On 15 February, gunmen suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram, raided a prison in Koton-Karfi, Kogi State, killing a security man and freeing their colleagues who had been held in the facility
Local sources said the attackers, numbering over 20, stormed the prison on motor bikes around 7 pm, immediately after the Magrib prayer. They shot a security man at the gate, killing him instantly. They then blew up the main gate of the prison with an Improvised Explosive Device and went inside.
While shooting to scare any prison officers that may have thought to challenge them, they freed some of their detained colleagues. After the gunmen had left the premises with their members, other prisoners also took advantage of the situation and escaped. The sources said the entire operation lasted about 30 minutes. The number of Boko Haram suspects freed, and of other prisoners that subsequently escaped, is not yet known.
This is Boko Haram’s third attack on a prison in the last 18 months. On 7 September 2010, about 50 Boko Haram gunmen attacked the prison in Bauchi, capital of Bauchi State, enabling the escape of 721 out of the 759 prisoners then held in the facility, mostly suspects arrested after the sect’s uprising in July 2009. Again on 22 April 2011, Boko Haram gunmen broke into the jail in Yola, Adamawa State, and freed 14 prisoners.
On 2 September, Elder Tes Sorae, Chief Executive of Tomline Industries Nigeria Limited, who was abducted in a bloody encounter last Sunday was freed unhurt in Benin City, after spending five nights in the custody of his captors.
His son, Noguese, who confirmed the release of his father to newsmen said he regained his freedom in the early hours of Friday. The Police Public Relations Officer in Edo State, ASP Peter Ogboi, also confirmed Elder Sorae’s release, saying efforts were still being intensified to apprehend the kidnappers.
Sorae, who is also a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State, was attacked and kidnapped on 28 August, on arriving home from a church service. His wife (Deaconess Bridget Sorae), two orderlies and a driver were killed during the attack, while his daughter was shot and wounded critically. Three days later, on 31 August, the kidnappers contacted his family and demanded the sum of N100million as ransom. It is not known whether any amount was paid to the kidnappers before they released him.
Receiving the Edo Deputy Governor, Dr Pius Odubu, who came to console him over the killing of his wife, orderlies and driver, Sorae thanked God for saving his life. He appealed to governments at all levels to create jobs for the nation’s youths in order to reduce the level of crime in the country. Showing great spirit in spite of his harrowing experience, he indicated that he would personally be setting up a job creation foundation for the youth.
Sorae said: “We should do everything possible to create job opportunities to our graduates. The only way we can stop this crime problem, kidnapping, is to give jobs to youths. When that is done, 90 per cent of our problem is solved. In my own capacity, I will make sacrifice by setting up a job creation foundation, because when only one man is rich and others around him are hungry, there will be no peace in the society”.
The chief magistrate, who works in Oleh Magisterial district, Isoko South Local Government Area of the state, was seized at the entrance to his residence, by about five men on Sunday 21 August. His captors drove him in his own official Honda Civic car, to an unknown destination. Outraged by the incident, the Delta State chapter of the Magistrates Association of Nigeria, reportedly considered shutting down of all magistrate courts in the state, until their colleague was either freed by the kidnappers or rescued by security operatives.
Details of how Aforkeya was freed are still sketchy. Some local sources said he was released at Ekiugbo Iyede in Isoko North Local Government Area of the state, where the kidnappers dropped him off blind-folded late in the evening. However, they could not elaborate on any terms or circumstances under which he was released.
One source reports that one of his suspected kidnappers has been arrested by the police in Warri, near Ughelli. The suspect was reportedly found with the official Honda Civic car which the chief magistrate was driving at the time he was abducted. The report said the suspect was arrested while fleeing with another kidnap victim. There had been no official statement from the police.
On 22 August, Mr Michael Obi, father of Nigerian soccer star and Chelsea midfielder, John Mikel Obi, was found alive in Kano, the largest commercial city in northern Nigeria and about 235 km from Jos, capital of Plateau State, where he was kidnapped 11 days earlier.
The Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Police Force, Mr Olusola Amore, reports that police detectives had traced the kidnappers to Kano. He said the police raided the area where Obi was held, freed him and arrested a number of his captors. Amore said the police would disclose further details of the rescue operation soon.
Mr Obi, a Jos-based transporter, was last seen on 12 August, when he left his office at close of work but never made it home. On 17 August, his car was found at a spot in Jos, where it had been abandoned. There had been conflicting reports from members of his family and from the soccer star’s representatives – Sport Entertainment & Media Group (SEM) – over contacts with the abductors and demands for ransom.
After his release, the elderly Obi said he was “very stressed”. Sources in Kano said there were apparently no indications of major physical injury to his body, but the BBC’s Yusuf Ibrahim Yakasai said his face showed signs of the beatings he had endured through his days in captivity.
On 20 July, Mrs Florence Obayuwana, the kidnapped wife of the Edo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr Osagie Obayuwana, was freed by her abductors. She was reportedly released at a village in Egor Local Government Area of Edo State, at about 8pm.
Mrs Obayuwana, Vice Principal of Adolor College in Benin City, was abducted by unknown gunmen two days earlier (18 July) on her way to work. The kidnappers had demanded a ransom of N20 million as the condition for her freedom; but her husband who confirmed that she was released in good health, would not say whether any of that demand was met.
The Director of State Security Services (SSS) in the state, Mr. Bello Bakori, said the woman was released after “an operation”, but that no arrest had yet been made in connection with the case.
On 29 June, the Anti-Kidnapping Task Force of the Delta Waterways Security Committee (DWSC), stormed the hideout of a kidnap gang at Samagidi in Eku community, Delta State, and rescued a kidnap victim, Mr. James Onosia Obriki.
Obriki, based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, is the Country Manager of Saybolt Limited, a subsidiary of the petroleum services company, Core Laboratories. He was ambushed and abducted by gunmen on 24 June, while driving his car on Airport Road, Warri.
Reports say tipped-off by undisclosed persons, the Anti-kidnapping Task Force, comprising policemen and DWSC members, arrested some members of the kidnappers’ families. Chats with the arrested persons yielded some good information on the movements and activities of the kidnappers. Armed with that information, the Task Force was able to trail the kidnappers to their hideout.
However, as the Task Force closed in on the hideout, the kidnappers abandoned their captive and fled. Obriki was then freed by the task force.
It is not clear how much the kidnappers had been demanding as ransom, but the manner in which Obriki regained his freedom, means his family and employers did not have to pay any ransom for his freedom.
On 23 June, Madam Mariam Oke, 83-year-old mother of the National Legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olusola Oke, was released by her abductors.
Madam Oke was kidnapped by five gunmen at her son’s country home in Igbokoda, Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State on 13 June. She was released in a riverine community near Warri, in Delta State, after 11 days in captivity. The kidnappers reportedly phoned members of her family to pick her up, after they had dropped her at a jetty.
There had been no confirmation of the woman’s release from police authorities in Delta State. But Chief Oke himself told some newsmen that he was happy that his mother had been released.
The kidnappers had reportedly demanded N130 million ransom before the release of the aged woman, but Chief Oke has offered no indication as to whether any part of that demand was met before she regained her freedom.
On 19 June, the five members of the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC), kidnapped by gunmen on 7 June, regained their freedom.
According to a statement from the Police Public Relations Officer in Rivers State, DSP Ben Ugwuegbulam, they were freed at Ama, Omoku, in Rivers State, after 12 days in captivity.
Ugwuegbulam said the five Corps members were “sighted and rescued by Mobile Policemen conducting stop and search at Omerenu along Port Harcourt-Owerri road” at about 7.30 pm on Sunday evening. He further stated that they had “been handed over to the highly delighted Director General NYSC, Brigadier General M. I. Tsiga in good state of health”. He added that “investigation to arrest all the culprits continues”.
It will be recalled that the Corps members comprising four females (Fase Fumilayo, Chinoye Ejiogu, Nkechi Nwaeze and Vivian Ekwanya) and one male (Olumide Yusuf) were kidnapped at Omademe village in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State. They were returning from a trip on which they had gone to inspect a library project they were donating to a secondary school in Omademe as their contribution to community development.
The kidnappers initially threatened to kill them and use their bodies for ritual purposes, if the Federal Government or the Rivers State Government did not pay N100million ransom. But they later slashed their demand to N10million, after the Rivers State government and NYSC authorities had bluntly dismissed the idea of paying any ransom.
Last week, the Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, Mr Suleiman Abba, had said that security operatives had figured out the identity of the kidnappers and were closing in on them.
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.
On 11 April, Chikwem Onuoha, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for the Okigwe-North Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, who was kidnapped during the National Assembly elections on 9 April, was freed. While in captivity, he was declared, by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as winner of the polls.
Recounting his experience to journalists in the Imo State capital, Owerri, Onuoha said he was at the polling centre near his home in Osuowere Ward 11 Collation Centre when a group of armed men stormed the area. He said the assailants assaulted him before they abducted him, and that the Police Inspector who came with the thugs “had threatened severally to shoot me on the leg, if I refused to follow them”.
According to him, he was taken to the country-home of the governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the state. Once there, he said, the thugs then pounced on him, brutalized him and dragged him on the floor, allegedly on the orders of the said candidate, from about 9.00 p.m. till around midnight. He said they also “stole my phone, some cash, my Rolex watch worth over $50,000”.
Onuoha said he was rescued by the Government House security men who later came to the house. Even so, he added that as he was being driven back to his house, his assailants again laid ambush for him. He said they shot one of his brothers, who is now being treated in a hospital.
However, while all this was going on, INEC completed the elections to the House of Representatives and declared Onuoha winner with 27,734 votes, beating the ACN candidate, Matthew Omegara, who polled 22,265 votes.
Onuoha thanked the Imo State Police Commissioner, Mr Tambari Yaro Mohammed, for ordering the arrest of the ACN chief, who has however been released on bail. He was also grateful to the State Police chief for ordering that the police officers who participated in abducting and tormenting him be disarmed immediately.