BY AZEEZ SANUSI
The spate of kidnapping in Nigeria and the involvement of youths in the criminal act have become a source of grave concern. More worrisome is the fact that abduction is fast becoming more than a trend; it is now an industry thriving on funds received from the families of victims.
The latest of their victim is popular human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mr. Mike Ozekhome who was abducted on August 23, along the Benin –Auchi express way after a shootout which left four police men dead.
Following weeks of negotiations for ransom, Ozekhome was finally released.
Strangely Mr. Dominic Ezerioha, a lawyer in Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers was also abducted on September 6, while trying to negotiate the freedom of his boss. Mr. Ezerioha and Mr. Ozekhome’s son, Ilugbekai, also a lawyer, were both saddled with the responsibility of delivering the ransom to the kidnappers.
Mr. Ezerioha recounted his ordeal in a chat with Vanguard Metro, VM. His words: “The situation was very tense; the kidnappers kept calling me. We tried to negotiate with them and after such negotiations I will call my contacts who gave me tips on how to negotiate with them. They (kidnappers) were convinced that I’m close to Mr. Ozekhome and that I should bring the money. Unfortunately, when we got there, I was kidnapped because they believed that they could get some money by so doing”.
Describing his trauma, Ezerioha narrated thus: “I died seven times and I woke up. We drove in a Jeep with the ransom to the place where they directed us to. When we got there, they promptly kidnapped us and took away the vehicle we came with. They drove us, blindfolded, for about two and half hours until we arrived at the destination, a building located right inside a thick forest. That was where we were kept”.
Mr. Ezerioha who spoke at Mike Ozekhome’s house at Igando in the Ikotun area of Lagos state, told VM that he was yet to see members of his family. “I am on my way to the airport now to see my family. When I get to the airport, I will go to Abuja to see them.”
The visibly elated lawyer gave glory to God for making their release possible. “The atmosphere since our release has been very nice. My stay with the kidnappers was a very strong omen. We give God the glory,” he said.
Asked to explain his relationship with Mr. Ozekhome he declared: “Chief Mike Ozekhome is my mentor, my boss and my father. He is a man of the people; he is a man who touches the lives of people. Even while the abductors were holding him, he touched their lives. He told them the right things to do as human beings. He is solidly a nice man”.
He threw more light on the negotiation process but could not state categorically confirm the amount paid as ransom. “When we were there, a lot of negotiations were going on. As I am talking to you now, I don’t know what happened but I know that ransom was asked and ransom was paid. But we don’t know how much; maybe at our convenient time we can address the press on it.”