The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, on Saturday ordered the Edo State Commissioner of Police to launch a manhunt for the abductors of prominent human rights lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, who was kidnapped on Friday evening at the Ehor stretch of the Benin-Auchi motorway in the state.
Ozekhome was on his way to the state when his vehicle was ambushed by kidnappers and he and his driver were subsequently taken away to an unknown destination.
Policemen from Edo State Police Command were said to have retrieved the lawyer’s abandoned Toyota Prado jeep and other personal effects inside the vehicle.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, who confirmed the abduction on Saturday, said the police had launched a manhunt for the kidnappers.
According to him, the IG had spoken with the Edo State Commissioner of Police, Foluso Adebanjo, on the incident and issued him a directive to rescue the lawyer.
Mba said, “The police have commenced investigation into the incident. On hearing about the abduction, the IG phoned the Edo State Commissioner of Police and gave him a marching order to rescue Ozekhome. As we speak, a massive manhunt has been launched by the police in the state to rescue the lawyer and apprehend the criminals that abducted him.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association has called on the police and other security agencies in the country to intensify their efforts in ensuring Ozekhome’s safe release from the kidnappers’ den.
In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, the NBA President, Okey Wali, SAN, urged government to put an end to the insecurity in the country.
Wali expressed shock that a renowned lawyer could be kidnapped in broad daylight while four policemen that tried to rescue him (Ozekhome) were shot dead by the hoodlums.
The NBA president cautioned that the level of insecurity in the country would prevent foreign investors from coming to Nigeria, adding that no genuine businessman would want to do business in a country known for insecurity.
“What has happened is terrible and that is why government must do everything to ensure the safety of lives and property in the country. This (insecurity) cannot continue; it must come to an end. Nobody can come to invest in a state of insecurity.
“We appeal to security agencies to do all they can to ensure Ozekhome’s safe release. On behalf of the NBA, I appeal to those holding him hostage to release him. Ozekhome is a gentleman,” Wali said.
He, however, condoled with the families of the four policemen that were killed during the incident, describing the killing of the security operatives as sad.
Similarly, constitutional lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay, SAN, described the kidnapping of Ozekhome as shocking and disturbing, saying it showed that security agencies have failed in their responsibility to protect Nigerians.
Sagay told SUNDAY PUNCH that the rising number of kidnapping cases and other crimes was a justification for the call for the establishment of state police.
He said, “It’s absolutely shocking and frightening. It shows that nobody is safe in this country. This has been happening for the past three to four years, and security agencies again and again are unable to secure the citizens of this country.
“That is why some of us have been calling for state police. At least with state police, we can have another group of security agents patrolling and possibly prevent these crimes, rather than this monopoly the Federal Government is insisting on, even when it is unable to manage it effectively. This is a young man going about his business, just because he happens to be famous, they grab him and he disappears. It is very frightening and disturbing.”
Also reacting to the abduction, lawyer and civil rights activist, Mr. Festus Keyamo, has pleaded with Ozekhome’s abductors to spare his life and release him.
He said the abductors should release him in the interest of his family.
Keyamo, in a statement in Abuja, also pleaded that Ozekhome should not be harmed.
He said, “This is one kidnap too many and it further draws local and international attention to the poor state of security in our country. It also highlights the state of joblessness among youths in our country, which is one reason why they turn to this dangerous trade for their livelihood.
“I want to personally appeal to the kidnappers or their sponsors (if any), to kindly consider that Mike Ozekhome, SAN, has a family that rely on him, both nuclear and extended, and even other dependants in the society. I also appeal to them not to harm him in anyway. In the name of God that we all serve, they should please release him to re-unite with his family.”
Kidnappers had last week abducted three primary school teachers, Mrs. Patience Osadolor, Patience Oroghene and Aisha Momodu, and demanded N60m from their families, but later reduced the ransom to N7.5m. They were later released.
The Vice-Chairman of Uhumnwonde Local Government Council, Edo State, Mr. Walter Aiwekhoe, was also abducted while on his way to the office, but escaped few hours later from where he was kept in the forest.
The CP last week paraded 44 suspected kidnappers, including those that were allegedly involved in the kidnap of the teachers.
It would also be recalled that in May, the wife and daughter of a Supreme Court judge, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, were kidnapped in the state.
They were travelling to the state capital, Benin, to prepare for the daughter’s wedding, when gunmen intercepted their car.
They however regained freedom about 17 days later.
Source: Punch Newspaper
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