For about four hours last Wednesday reporters and workers waited at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, seat of the Kaduna state government as the news filtered in that the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Waje Yayok, who was abducted over a week earlier had been released.
At exactly 12.58 pm, an ash coloured Peugeot 406 saloon car, accompanied by another vehicle droppedÂ the SSG at the Government House. Thus ended 10 days ofÂ apprehension and tension for the embattled man whose kidnappers had initially demanded N40 million for his release. Just as the abduction of the SSG was controversial due to the apparent mysterious circumstances under which he disappeared, his release can best be described as even more scandalous.
When the family announced that it had sufficient evidence to show that its breadwinner had been kidnapped, the Kaduna state Government had refuted the claim arguing that the SSG was indeed on a special assignment to the southern part of the state where he hails from. Although government did not state the nature of the assignment, competent Government House sources indicated that Yayok was given N10 million cash to deliver to some prominent traditional rulers and leaders of thought in that area, for the Sallah celebration marking the end of the Muslim Ramadan fast.
According to the Special Adviser (Media and Public Affairs) to the Governor, Alhaji Umar Sani, â€œwe have been inundated with inquiries as to the whereabouts of the Secretary to the state government, Mr. Woje Yayok over a case of abduction.
These inquiries necessitated that we respond appropriately to these rumours in order to set the record straight. While it is true that the SSG was on official assignment to the Southern part of Kaduna State, we are yet to get in contact with him over his supposed location. We believe he will get in contact with us.
However, the gravity and the intensity of the rumour require us to take steps to ensure that everything is in order.
The security agencies have been given the details of the place, the nature of the assignment and all other contacts to enable them trace his whereabouts and douse the tension created by such rumour. Members of the press, in line with the international accepted standards that a person cannot be declared missing until after 48 hours and because this rumour started this morning, we shall address you properly very soon on the matter.â€
Answering questions from newsmen later, Sani had explained further that,Â â€œwe are aware that he is 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 had 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 person is missing or that heâ€™s in their custody.
As far as we are concerned, these are rumours which are subsisting and because they are intense and they are spreading, we have to take appropriate step that these rumours are doused. And thatâ€™s why we have informed the security agencies to ensure that these rumours do not further worsen the already bad situation.
So we now asked them to facilitate his immediate contact so that the issue will be permanently laid to rest.We 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. In the first instance we do not even believe that such rumours have any ground.
That is why we are going about with our normal activities. If the man is missing and we are sure that he is missing, and it has been confirmed to us that he is 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€
However, addressing newsmen after about two and a half hours meeting with the freed SSG, Sani said that, â€œgentlemen of the press, you will recall that sometimes ago to be precise on Tuesday 22nd September 2009, after much inquiries about the whereabouts of the SSG , we issued a statement stating that the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) was on official assignment to the southern part of the State.
Subsequently, the next day after fruitless effort to locate his whereabouts, he was declared missing by the Kaduna State Police Command. Thereafter, the security agencies intensified efforts to locate him and his whereabouts.
Their efforts paid off after frustrating the assailants who were later to be identified as abductors of the SSG for ransom. The fact that no ransom was paid and the toll was telling on them frustrated their efforts and led them to the release of the SSG.
The SSG was taken to Warri in Delta State where he was held hostage.Â The combined efforts of the SSS and the Police gave the abductors sleepless nights and they felt that the security agencies were closing in on them and that soon the noose will be tightened around their necks. The only option left was for the immediate release of the SSG who is currently in our warm embrace.
â€œAt this juncture, it is pertinent for us to dispel the rumours making the rounds that the SSG was abducted in open places and to state that the incidence took place at the junction of Studio 40-40 along Barnawa-Narayi junction very close to the residence of the SSG.
He was to proceed on official assignment the next morning to the southern part of the State when some uniformed men fully clad in Army camouflage numbering about 10 abducted himself and four other vehicles including a Toyota Camry, a Jeep, the vehicle of the SSG an End-of- Discussion and a Mercedez Benz that were forced on a convoy to drive and proceed straight to Delta State that night. It should also be noted that the SSG was a victim of circumstance and that the operation was not targeted at him or any agent of the State Government.
He was only discovered to be an SSG along the way courtesy of his identification card. He was abducted and was headed straight to Delta State where he was until his release. He was received in Benin and returned to Kaduna by our security operatives notably members of the SSS hale and hearty.â€Governmentâ€™s statement on the matter raises more questions than answers.
The government did not allow the SSG to answer questions from reporters after he had been tutored on what to say.
â€œI thank the Almighty God, the government and the good people of Kaduna sate more especially the press who put pressure on my kidnappers,â€ Yayok said and refused to answer questions although the Deputy Governor, Mr. Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, had assured earlier that Yayok would make clarifications where necessary.
While negotiations were on-going for the release of the SSG, reports said that the abductors had lowered the ransom to N20 million, an amount which sources hinted that government gave the family to deliver to the kidnappers which led to his release.
The Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Tambari Yabo Mohammed, had promised to rescue Yayok within 24 hours after government officially declared him missing but he avoided the press when Yayok arrived the
Government House. The Kaduna state government has a security outfit tagged Operation Yaki designed to check security in the area, in collaboration with the police and other agencies.
Equipped with various modern gadgets including two helicopters, reports say government expends huge resources to maintain the outfit. This is apart from an additional N14 million which the state government says it gives the Kaduna state Police Command monthly as incentive and logistics.
In spite of this elaborate security measures from the government, Kaduna appears to have become a den for kidnappers to operate. Barely six months ago, was a Canadian woman, Mrs. Julie Mulligan, who was in Kaduna on a Rotary International exchange programme kidnapped.
Due to the sensitive and diplomatic nature of the abduction, it took the intervention of the Presidency for the State Security Service (SSS) to rescue her after several days in captivity. And, three days after the abduction of Yayok, another kidnap incident took place in Zaria where some gunmen pounced on a businessman, Alhaji Bello and demanded N20 million ransom. The man was said to have negotiated his way to freedom.
The SSG kidnap saga may have apparently come to an end but while the the number four citizen of the state was held in captivity, neither the Governor, Mohammed Namadi Sambo, nor the official spokesman of government, the Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Saidu Adamu, made any pronouncements on the matter even as Sambo left the country unannounced, hours after the SSG was kidnapped.