On 14 February, the Acting Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Mohammed Abubakar, announced that training programmes for police personnel this year have been suspended on account of poor and obsolete facilities.
Addressing officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force on his maiden visit to Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom, since his appointment as Police chief, Abubakar said that while every police officer was entitled to training courses, the training institutions were in shambles. “Our training institutions are bad enough”, he said, “I will not allow my officers to go on courses and use their money to buy water, bread and other needs”.
The Inspector General said: “There is need for national rebirth in the Nigeria Police”. He told his officers and men that: “The era of corruption is over. We must allow competence and merit to take over its place”. He warned that failure at courses after second attempts would no longer be tolerated, that posting in the police would henceforth be based on the individual’s capacity to deliver, while promotion would be based on performance at promotion courses.
The police chief regretted that “So many things have been done unprofessionally” in the organization, and stressed that the time had come to turn a new leaf. He said: “We must redouble our effort in changing the damaging image that we have in the police today. There is need for you to change your attitude to work. There is need for us to go back to the basics of policing in this country”.
Abubakar also disclosed that plans were underway to change the uniform of the nation’s police personnel. He said: “We are making efforts to change the police uniform to a better uniform that will make you to be respected”.
The IGP, who was on a working visit to the Akwa Ibom Command, used the occasion to inaugurate a special crime-fighting squad funded by the state government and code-named Quick Response Squad (QRS). He commended the Akwa Ibom Police Command for reducing the crime rate in the state but urged its officers and men not to rest on their oars.
On 31 December, more than 50 people were killed in fighting between the neigbouring communities of Ezillo and Ezza in Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
Among those killed were several children aged three to five years, old men and women, as well as the police Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) at the police station in Ezillo. The officer was reportedly on the way to his office when he was ambushed and shot dead.
Local sources said the clashes arose from a land dispute between the two communities, which started in 2008, but was believed to have been settled until the latest violence. Survivors in Ezillo community said around 5 am, an armed band from Ezza attacked them with gunfire. They said as residents fled, the attackers burnt their houses along with the Afor Ezillo market, petrol filling stations and other property.
Some residents claimed they heard the attackers saying they were retaliating an attack on them last year.
Some sources said the casualties could be higher than 50. The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Dr Onyekachi Eni, said while a government delegation to the communities was shown 50 corpses, it was not yet possible to give an exact figure of casualties, as the villagers were still picking up dead bodies. Some of the wounded were rushed to the Federal Medical Centre in the state capital, Abakaliki, for treatment.
The Ebonyi State governor, Chief Martin Elechi, and the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Adeola Adeniji, visited the scene of the tragedy. Gov Elechi said: “It is unfortunate that these hoodlums want to return anarchy to the area in spite of the success of the government in bringing peace to the area since 2010. We will not fold our hands and allow the area to degenerate into chaos again, as government will do its best to ameliorate the victims’ sorrows”.
The Commissioner of Police, Mr Adeniji, said that no arrests had yet been made, but that “Mobile police have been sent there and the Inspector General has directed more to come”. He said police reinforcements were being expected from Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, to jointly ensure that the situation is brought firmly under control.
In the meantime, the police chief advised motorists entering or leaving Abakaliki, to avoid the area in which the fight occurred, and use alternative routes.
The gunmen struck at night, near the company’s vast Agbami oil field, about 70 nautical miles offshore from Bayelsa State. Chevron company sources said eight gunmen boarded the ship, MV C-Endeavour, attacked the crew and seized three sailors. They said the ship belonged to a contractor company, Edison Chouest Offshore, based in Galliano, Louisiana, in the United States. One source reported that the abducted sailors were foreigners, but this was yet to be confirmed.
The Agbami field, with a production capacity of up to 250,000 barrels a day, is Nigeria’s biggest offshore oil field, according to Chevron.
The incident is the latest in a surge of attacks on ships in the Niger Delta and further afield in the Gulf of Guinea recently. On 30 September, a sailor was kidnapped from a ship supplying an Exxon oil platform in Akwa Ibom State. On 8 October, pirates seized an oil tanker, the MT Cape Bird, with its 20-member Eastern European crew, 90 nautical miles off the coast of Lagos; they released them unharmed after five days in captivity.
On 17 October, a 17-man armed gang attacked an ExxonMobil-chartered vessel, AHST Wilbert Tide, near the company’s Oso gas field offshore Bonny in Rivers State, abducting the master sailor, a Bangladeshi. Another vessel, Joan Chouest, was also attacked in the same area around the same time as the WIlbert Tide.
Analysts and maritime industry operators are concerned that these attacks may signify an increase in organized, oil-related criminality in the Niger Delta.
On 6 September, hundreds of youths identifying themselves as former Niger Delta militants, blocked the East-West Road which runs from Rivers State to Delta State, protesting their alleged exclusion from the Federal Government’s post-amnesty programme.
The ex-militants, under the aegis of Niger Delta Development Ex-militants Third Phase, led by Julius Joseph and Tam Odogwu, converged from Akwa Ibom Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, and Ondo States.
They said they had recently written to President Goodluck Jonathan, alleging that the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs and Coordinator of the post-amnesty programme, Mr Kingsley Kuku, was trying to exclude some of them from the programme, even after they had surrendered their arms and obtained certificates of disarmament. In the said letter, they had warned of “dire consequences”, if the amnesty office persisted in its policy of excluding them.
Their action in blocking the road, they said, was to warn the Federal Government, of their capacity to disrupt the economy of the region, if there was no positive response from the government at the expiration of their one-week ultimatum.
The action of the youths seriously disrupted the flow of traffic on the busy road, with queues of vehicles stretching many kilometres in either direction. Many innocent travellers whose journeys and businesses were marred by the unexpected road blockage denounced the action of the youths, wondering why they must ruin other people’s business in the pursuit of their own interests.
The situation soon attracted the intervention of military and police units. However, the military and police officers, led by Col M. Lasisi, Commander Sector 2 of the Joint Task Force (JTF) and Mr M.I Buruche, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) in charge of the Area command, Ahoada, opted to persuade the youths to clear the road, rather than dispersing them forcefully. After several hours, the road was eventually cleared without any casualties.
The action of the youths is seen as an indication of the threat continually posed to peace in the Niger Delta by the large army of youth who were, or claim to have been, ex-militants in the region.
On 23 August, the Plateau State Police Command reported that the gang which had held Pa Michael Obi, father of football star, Mikel, had demanded a staggering ransom of 4 billion US dollars, which converts to about 616 billion Naira!
This amount may enter the Guiness Book of Records as the highest ransom ever demanded for release of a kidnap victim, worldwide.
Mr Obi was abducted in Jos, Plateau State, on 12 August, but rescued through a brilliant police operation in Kano, on 22 August. While he was in captivity, members of his family and the representatives of his soccer-star son, had issued conflicting reports about contacts with the kidnappers and their demands for ransom.
His wife, Mrs Obi, had said there were no contacts and no demands; Mikel’s representatives, Sport Entertainment and Media (SEM) Group, had said the kidnappers were demanding “a sizeable amount”, without being specific; Mikel’s brother, Ebere, had further confirmed that the kidnapprs were demanding an amount exceeding the figures of 130,000 USD or 20 million naira that were being reported in the mass media; but he too did not say how much more.
However, following Pa Obi’s release and the arrest of eight suspects, the Commissioner of Police in Plateau State, Mr. Dipo Ayeni, revealed to newsmen that: “(The kidnappers) asked him to give them 4 billion USD”. He said the kidnappers had said the amount was “chicken change to Mikel Obi and his club, Chelsea”.
The amount the kidnappers demanded is staggering by every measure, enough to buy 13 Boeing 747 jumbo aircraft at about 300 million USD each. As one commentator observed: “It was the classic case of the saying that: those the gods want to destroy, they first make mad”.
For Mikel, who earns 5.8 million USD annually, according to Forbes magazine, gathering the amount the kidnappers demanded would have required him to play soccer continuously, and earn his current fee steadily, for about 690 years!
Within Nigeria, the amount dwarfs even the most outlandish demands which any local gangs had ever made for releasing abducted Nigerians. The highest amount recorded as the opening figure for negotiating the release of one captive is probably one billion naira (about 6.5 million USD), tabled by the gang which kidnapped Mrs. Lakshmi Tombush, Principal of ExxonMobil’s elite Pegasus Schools in Eket, Akwa Ibom State, in October 2010. However, at the end of negotiations, some sources reported that the gang ended up getting about three per cent of the initial amount.
In the international arena, the amount Pa Obi’s kidnappers demanded is no less bewildering. It is more than 700 times the largest ransom ever paid to the notorious Somali pirates, which is believed to have been the 5.5 – 7.0 million USD paid for release of an oil-laden tanker that was hijacked near Seychelles islands on 29 November 2009.
It certainly exceeds, by far, the highest ransom ever actually paid for the release of any kidnapped person anywhere in the world. In July 2008, the French news agency, AFP, had reported that the highest ransom ever paid to free a kidnap victim was about 77 million US dollars. That amount was paid by Ms Kwong Siu-hing, 79, chairperson of Sun Hung Kai Properties in Hong Kong, for the release of her kidnapped son, Walter Kwok, himself one of Hong Kong’s richest tycoons. However, the gangster, Cheung Tze-keung (also known as ‘Big Spender’), who collected that record booty, soon met his dead end: he was tried and executed in mainland China in 1998.
As the Obi family did not actually accede to the kidnappers’ demand, this case may be considered for entry into the Guinness Book of Records as the highest ransom ever demanded by a kidnap gang anywhere in the world!
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On 23 August, armed robbers attacked a vehicle that was conveying cash to a branch of Equatorial Trust Bank in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom State, killing five people including two policemen, and snatching millions of naira.
Local sources said the incident occurred around 11.50am near Ukana Offot junction on Abak Road, a short distance from the bank’s premises.
They said the robbers waylaid a Peugeot 504 car conveying money to the bank and shot all the occupants of the car dead, including two policemen, a staff of the bank and the driver. As they shot their way to the vehicle, a stray bullet also hit and killed a passer-by.
The robbers then carted away about seven sacks, popularly referred to as ‘Ghana-must-go’ bags, loaded with cash. Some witnesses said they saw a lady wearing a bullet proof vest, who joined other members of the gang in removing money from the Peugeot car, before they escaped without encountering any challenge from security officers.
The raid is the third major armed robbery incident in Uyo, involving the killing of policemen, within the last two months. On 7 July, robbers attacked a bullion van a few meters from the Government House, killing two policemen and escaping with millions of naira. On Friday, 19 August, a gang also pursued a bullion van to the entrance of the State House of Assembly, shot and killed two mobile (anti-riot) policemen and snatched cash.
Rattled by the rising tide of bank robberies and kidnappings in the state, the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly has passed a resolution demanding that the Inspector General of Police redeploy the current Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Felix Uyanna, immediately.
On 2 August, unknown gunmen abducted the Chief Medical Officer of the University of Uyo (UNIUYO) Health Centre, Dr. Ini Enang, in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom State.
Reports say Enang, a gynecologist, was kidnapped by six armed men, at his private clinic, Mmenim Abasi Clinic, along Ikot Ekpene road, Uyo.
The men had reportedly come to the clinic under the pretence that they were seeking medical attention. They later pulled out their guns and other dangerous weapons and seized the medical practitioner.
Some reports said the gunmen later contacted the family and demanded N100 million before their captive would be released. The family is said to be totally at a loss on what to do in the face of this bewildering demand.
The abduction of Enang is coming only four days after the 30 July kidnap of the Chairman of Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area, Mr. Godwin Ekpo. The Local Council boss was kidnapped, during a community football tournament in Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area of the state. On 1 August, Ekpo’s abductors contacted his family, demanding N300 million ransom.
There is yet no word on the whereabouts of both Ekpo and Enang, but police say they are trying to track down the kidnappers and rescue the men.
Local sources said Ekpo was kidnapped while away to his usual Saturday morning keep-fit exercise; but beyond that, there are conflicting accounts of where and how he was abducted.
One account said Ekpo was kidnapped by five unknown gunmen who disrupted a football tournament in which he was participating, and took him away.
Another account said the abductors accosted Ekpo’s moving vehicle, shooting in the air to force the car to halt, before they seized him. In both accounts, the sources said the gunmen killed his police orderly, apparently when he attempted to stop them from abducting his boss.
Family sources said the kidnappers later called and demanded a ransom of N300 million (about 2 million USD). A family member said the amount was “shocking”.
The Public Relations Officer of the Akwa Ibom State Police Command, ASP Onyeka Orji, confirmed the incident to newsmen, including the fact that Ekpo’s police orderly was killed. He said the police were making all efforts to free the local government chairman and apprehend the kidnappers.
Akwa Ibom State has witnessed an unfair incidence of kidnaps over the last two years. In one of the most recent instances, on 17 July, Obonganwan Imo Isemin, 76, widow of a former governor of the state (late Obong Akpan Isemin), was abducted on her way to church on a Sunday morning. The police found her hours later, tied up and blind-folded, and rescued her.
Just a day before Ekpo was abducted, there were reports that the Councillor representing Ikot Ekpene Ward 7, Mr. Gabriel Itiaba, had been seized by gunmen in Ikot Ekpene town. It is not yet known whether there was any connection between that incident and Ekpo’s abduction the next morning.