On 12 December, the police in Rivers State reported that it had smashed a four-man gang of kidnappers in the Oyigbo Local Government Area of the state. The Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Suleiman Abba, said the kidnappers, who had been responsible for most abductions in the state, were gunned down during an exchange of fire with policemen.
According to the Commissioner, the police got an alert that the suspected criminals were in an uncompleted building in the area and the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) for Oyigbo immediately sent his men after them. He said on sighting the police, the criminals opened fire. In the ensuing gun battle, four of them were shot dead.
While displaying the corpses of the kidnappers, the police chief gave the name of their leader as Chukwuebuka Okorie of Umuozu Umuapu in Isiala Ngwa, Abia State. He said Chukwuebuka had been “a criminal associate” of the late Obioma Nwankwo, more notoriously known as Osisikankwu, a dreaded robber and kidnapper who was gunned down by the military task force “Operation Jubilee” in Abia State in December 2010.
Local sources said Ozuora was killed while on night patrol with some of his men. The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr Geoffrey Ogbonna, confirmed the unfortunate incident to some newsmen. However, police sources said it was too early to say whether the killers were armed robbers or assassins until investigations into the incident are concluded.
Ozuora’s colleagues said his killing came as a rude shock. Although the police and other security agencies in the state had achieved a significant reduction in violent crime this year, the DPO’s death is a further setback, coming barely two months after an Inspector attached to Squadron 55 of the Mobile Police Unit in Osisioma, Aba, was similarly killed.
The elevations followed the recommendation of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Azubuike Ihejirika, and the approval of the Army Council, at its meeting held at the Ministry of Defence and chaired by the minister, Dr Bello Haliru Mohammed.
Those elevated from brigadier-general to major-general include the Director of Military Intelligence, Brig-Gen A. T. Jibrin; Director of Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen R. I. D. Isa; Director of Operations at Army HQ, Brig-Gen G. A. Wahab; Defence Adviser in New York, Brig-Gen G. Audu and the commander of OP JUBILEE (the anti-kidnapping task force in Abia State), Brig-Gen S.U. Audu.
Others are Brig-Gen K. C. Osuji, Brig-Gen F. S. Owonibi, Brig-Gen Agha-Okoro, Brig-Gen. D. D. Kitchner, Brig-Gen B.T. Oginni, Brig-Gen E.R. Chioba, Brig-Gen J. M. Ogidi, Brig-Gen S.U. Labaran, Brig-Gen A. A. Martins, Brig-Gen A. Chukwu, Brig-Gen M. Idris, Brig-Gen L. N. K. Banjiran and Brig-Gen E. F. Abejirin.
Also lifted to two star-general are Brig-Gen T. O. Umar, Brig-Gen H. G. Aminu, Brig-Gen I. Sani, Brig-Gen A. G. Ewansiha-Oloni and Brig-Gen P. K. Ikumonein.
A statement announcing the promotions was signed by Col. Usman Abdul of the Directorate of Army Public Relations.
On 19 July, a security aide of the Abia State Governor, Chief Theodore Orji, shot and killed his colleague, allegedly following a dispute over the sharing of a monetary gift from the governor. The killer, subsequently gunned down, is now receiving treatment at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Umuahia, capital of Abia State.
Unofficial sources in Government House say that at about 2.00am, Corporal Umoru Mohammed allegedly went to the room of Corporal Clement Amaechi, with whom he shares the same pilot car No. 08 on the governor’s fleet. Amechi was watching a movie when Mohammed shot him severally on the head with his AK 47 assault rifle, killing him instantly.
The acoounts further say Mohammed then stormed out, shooting indiscriminately as he charged towards the main gate of the huge compond, daring the night guards to stop him. However, after he had exhausted the bullets on his gun, he tried to load another magazine but he was not fast enough. The guards who had stayed out of his way, seized the moment, shot and disarmed him. They later took him to the FMC where he was operated upon, as confirmed by the doctor in charge of the accident and emergency department, Dr. Uche Aguocha.
It is not yet clear what led to the attack and shooting. However, some sources said the incident may have been sparked by perceived inequity in the sharing of a N2.5 million gift which the governor allegedly gave his security details, after a trip.
Hospital sources also said as he was being documented at the FMC and subsequently wheeled to the surgical theatre, an almost uncontrollable Mohammed told anyone listening, that his colleagues had repeatedly short-changed him in sharing monetary gifts given to them by the governor. This time around, he said, he had vowed to deal with Corporal Amaechi, whom he said was responsible for the cheating.
Reacting to the incident, the governor’s media aide, Mr Ugochukwu Emezue, said the incident arose from a personal matter between the two men. He said Governor Orji had condemned the killing and condoled with the family of the deceased. The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr Geoffrey Ogbonna, told inquiring newsmen that investigations were already underway.
Three female members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), serving in Delta State, have been reported attacked and raped in Owodokpokpo Igbide community, Isoko South Local Government Area of the state.
According to local sources, a six-man gang allegedly forced their way into the residence of the Corps members (who are serving as school teachers in the community), and dragged them into a nearby bush amidst gunshots. After raping them, the men reportedly also took their cellphones and other items.
However, an intensive manhunt launched by security operatives has led to the arrest of three out of the six persons who are suspected to have carried out the act. The suspects are now being questioned by the police.
The Public Relations Officer of the Police in Delta State, Mr Charles Muka, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), confirmed to newsmen that the three suspects arrested had made useful statements to the Police. He said information obtained from those already in the net will help the police apprehend those still at large.
This incident is only the latest in a growing list of incidents of sexual violence against female NYSC members. Among the most reported cases since 2008, are the following:
On 23 October 2008, a horde of unidentified gunmen reportedly invaded the residence of the Corps members posted to Abonnema town, Akuku Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, broke into every flat and raped 28 female members at gunpoint.
In October 2009, a female Corps member, Miss Grace Ushang, was raped to death in Maiduguri, Borno State, by suspected religious fundamentalists who said they were incited by her wearing a pair of regulation khaki trousers.
On 16 September 2010, five Corps members – four of them ladies – were seized by gunmen in Rivers State and taken to a forest in Abia State where they were held for 20 days; by the time they were freed by security forces on 4 October, there were unconfirmed reports that they had been sexually abused by their captors.
On 23 March this year, a traditional ruler, the Alowa of Ilowa-Ijesa in Obokun Local Government Council, Oba Bukola Alli, allegedly lured a 24-year-old female Corps member into his residence, locked her up and eventually raped her; the Oba is currently standing trial before an Osogbo Magistrate Court.
In April this year, during the post-election violence in Bauchi State in which 10 Corps members were killed, it was reported that “one of the NYSC members killed was pregnant and also raped by her killers”.
This most recent incident, coming just a few days after gunmen seized another five Corps members and demanded a N100 million ransom in Rivers State, will certainly intensify the debate on whether the NYSC should be continued or scrapped.
On 9 June, the Abia State Command of the State Security Service (SSS) reported it had arrested five members of an eight-man gang that abducted a Catholic Reverend Sister, Chikaodi Elendu, and one female Senior Secondary School (SS3) student, Miss Ogochukwu Osueke, in Ozuabam, in Arochukwu Local Government Area of the state on 13 April 2011.
Parading the suspects at the command’s state office in Umuahia, the Abia state capital, the State Director of SSS, Mr. Mathew Obodoechi explained that “the kidnappers initially demanded for three million Naira ransom but later collected N150, 000, as a result of the pressure that the Command mounted on them”, before releasing their captives on 20 April 2011.
The SSS director said the command’s investigations led to the arrest of five members of the gang at various locations. He gave the names of those arrested as Udochukwu Peter (gang leader), Peter Kalu, Kelechi Dike, Ugochukwu George Nwankpa and Chisokwu Azubike. He said three members of the gang were still at large, but that his men were closing in on them.
Obodechi said the suspects “voluntarily confessed their involvement in the kidnapping of the Rev. Sister and other kidnap/armed robbery cases, including the abduction of one Dr. Mmeregini of Mmeregine Hospital in Ohafia and the robbery at the Catholic Church, Ozuabam, in Arochukwu Local Government Area”. He further disclosed that one foreign-made eight-round pump action gun was recovered from the suspects.
Udochukwu Peter, the suspected leader of the gang who claimed to be from Imo State, told newsmen that: “I was a painter before I was introduced into kidnapping by a friend in Abia. The (abduction) of the Rev. Sister was my third kidnap mission. We normally hold our meetings through (mobile) phone. What led me into it was that I had no job.”
Obodoechi said his command was already filing papers to prosecute the suspects and that they will be arraigned in court shortly.
On 1 June, the police reported that it raided a home where where pregnant teenage girls are kept until they are delivered of their babies, who are then subsequently offered for sale for trafficking or other purposes, in Abia State.
According to the Commissioner of Police for Abia State, Mr Bala Mohammed, “We stormed the premises of The Cross Foundation in Aba three days ago, following a report that pregnant girls aged between 15 and 17 are being made to make babies for the proprietor”.
“We rescued 32 pregnant girls and arrested the proprietor who is undergoing interrogation over allegations that he normally sells the babies to people who may use them for rituals or other purposes”.
Parading the proprietor of The Cross Foundation, Dr Hycinth Orikara, before newsmen, Mr Hassan said that “Orikara’s syndicate” provides food and shelter for the inmates who in-turn produce babies for him to sell.
He said the babies are usually taken away and their mothers discharged after being paid certain amounts ranging between N30, 000 for a male child and N25,000 for a female baby. He further stated that some of the babies are thereafter sold to the highest bidders, while others are sold to ritualists and cultists, who use them for diverse purposes.
Proprietor’s Account: “I run a charity home”
But the embattled proprietor, Dr Orikara, denied running a baby factory. He told reporters that he was running a foundation for teenagers with unwanted pregnancies, who do not have anybody to help them.
Orikara, who graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) in 1998 and is also an employee of the Abia State Health Management Board (ASHMB), in Umuahia, the state capital, insisted he had been running a charity home in consultation with the welfare department of the state government.
He claimed that the department usually had a record of every child that would be put up for adoption. He denied that he was exploiting the teenagers to enrich himself. Instead, Orikara said he usually informed the parents and guardians of the inmates on the whereabout of their children and wards, adding that the foundation had been sustained with donations by public-spirited individuals.
Inmates’ Account: “We sell our babies”
However, some of the girls contradicted the proprietor’s claim. They told police they had been offered to sell their babies for between N25,000 and N30,000 depending on the sex of the baby.
One inmate, who identified herself as Chikwendu, confirmed that she earned N25, 000 when her baby was sold immediately after delivery. Another, Ifeoma Orji, aged 18 and a student of Girls High School, Umuahia, said it was a friend that introduced her to the clinic about two weeks ago and that her parents did not know she was there.
The police commissioner said both the proprietor and the inmates will soon be charged to court for child trafficking, child labour and abuse, after thorough investigations would have been concluded. Hassan said the owner of the “illegal baby factory” is likely to face child abuse and human trafficking charges. If found guilty as alleged, he faces a 14-year jail term, which is the penalty for buying or selling of babies in Nigerian law.
On 21 April, the retired Abia State High Court judge, Justice Igbozuruike Akomas, who was abducted by gunmen in Aba, was released. The judge was kidnapped on 19 April, as he was returnng to his house at Omanazu Street in Aba. Family sources said he had been on hunger strike throughout his three days of captivity.
The sources said that, at some point, the family had to send telephone recharge credit worth N15,000 to the kidnappers who had demanded the credit as a condition for continuing any negotiations, but it is not known if any other money was paid to them before they set the judge free.