By Emeka Mamah
Kaduna â€” THERE is controversy over the whereabouts of the Secretary to the Government of Kaduna State (SSG), Mr. Waje Yayok, with his family alleging that he was kidnapped and his kidnappers demanding a N40 million ransom.
However, the state government dismissed the kidnap story on the strength that Mr. Yayok was sent on an official assignment to the southern part of the state with a large sum of money when the alleged kidnap report started making the rounds.
Sources close to the family said Mr. Yayok was kidnapped on Monday night when he drove out of his Yem Kpop Street residence, Barnawa in the Christian-dominated area of Kaduna metropolis at about 8:00pm to distribute invitation cards for his daughterâ€™s wedding coming up on October 10.
Members of his family told newsmen at his residence that they became worried when he failed to return home yesterday morning and alerted the police.
Later, one of the suspected kidnappers called his wife to inform her about the kidnap and demanded a N40 million ransom, the source said.
The alleged kidnap of Yayok, brings to three the number of those kidnapped in the state, so far.
The first kidnap story in the state involved two pastors of a new generation church, while the second case involved a Canadian woman, Mrs. Juli Mulligan who was in the country for a Rotary programme in April, this year.
Among the early callers at Yayokâ€™s residence were the stateÂ Commissioner for Education, Alhaji Suleiman Karu, his counterparts in the ministries of Water Resources and Economic Planning, Tshiru Bako and John Bezart, respectively as well as the state chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Danladi Bissallah.
The Commissioner for Economic Planning, Mr. Bezart, told newsmen at SSGâ€™s residence that he was sad about the development but stressed that â€œgovernment will certainly do something about it.â€
The NLC chairman, Comrade Bissallah however blamed the alleged kidnap on what he described as the ineffectiveness of the security agencies in the state.
Kidnap story, a rumour â€”Govt
The state government in reacting to the kidnap story said that it is not yet proper to declare the SSG missing as the incident is not up to 48 hours which is the internationally accepted standard to declare a person missing.
In a five-paragraph statement signed by the Special Adviser to the Governor on media and Public Affairs, Alhaji Umar Sani, the government said, â€œwe have been inundated with enquiries as to the whereabouts of the SSG of Kaduna state, Mr. Waje Yayok, over a case of abduction.
â€œThese enquiries necessitated that we respond appropriately to this rumour in order to set the records straight.
â€œWhile it is true that the SSG was on official assignment to the southern part of Kaduna, we are yet to get in contact with him over his supposed location. We believe he will get in contact with us soon.
â€œHowever, the gravity and the intensity of the rumour requires us to take steps to ensure that everything is in order. The security agencies have been detailed of the place, the nature of the assignment and all his contact details to enable them trace his whereabouts and douse the tension created by such rumour.
â€œMembers of the press, in line with the internationally-accepted standards that a person cannot be declared missing until after 48 hours and because the rumour started this morning, we shall address you properly very soon on the matter.â€
In a question and answer session with newsmen, Alhaji Sani said: â€œwe are aware that heâ€™s supposed to go on an official assignment this morning to the southern part of Kaduna state and we believe that there was no cause for alarm for us to be searching for him because he has already been excused and we are sure that heâ€™s on his official assignment.
“No contact has been made by any person or any group of persons to tell us that that person is missing or that he has been declared missing by any other group and no request has been made and no declaration has been issued by any group saying that so and so person is missing or that heâ€™s in their custody.
â€œAs far as we are concerned, this is a rumour which is subsisting and because it is intense and spreading, we have to take appropriate step that this rumour is doused. And thatâ€™s why we have informed the security agencies to ensure that this rumour does not translate into any other thing.
â€œWe have made efforts to contact him on the telephone. However, we believe that heâ€™s in a no-service area and that if he gets to a service area, we shall soon get him.
â€œIn the first instance, we do not even believe that such rumour has any ground. Thatâ€™s why we are going about with our normal activities. If the man is missing and we are sure that heâ€™s missing, and it has been confirmed to us that heâ€™s missing, then we would have suspended all programmes. However, because we know he has already taken permission to go on that assignment and there is nothing to the contrary to justify that the man is missing, we cannot suspend anything that we are doing.
â€œWe are not aware of any kidnap because if there was any kidnap, then we would have been communicating with those people who are looking for the ransom. The nature of his assignment to southern Kaduna is security because heâ€™s in charge of security.
“Even yesterday (Monday) I was with the SSG until 7.00pm. It doesnâ€™t have to be that there is a threat to security before we can send him to the Southern part of the state. As somebody in charge of security, security can take different shapes.
You can spend time to resolve a lingering problem. It is also part of security. So you can see security is so large.â€
We’ve started investigation â€” Police
The state Commissioner of Police, Tambari Yabo Mohammed, told Vanguard on telephone that his men had started investigation into the matter and expressed the belief that the SSGâ€™s abductors were still within the state.