BY IKE UCHECHUKWU
CALABAR—THIS is certainly not the best of times for the Olugu family of Orumukpong, Oron in Okobo LGA of Akwa Ibom State whose breadwinner, Mr. Joshua Asuquo was abducted four months ago and his whereabouts unknown.
The troubled family members of the victim are pleading with the state government and the security agencies to intervene and ensure his rescue.
NDV learned that the victim, aged 58, was seized in the presence of his wife and his six children by four heavily armed men on November 4, 2017 as he was about entering his compound at Ekpo Abasi, Calabar South Local Government Area of Cross River State and whisked away.
Asuquo, a retiree of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) never thought his freedom would be cut short and his movement restricted as it is till date, neither could his family have imagined that a day will come when their father and bread winner as well as defender, would be unable to defend himself from external forces.
Anxiety over victim’s safety
Since his abduction, fear has gripped members of his family, who wonder whether their father, husband and brother is still alive or dead.
According to a source, “uncertainty has trailed his fate and whereabouts since his abduction. Most disturbing is the fact that his abductors have since cut off every communication and kept his family in the dark.
“The nightmare of the Asuquos began on that fateful day at about 8pm when their father was returning from an outing. He got to the gate of his residence quite alright but never had an inkling that he was being followed by his abductors,” he added.
The source who pleaded anonymity said just as he drove into his premises, the gun-wielding hoodlums accosted him, entered his car and ordered him to reverse and go back to the road.
“One of his curious daughters who witnessed the drama, attempted to raise alarm to attract the attention of neighbours but the abductors pointed a gun at her, threatening to silence her if she made any noise.
“Instinctively, she retreated while they sped off with their father to God knows where till today,” said an eyewitness.
According to the daughter, confused as they were, they ran helter smelter, thinking of how to proffer solution to the imminent danger awaiting their father.
N20m ransom demand
She said: “We ran to the police station but there was no respite. A day after, the kidnappers got in touch with our family requesting for N20m ransom as a condition for his release. Several pleas by our family to the kidnappers to accept N400,000 we planned to raise fell on deaf ears.”
The issue became more confusing to the Asuquos when the hoodlums were said to have kept calling with different phone numbers and sending different account numbers from different banks to them for the deal, thereby making it difficult for them to believe the sincerity of the kidnappers.
NDV also learned that during a telephone conversation between the gang and Asuquo family, the kidnappers promised to leave Mr. Asuquo’s Lexus jeep in which he was whisked away at a designated point along the highway but failed to keep their promise.
“Though some arrests were allegedly made at the initial stage of the investigation, the suspects were let off the hook after their innocence was proved in the course of interrogation.
While the family look up to the state government, Governor Ayade and the police, the police authorities said their hands are tied as they appear to have met a brick wall in the course of their investigation on the matter,” a source said.
Family seeks government intervention as kidnappers cut off communication
When NDV contacted the family of the victim in Calabar, they were clearly disturbed as his 48-year-old wife and children were all gloomy.
According to the wife: “Life without our father and bread winner has been traumatic. This is one of the most challenging moments of our lives. It has been tortuous and frustrating. Most especially that we are not sure of his safety because we have been in the dark about his wellbeing and whereabouts as there is no iota of information from anywhere.”
“The kidnappers have shot down communication with us for a long time now. We are confused. I am appealing the Gov Ben Ayade, and the entire government of Cross River State to come to our rescue. I don’t know where else to take this matter to. Although I have also handed it over to God, but man must do something about it, and that is why I am calling on the government of Prof Ben Ayade, the DSS and Police to help us before it is too late.”