relations into confusion.
Nwomeh is the first official of Enugu State Government that has been kidnapped since the kidnap saga began and the development has thrown government officials in serious fears.
Many of the governorâ€™s aides and commissioners are now living in fear and most of them have stopped coming out late in the night.Â Even when they move around in day time, they are escorted by policemen or soldiers.
As learnt the state government working with security agencies, have swung into action to secure the release of the governorâ€™s media aide but details of the strategies being adopted have been kept secret.
The kidnap saga in Enugu State, Vanguard gathered, is actually unsettling the Enugu State Government, which has demonstrated its commitment to eradicate the cankerworm.
Governor Sullivan Chime had given adequate encouragement to the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) of the state police command which had in the past burst some gangs of kidnappers.
One of the major achievements of the squad was the arrest of the suspected kidnappers of Dr. Francis Edemobi, younger brother to Professor Dora Akunyili, the Minister of Information.Â The trial of the suspects is now in progress.
The state government has since made kidnapping a capital offence in the state by enacting a law to that effect but this has not in any way deterred the culprits.
For now, the people of the state are living in fear as they donâ€™t know who would be the next victim.
Observers of the ugly trend belive the police appeared not to have any ready solution to the ungodly trade and the end to this raging war declared on the people by these enemies of progress is not in sight, at least for now.