By Innocent Anaba; Jimitota Onoyume; Ikechukwu Nnochiri; Wahab Abdullah &Bartholomew Madukwe
PORT HARCOURT— Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr. Okey Wali, SAN, has been kidnapped in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Vanguard gathered that he was abducted around Rumuologu Road Saturday night in his vehicle which was later abandoned by the kidnappers at Ozuoba area of Obio/ Akpor Local Government Area. At press time, no group had claimed responsibility for the action nor any ransom demanded.
The NBA, and Pan African Lawyers Union, PALU, in their reactions to the development, yesterday, expressed shock at the abduction and called for his release.
Confirming the incident, the state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Ahmed Muhamaad, said the Police was trying to trail the kidnappers, explaining that his vehicle which was abandoned by the kidnappers, was recovered at Ozuoba waterfront,
His words: “As soon as the Police got the information of his abduction we swung into action where his vehicle was recovered along Ozuoba waterfront. We are still on their trail with a view to rescuing him safely and possibly apprehending his abductors.”
In a related development, media aide to state chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Mr. Jerry Needam, said he escaped death in the early hours of Saturday when unknown gunmen stormed his residence in Port Harcourt.
While thanking God for his escape, Needam said the development would not be unconnected with the heightening political tension in the state.
He said the Police were immediately alerted about the development after the gunmen numbering about four sped off in a speed boat.
The state police spokesman, DSP Ahmad Muhamaad, said the Police was investigating the situation to track down those behind it.
Meanwhile, the, NBA, and Pan African Lawyers Union, PALU, yesterday, expressed shock at the abduction of Mr. Okey Wali, on Saturday and called for his release.
NBA, in a statement by its President, Chief Augustine Alegeh, SAN, said: “We have just received the shocking news that Wali, was on October 10, at 9p.m., kidnapped by unknown persons in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
“Wali is a man of peace who has not only contributed immensely to the enthronment of rule of law and protection of human rights, but also to the development of our nation. It is, therefore, saddening that he should become a kidnap victim.
“This sad event is yet another reminder of the state of insecurity in which all Nigerians live. The NBA calls on the Federal Government to step up efforts to fulfill its primary constitutional role of providing for the welfare and security of all Nigerians. We appeal to his abductors for his immediate and safe release to his family.”
On its part, The Pan African Lawyers Union, called for Wali’s release.
Vice President, West Africa, of PALU, Mr Emeka Obegolu, in a statement, said: “We received with a sense of foreboding, the news of the abduction of Mr. Wali. We call on the security agencies in Nigeria to ensure the immediate release of this committed African Bar leader and his safe return to his family.”
Reacting to the kidnap, Mallam Yusuf Ali, SAN, said: “It shows that there is no security in the country. It shows neither you nor I are secured. I appeal to those behind the act to please release him unconditionally.”
Also in his reaction, Dele Adesina, SAN, lamented that lawyers were becoming dangerous species in the country.
He said: “We appeal to those responsible for his kidnap to release him unarmed. He has lived his life for the nation having contributed his quota for the nation’s building as the NBA president for two years.”
On his part, the immediate past chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja branch, Mr. Monday Ubani, condemned the abduction.
In a telephone interview, Ubani who pleaded with the abductors to release the man unconditionally, wondered why Wali, who according to him was not a politician, could be kidnapped.
He said: “Wali’s abduction is highly condemnable. I plead for his release.”
Prof. Itse Sagay SAN, blamed kidnapping in the country on those in government, especially the PDP. He said: “Those in government, especially in PDP, are the root cause of this problem. Kidnapping is a terrible disease that Nigeria is experiencing from criminal characters who want to make money without working for it.
“So, it is to be condemned in every way possible. It just happened that Okey Wali is a prominent person. But I think we need to reflect on the contribution of the Nigeria elites to the present situation of crime and corruption in Nigeria.”