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Kidnap of 8-month pregnant medical doctor: Colleagues threaten strike in Enugu

Map of Nigeria showing Enugu State

On 18 January, medical doctors marched through the streets of Enugu, capital of Enugu State, protesting the kidnap of their female colleague, Dr Chidinma Okwor, eight months pregnant, who was abducted on 10 January. The doctors threatened to commence an indefinite strike, if she was not freed or rescued within the next seven days.

Mrs Okwor, a mother of four and a Senior Registrar in the Department of Radiology Medicine at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Ituku-Ozalla, was seized by unknown persons in front of her residence along Nike Road in Enugu East Local Government Area. Local sources said her abductors were about four armed youths who whisked her away in their waiting vehicle.

The doctors, under the umbrella of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Enugu State chapter, wore their professional robes and carried placards, some of which read: “Release Our Colleague Now”, “Remember that an unborn Child is involved” and “We Condemn the abduction of a Fetus”.

In an earlier reaction, the chairman of the NMA in the state, Dr Kenechi Madu, had decribed the incident as “abominable”, especially in view of the victim’s condition, appealing to security authorities to step up action towards rescuing the woman and her unborn child.

During the protest, the Chairman of the Association of Resident Doctors at the UNTH, Dr. Ugwunna Nwachukwu, said the abduction of an eight-month pregnant woman was the height of criminality. He said the situation was even more distressing as the abductors had not yet made any contact with the woman’s family.

The protesting doctors went round the offices of all security agencies in the state pleading for more efforts to rescue their colleague. At the Central Police Station, they warned that they may embark on an indefinite strike, if the government and security agencies failed to secure the woman’s release within the next seven days.

Police authorities said they were combing all nooks and crannies of the state and even beyond, in efforts to track down the criminals and free the woman alive and unhurt.

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NYSC member Eucharia Remmy reported killed in Damaturu attacks

Late EUCHARIA REMMY

A serving member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Miss Eucharia Remmy, has been identified among those killed in the bloody attacks by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, in Damaturu, capital of Yobe State, on 4 November.

Eucharia, from Enugu State, graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) in 2010, with a Second Class Upper degree in Psychology. She was a sister of the upcoming Nollywood actress, Mary Remmy, who recently featured in a movie titled ‘Blackberry Babes’.

According to reports, Eucharia was a member of Christ Embassy Church in Damaturu, and was distributing copies of the popular devotional guide Rhapsodies of Realities, near a police station on New Jerusalem Road, when the attackers struck. New Jerusalem Road is occupied mainly by churches and non-indigenes including corps members; it appears to have been specifically targeted by the attackers. Eucharia was reportedly shot in the head but did not die immediately. Reports say she was rushed to a hospital where she fell unconscious, before she eventually died at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.

Friends and colleagues say Eucharia was very brilliant and talented, full of promise. A former classmate at UNN said: “She had a bright future ahead of her and would have become something great, if not for the tragic incident”.

Kidnapped Rev Fr Chijioke Amoke freed in Enugu State

Map of Nigeria showing Enugu State

On 9 November, Rev. Fr. Chijioke Amoke, a Catholic priest kidnapped by armed men on 2 November, regained his freedom in Enugu State.

The Commissioner of Police in the State, Mr Danazumi Doma, said the priest was released by his abductors unharmed on the night of Wednesday 9 November and had been re-united with his parish members.

Fr.  Amoke was abducted in Onitsha-Enugu Ezike in Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of the state, by armed men who came in a black jeep and pounced on him as he was driving into his parish-house. On 9 November, Rev Fr Simon Ugwueze, Coordinator of Justice and Peace Commission in the Nsukka Catholic diocese, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the abductors had called, threatening to kill the kidnapped priest if the Diocese failed to pay a ransom of N10 million. 

However, the church said it would not pay any ransom, or accept assistance from anyone offering to pay. In a press statement entitled: Horrible kidnap of a Catholic Priest, Reverend Father Chijioke Amoke, and signed by the Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Francis Okobo, the Nsukka diocese of the church said it would stand by its policy never to pay ransom for kidnapped priests.

The statement read in part: “No ransom will be paid to free Fr. Chijioke and whoever tries to do such will be doing both ourselves and Fr. Chijioke more harm than good. We will not pay any ransom and we will not accept anyone pretending to be doing so on our behalf. We wish to remind the kidnappers that they can never hold Fr. Chijioke forever. They will surely release him either to us (church) and humanity or return him to God by killing him and thereby end the work God has given him here on earth”.

Both priests and laymen across the parish had prayed fervently for Fr Amoke’s release. Hours before he was freed, the Nsukka diocese had held a High Mass, seeking God’s intervention to end his ordeal. However, police sources also indicated that the priest’s family had engaged the kidnappers in negotiations. It is however not clear whether any ransom featured in the negotiations.

Earlier, on 9 November, the kidnappers had killed Mr. Roland Iyida, a herbalist they abducted on the same day as the priest, in Uda, a community in Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State. Iyida, popularly called Ojenammuo, meaning “He who visits the land of the spirits”, was seized while driving in his jeep. The kidnappers shot and killed a policeman who tried to intercept them, wounding another.

A local source reports that Iyida’s body was found by worshippers inside the Anglican Church in the community, who promptly reported to the police. A Police source confirmed that the corpse had been recovered and deposited in a morgue at the Enugu Ezike General Hospital.

Fire accident in Enugu: 6 feared dead, over 20 houses destroyed

Oil tanker fire (File photo).

On 28 July, about six people were feared dead, with scores of buildings and automobiles razed, after a fuel-laden tanker caught fire and exploded at a roundabout near the popular Ogbete Market in Enugu, capital of Enugu State. The Ogbete market is the largest market in the city.

Mr. Sikiru Raimi, Commandant, Enugu State Command of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), said the incident occurred when the tanker loaded with diesel lost control while negotiating the roundabout. Witnesses said the crash was followed by leakage of fuel from the tanker, operated by the Port Harcourt-based Shorelink Oil and Gas Services Company.

They said as the leaked fuel flowed into the barracks of the Enugu Central Police Station and some parts of the Ogbete market, the tanker driver raised alarm and ran to the police station to seek for help; one source said there was no immediate response, apparently as the police had no fire-prevention equipment. A short while later, the tanker exploded and went up in huge flames.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Steven Ekpei, confirmed three people dead. But local residents and witnesses said apart from the three charred bodies recovered initially, the toll may be up to six. Over 20 buildings, housing officers of the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigeria Prisons Service, were burnt. About 10 cars and several motorcycles were also in ruins. As the fire also destroyed poles and cables of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), the company’s Principal Manager, Public Affairs, Mr Eseme Udo, said some facilities, including the Enugu Prisons, may run without electricity for some time.

Witnesses say personnel from the Enugu Fire Service, and their colleagues from other agencies like the NSCDC and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), rallied to save the market and the police station from ruin. But they said fire-fighting vehicles could not get to some of the burning buildings as structures constructed without approvals blocked access routes. Some fire-fighters, injured while battling the inferno, were later rushed to Parklane Hospital.

Addressing reporters shortly after inspecting the scene of the accident, the Deputy Governor, Mr Sunday Onyebuchi, said the state government would do everything possible to minimise the damage from such accidents in future. He said as a first step, Governor Sullivan Chime had ordered the demolition and clearance of all illegal structures in the city, within the next two weeks.

He praised the Fire Service and other emergency agencies for their quick response to the incident and pledged the state government’s assistance to alleviate the suffering of the victims.

Robbers kill 2 policemen, snatch bullion van in Nsukka, Enugu State, later caught by police

On 22 July, an armed gang numbering between 10 and 15 men, killed two policemen who were escorting a bullion van conveying a large sum of money, and hijacked the van in Nsukka, Enugu State. However, the police intercepted and apprehended them, about four hours later, as they attempted to escape into Ebonyi State.

Narating the incident, local sources said the robbers had apparently trailed the cash-laden van and the police escort vehicle from the Opi-Nsukka road up to the Fen Park junction. They then suddenly blocked both vehicles with their Mercedes Benz car and a Toyota Sienna Space Wagon, and opened intense fire at the policemen around 10.20am.

The reports said after they had killed the policemen, the robbers ordered the bullion van driver to move ahead of their van towards Queen’s College, Nsukka, while they fired indiscriminately in different directions. The reports said when they got close to the College, the robbers stopped and brought out a gas cylinder.  One account said they also brought out a welding machine with which they then ripped open the roof of the bullion van.

Another said they used the gas in igniting a fire, which then activated an explosive with the blast of dynamite. This account said after blowing the bullion van open, they then carted the bags of money it was conveying over to their own van and sped off.

The reports said one of the slain policemen was an Inspector who hailed from Enugu-Ezike in Enugu State, while the other was a Constable. Another policeman and three other persons were injured by stray bullets.

News of the incident brought commercial activities in Nsukka to a standstill for about one hour, and most banks and major shops in the town remained shut for most of the day. One report said police stations in the town were also on high alert against possible attacks, with barricades on their access roads.

However, the police later caught up with the fleeing robbers. The Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the Enugu State Police Command, Mr Ebere Amarizu, told newsmen that once alerted of the incident, the Command immediately dispatched several patrol teams to the Nsukka area, in pursuit of the fleeing robbers. He said the pursuit yielded result at about 3.50 pm, when the patrol teams, aided by soldiers, intercepted the hoodlums along Ehamufu-Nkalagu road, as they attempted to escape into Ebonyi State. By this time, they had snatched and changed the vehicles in which they were fleeing at least three times, in the effort to shake the police off their trail.

The police spokesman said: “A general purpose machine gun (GPMG) and the stolen money were recovered, but the actual amount has not been ascertained for now”.

30 persons, including 4 recent NYSC graduands, killed in road accident in Enugu State

On 20 June, 30 persons were killed as two commercial buses collided at Egede village on the Enugu -Nsukka Highway in Enugu State.

Twenty eight of the victims were passengers while the other two were the drivers of the two buses.

The identities of most of the casualties are not yet known as there is yet no official report from the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).

But offficers on the FRSC rescue team say that four National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificates have been found among the wreckage, suggesting that four of the casualties must have been among the most recent batch of graduands who passed out from the national service scheme last week.

Police rescue kidnapped wife of UNN’s Prof Onuora, parade 4 suspects in Enugu State

On 14 June, the Enugu State Police Command reported that it had rescued the wife of Professor Ikechukwu Onuora of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, who was kidnapped by gunmen at the weekend. It also paraded four men, suspected to be members of the gang that seized the don’s wife.

According to the police report, Mrs Onuora and her younger sister who were riding in a Jeep, were abducted in Nsukka, Enugu State, on the afternoon of Sunday 12 June, and taken to Idah, Kogi State, from where the kidnappers planned to contact members of their family to demand for ransom. But their plot failed, as one member of the gang, apprehended by policemen from the Enugu State Police Command, squealed that the women had been taken to Idah, which led to the busting of the gang.

Narrating how the criminals were smashed, the Commissioner of Police in Enugu State, Mr Dan’azumi Job Doma, said: “They kidnapped some women on Sunday. One of them is the wife to Professor Ikechukwu Onuora of UNN. Immediately we got wind of it, we gave them a chase and in the early hours of Monday, we were able to pick one of them”.

“As we were driving to Idah in Kogi State to locate these women where they were kept, our men decided to get to the police station in Idah to report their presence.  One of them sighted the Jeep of the kidnapped women being driven by the kidnappers, who were probably looking for where to dispose of it”. 

“Our men gave them a chase and shot the tyres but they continued, knocking down motorcycles on the road. Eventually, two of the suspects were picked up and they led us to where the third fellow was. We picked him and rescued the women without any hurt”.

The Commissioner of Police said the suspects will be arraigned in court shortly.

Police Inspector shot dead by robbers in Enugu State

On 30 April, a Police Inspector attached to the Enugu State Police Command, Mr. Elias Ikpo, was shot dead by a gang of armed robbers operating along the Enugu-Onitsha highway.

The Inspector, dressed in mufti, was travelling with other passengers in a commuter bus from Enugu to Awka, Anambra State. The bus ran into the armed bandits around Onyeama Mine. Some reports said the robbers were searching all passengers until they stumbled on Inspector Ikpo’s identity card which gave him away as a police officer, and then they shot him. But the State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, said “It was a stray bullet that killed the man, and not necessarily that he was spotted and shot because he was an officer”.

His corpse was later removed from the scene by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the state police command.

Mr Amaraizu, who described the incident as a tragedy, said the police has spread its dragnet across the state, to ensure that the robbers are apprehended and brought to justice.

Labour Party governorship candidate Okey Ezea, 35 others, arraigned in Enugu

Barr. OKEY EZEA, LP Governorship candidate, Enugu State

On 12 April, the Enugu State governorship candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Barrister Okey Ezea, was arraigned at a Magistrate Court in Ibagwa Aka, Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area of the state, for alleged electoral offences.

Ezea was arraigned alongside the party’s House of Assembly candidate in Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area, Mrs. Bene Ukwueze, and 34 others. They were arrested in Ibagwa on 10 April. Sources say immediately after their arrest, the LP candidate was taken to Nsukka and detained there by the police, while the others were moved to Enugu where they were held until they were brought to court.

The offences for which Ezea and others were arraigned, were allegedly committed at the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at Ibagwa, during the collation of results for the 9 April National Assembly elections.

The charge sheet read that: “The accused persons threatened to make use of force or violence to disrupt the collation and announcement of election results and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section (131) (a) and punishable under Section (131) (d) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended”.

All the accused persons pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charge. The Magistrate, Mr. Emmanuel Ezema, granted them bail with one surety each and adjourned the case till 2 June 2011.

Police smash kidnap gang, arrest 4 suspects, rescue victims in Ifite, Anambra State

On 15 March, the Police stormed the hideout of a kidnap gang in Ifite, Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State, arresting four suspected kidnappers including a 20-year-old lady, and rescuing their victims.

The suspects were identified as Chibuzor Iloh, 19 from Ugwuoba, Enugu State; Sandra Okoye, 20 from Enugwu-Agidi, Anambra State; Afamefuna Ani, 28 from Nkanu, Enugu State and Asamota Paul, 25 from Benin City, Edo State. Police said one of the suspects is an Electrical and Electronics Engineering graduate of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka

The gang had abducted their victims, Jerry Ugwu and his five-year-old daughter, Lota, on 12 March as they were driving into their residence, No I, Jerry Ugwu Street, Abakpa Nike, Enugu in Enugu State. The five armed kidnappers had apparently trailed them to the place and immediately took them to an unknown place. Following their abduction, according to Enugu State Police spokesman, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, the kidnappers made several phone calls to the Ugwu family, demanding a ransom of N50 million as a condition for their release. He said that the criminals later reduced their demand to N30 million. Negotiations were still going on when the police busted the gang.

Following a tip-off, a combined team of men of the Anambra and Enugu state police commands, stormed their hideout after Miracle Junction along Ifite Road, Awka, and arrested them. After the operation, Ugwu, who was shot in the leg by the kidnappers, was brought to the Anambra State Police Command headquarters, along with his daughter and the suspects, before they were all taken back to Enugu.

Speaking to newsmen, the Anambra Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Emeka Chukwuemeka, said some arms were also recovered from the suspects. He assured the people of the state that the command would continue to work round the clock to ensure their safety, and urged them to always avail the police of information on suspicious characters and their movements.

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