By SIMON EBEGBULEM
BENIN CITY — THERE is tension in Iviukwe, ancestral home of the human rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), following reports that his suspected kidnappers may have contacted the family, demanding the sum of N150 million as ransom with an ultimatum to pay within three days.
This is as Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, yesterday, condemned the kidnapping of Chief Ozekhome and urged youths to renounce evil acts for the sake of the nation’s future.
But in a reaction, elder brother of Chief Ozekhome, High Chief Pius Ozekhome, said nobody had been contacted in the family, contrary to conversations in the social media.
Similarly, suspected kidnappers of a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Attanatius Ugbome, who was abducted same day at Ehor, on Benin-Auchi Road as Ozekhome, are demanding N100million as ransom.
There are indications that it was the same set of kidnappers that abducted Ozekhome and his driver that are holding Ugbome.
News that the suspected kidnappers are demanding the sum of N150 million prompted Iviuke youths to embark on a peaceful protest in Benin City, yesterday, appealing to the kidnappers to release him.
Spokesperson of the protesting youths, Issa Adidi pointed out that Chief Ozekhome had been on the side of the masses and had worked tirelessly to give voice to the voiceless, and wondered why he should be subjected to his current predicament.
“We are not giving ultimatum to the kidnappers, but we are appealing for him to be released unconditionally, considering how he has helped the poor in our society.
“For most of us, we feel he does not deserve what he is experiencing now due to his persistent agitation for good governance in the country. So we are appealing that God should touch their hearts and free our brother,” he said.
However, a Police source said the Police command was not aware of any ransom demand by the kidnappers, saying “all we care about is for them to be released unhurt.”
It was learnt however, that Ugbome’s family was contacted last Sunday but there had been no further contact since then.
A family source told Vanguard: “We are worried because of his health condition that requires constant attention.
“He is a good person and not a money-bag; they should please release him unconditionally. He has no money and that is why we are appealing to them to leave him.”
Meanwhile, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, yesterday, condemned the kidnapping of Chief Mike Ozekhome and urged youths to renounce evil acts for the sake of the nations’ future.
In a statement sent to Vanguard by email, Kukah expressed shock over the kidnap of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, who, he said, had joined a growing club of unfortunate and innocent citizens who were daily preyed upon by a hapless generation of conscionable young citizens of “our dear country.”
Kukah said: “Sure, these are sad times for our country, but the kidnapping of Mr. Ozekhome carries a distinctive ironic ring to it. Here is a fine gentleman in every sense of the word, a hard working professional who has worked assiduously with his bare hands right up to the top of his profession.
“His patriotism and deep commitment to justice saw him at the fore-front of the fight against tyranny and dictatorship in the darkest days of our country.
“He sacrificed his life, family and career and was a victim of some of the ugliest phases of the brutality of those in power.
“He did all these to give our country in particular and a new generation of young Nigerians a better future.
“I believe the future of our youth does not depend on the blood money that comes from kidnapping.
“I believe that this blood money can only erect a house of cards for now. They should renounce this criminality and turn to pursuing legacies they can proudly hand over to their children tomorrow.”