BY SIMON EBEGBULEM, GBENGA OKE & GABRIEL ENOGHOLASE
…As Edo professionals condemn kidnap…
BENIN—THE bandits who abducted human rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, and a chieftain of All Progressives Congress, APC, in Edo State, Athanasius Ugbome, have reduced their ransom to N100 million and N40 million respectively, sources told Vanguard.
The kidnappers had earlier demanded N150 million as ransom for Ozekhome and N100 million for Ugbome.
Meanwhile, as the Iviukwe community in Agenebode, Estako East Local Government Area of Edo State continues to fast and pray for the release of Ozekhome, who was abducted about two weeks ago on the Benin /Auchi highway, his elder brother, Chief Pius Ozekhome, has commiserated with families of the four policemen who lost their lives while trying to rescue his brother and others abducted with him.
He also prayed for the repose of the souls of the policemen and appealed to the Federal Government to do all within its powers to take care of families of the departed officers just as he asked the Almighty God to touch the conscience of those still holding his brother and others to release them to their loved ones unhurt.
Protest by civil society groups
Meantime, civil society groups in Edo State, under the aegis of Conference of Non-Governmental Organisations, CONGOS, protested on the streets of Benin City, yesterday, calling for the unconditional release of Ozekhome, who, according to them, was a member of Board of CONGOS, and four other persons believed to have been kidnapped on the Benin-Ehor Road penultimate Friday.
The placard carrying protesters, led by the President of CONGOS, Jude Obasanmi, urged the Federal Government to urgently declare a state of emergency on security and youth employment.
The protesters, who were received at the secretariat of Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, by the secretary of the union, Mr. Titus Akhigbe, opined that making kidnapping a capital offence that should attract death penalty was not the solution but that government should spend time and resources to ensure that security outfits were equipped to do their jobs.
Meanwhile, the leader of Iviukwe community youths, Mr. Emmanuel Ujah, said: “We are still mourning, fasting and praying and the entire community is in suspense as nothing had been heard about Ozekhome for almost two weeks and he is nowhere to be found. Whether the government is doing anything about his release, we cannot say.”
Etsako Youths League, which appealed to the kidnappers to release their kinsmen unconditionally, in a statement, yesterday, by Mr. Roland Igbadumhe, urged the state government to take steps to stem the upsurge of kidnapping in the state, saying that it had assumed a frightening dimension.
The ace comedian, who hails from the same community with Ozekhome, while expressing concern over the plight of his kinsmen, regretted that Ozekhome, a Nigerian noted for championing the cause of the common man, could be kidnapped.
“I am appealing to the state government to urgently do something drastic to arrest kidnapping in the state. Ozekhome is a voice of the voiceless. I urge the security agencies to do all within their powers to ensure his immediate release,” he said.
Edo professionals condemn kidnap
Association of Edo Professionals, yesterday, condemned the kidnap of Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, just as it appealed to the kidnappers for his immediate release.
The group also said that the lingering strike by Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, was sad and worrisome.
In a statement by a member of the Board of Trustees of the group, Mr. Victor Osarenren, he said it was high time government provided gainful and respectable jobs for the youths.
He said: “The issue of kidnapping has assumed very frightening and disturbing dimensions in Edo State and Nigeria and this brings to the fore, the issue of glaring moral deficit in our society.”