…Abduct, release drinks distributor in Azagba-Ogwashi after ransom
…Police tracking hoodlums —Delta PPRO
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South & Festus Ahon
Despite the lockdown in Delta State over COVID-19 pandemic, suspected herdsmen, weekend, stormed Azagba-Ogwashi community, Aniocha South Local Government Area of the state, abducting a drink distributor, Mr Greg Azubike.
Azubike’s kidnap came on the heels of the killing of a poultry farm manager and night guard by suspected herdsmen, who invaded the Issele-Azagba farm last Wednesday.
Azubuike is the third victim to be abducted between April 8 and yesterday by suspected herdsmen.
Mr Lawrence Ojeashi was kidnapped April 8 at the Admiralty Neighbourhood Estate, Ibusa and released only after a ransom of N150,000 was paid.
Pattern of operation
One clear pattern by the herdsmen since the lockdown is that they usually invade the homes of their victims from surrounding bushes and often asked them at gunpoint to prepare meals for them.
They still took the people hostage after devouring the meals and also confiscate available foodstuff in the homes before leaving with the victims.
So far, security agents have been unable to take the battle to armed herdsmen in their hideouts in the bush, while community vigilante groups were not well equipped to face them in a “forest battle.”
Vanguard gathered that the herdsmen, who laid siege to the gate of Mr Greg Azubike at about 6:30 pm, last Friday, had ordered the wife to open the gate for them, which she refused.
A few days earlier, they had visited the same Azagba-Ogwashi, where their attempt to abduct a woman after eating a sumptuous meal they ordered her to prepare for them, was aborted.
Residents revealed that the woman contacted the vigilante group, which alerted the closest member to her quarters to monitor the operation. The vigilante member shot one of the suspected kidnappers, as they were trying to whisk her away.
The shooting forced the kidnappers to abandon the woman and foodstuff they stole. Of course, they escaped with the one injured.
During Friday’s operation, Mrs Azubike, according to a reliable source, “sensed danger and put a call across to the local vigilante group in the area to alert them of the danger she was in with her family.”
The source, who pleaded anonymity, said: “ Mr Greg Azubike returning home after the day’s business in his Pick-up vehicle, was intercepted at his gate and taken hostage by suspected herdsmen.
Saying that the man had been taken into the bush before the vigilante group arrived the scene, the source added: “I do not know if it occurred to the wife to alert her husband of the presence of suspected herdsmen at their gate before he drove in.”
His words: “They took Azubike to a bush around the poultry farm behind Issele-Azagba Mixed Secondary School, where the farm manager and night guard were killed by the ravaging herdsmen.”
The source further disclosed yesterday: “Mr Greg Azubike was released on Saturday by his abductors after payment of ransom. I am unaware of the sum they collected but they established contact with the family and they raised a ransom for them.“
Since March, when suspected herdsmen intensified their kidnapping business in Delta, Police have not reported any arrest in spite of the fact that three persons had been killed and 10 abducted.
A member of the Azagba-Ogwashi Vigilante, who spoke to Vanguard hours after the abduction, said: “We are in the bush as you speak to me looking for the kidnappers. They are armed with AK-47 and AK-49 rifles.
“It is true that he had been released but they seriously molested him to ensure that their ransom is big.”
Contacted, Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Onome Onovwakpoyeya, confirmed the latest incident, adding that the man was kidnapped last Thursday, as against Friday evening residents told Vanguard.
Onovwakpoyeya, who said the man had been released, did not say ransom was paid before the victim regained freedom.
She said the Police was already on the trail of the hoodlums, expressing hope that they would soon be apprehended and made to face the law.
Meanwhile, efforts to get the reaction of the state government at press time were proved abortive.