By Emma Amaize
THE people of Kiagbodo, the country home of former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State, have never witnessed such as far as kidnapping is concerned in the Niger-Delta.
It had always been cases of government, leaders and other concerned persons reaching out to the Ijaw national leader to assist in the release of kidnap victims and Clark did not disappoint in the days of militancy and thereafter. Some persons even called him names for his role, but it never really bothered him.
Nobody, therefore, thought that, given his towering status, kidnappers would contemplate doing anything that will hurt him, but the impunity with which seven gunmen, suspected to be his Ijaw kinsmen, stormed the Kiagbodo between 3pm and 5pm, on Wednesday, defied the expectation of the people.
His son, Ebikeme Clark, known to have political ambition in Burutu local government, was reportedly inspecting on-going works at the proposed Edwin Clark University of Technology, a lproject his father wants to leave behind for future generations, when the gun totting men drove to the site in a bus.
The gang, which apparently had insider information on the movement of Ebikeme, knew the time he got to the site on the outskirts of the community and they went straight to the location he was standing when they broke in.
With guns pointed at him, the fierce-looking intruders ordered him to enter his own vehicle and, with one of them on the driver’s seat, they bundled him to the Kiagbodo waterfront, where a speedboat was waiting to transfer the “cargo” to their hideout.
A source told Sunday Vanguard, “I was told the kidnappers came in a commando style armed with sophisticated guns in a car to the site of the Edwin Clark University of Technology, Kiagbodo, Delta State. While they drove in a car to the school site, a speedboat was positioned at a bridge between Kiagbodo and Otu Jeremi communities. The bridge is called Eruware Bridge.”
Luck, however, ran out on one of the kidnappers, suspected to be the one that drove the gang to the site, as he could not maneuver his way out of danger after the operation. Community youths and motor cyclists at the scene apprehended him and handed him over to the police.
As at Thursday night, it was learnt that the kidnappers had made contact with family members of Clark, demanding about N50 million.
“The kidnappers made contact with family members of Mr. Ebikeme Clark in the late hours of Thursday. They and Ebikeme spoke with family members through the victim’s phone. In their usual manner, the kidnappers demanded for ransom within the region of 50 million Naira,” a source disclosed.
Investigation carried out by Sunday Vanguard showed that a member of the Bekderemo/Clark family contacted Ijaw leaders and security agencies at about 5.00 pm after the incident.
It was learnt that a syndicate of kidnappers in Delta State may have been responsible for the kidnapping. A source said, “While some are usually on the land carrying out surveillance on potential victims, others are from the riverine areas. As we speak, those in whose custody Ebikeme Clark is are from/in the riverine area.
“Though they came in their own car, it was in Ebikeme’s car that they drove to the bridge where they entered the speedboat and zoomed off to the riverine areas.”
An Ijaw youth leader said he was sure the abductors were commercial kidnappers and that they kidnapped Ebikeme with a view to making money from his father.
Delta State Police Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba, confirmed that four of the suspected kidnappers were in police net and gave assurance that the police would not only fish out the kidnappers, but also secure the release of Clark’s son within the shortest possible time.
He spoke confidently about the measures that have been put in place to track down the kidnappers, saying they acted without respect for the elder statesman.
Clark is also in touch with the police commissioner on the rescue operation and, according to sources, “He is helping the police with all the necessary information that came to him.”
The Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Eric Omare, said, “Information at its disposal is that he (Ebikeme) was taken to the kidnappers’ hideout through Kiagbodo River, which connects the Ramos and Forcados Rivers in Delta and Bayelsa states.”
The council strongly believes that the gunmen were still within the Ijaw axis of the two states and directed its officials in riverside areas of Ingbelebiri, Oporomor and Seimbiri clans to trace and fish out the kidnappers, adding, “We will use all the resources at our disposal to fight kidnapping and any other form of criminality in Ijaw land.”
Omare urged Ijaw youths to give information to the police on the whereabouts of the kidnappers. Clearly, if the kidnap of Ebikeme is for ransom, the effort seems like a “bad market” for the gunmen given the searchlight by the police and Ijaw youths.
But, there are those who do not believe the kidnap was commercially motivated. They alleged that it was part of the political intrigues in the area. A source said, “Currently, there is underground tension in Burutu over who becomes the next chairman of the local government council. They said Ebikeme was eyeing the chairmanship seat and the forces against his father want to stop him at all costs.
“Ebikeme is seen as a threat by some political leaders and power bloc in the area, who do not want his father to control the politics of Burutu. They do not want him to become local government chairman and they believe the way to stop him is to strike the fear of the devil inside him.”
National President of Ijaw People Development Initiative, IPDI, Mr. Austin Ozobo, who described the abduction as barbaric, pleaded with the kidnappers to release Ecikeme without delay, saying, “There is no point abducting the son of a man who has been in the forefront of the betterment of the Niger-Delta for selfish reasons. We want his abductors to have a rethink and release him to avoid the full weight of the punishment that will fall on them.”
He said facts available to the organization showed “Ebikeme’s abduction was politically engineered by some dubious politicians in the state.” But, a security source told Sunday Vanguard, “Even if it is true that the victim has a political ambition, which he is entitled to, the boys are looking for money, the police are aware that they have demanded N50 million or so for ransom.”