On 17 January, the police in Rivers State confirmed that gunmen had abducted two members of the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) scheme and their female friend, in Odagwa, Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State.
According to the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, DSP Ben Ugwuegbulam: “Two Corps members, a male and female…attached to C.S.S, Odagwa, Etche Local Government Area, and their female friend, were kidnapped”.
The police spokesman said as soon as the incident was reported, a team of policemen and soldiers moved to the scene and, while combing the area, found and rescued the male Corps member. He also said efforts towards rescuing the two female victims and arresting the culprits were continuing.
This is the third major incident of kidnapping of NYSC members in Rivers State over the last 16 months.
On 16 September 2010, five Corps members – four of them ladies – were seized from their lodge in Omuma, Omuma Local Government Area of the state and taken to the kidnappers’ camp, deep in the forests of Abia State. It was only on 4 October, when soldiers from the internal security task force, Operation Jubilee, stormed the camp, that the victims were freed from their 20-day ordeal.
On 7 June 2011, another five Corps members, again four females and one male, were seized at Omademe village in Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state. The kidnappers initially demanded N100 million ransom, but later cut their demand to N10million, after the Rivers State government and NYSC authorities had firmly rejected the idea of paying any ransom. The Corps members eventually regained their freedom on 19 June, after 12 days in captivity.
These and other incidents, in which Corps members had been endangered or indeed killed in other parts of the country, have fueled a continuing debate on whether the NYSC scheme should be continued or scrapped.
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.
Internal security operation in Abia State a great success, says Maj Gen Sarkin-Yaki Bello, GOC 82 Division
On 29 January, the General Officer Commanding 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maj Gen Sarkin-Yaki Bello, said the internal security operation launched in Abia State last October, codenamed Operation Jubilee and led by the army, had achieved 95 percent success. Speaking during a courtesy visit to Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State in Port Harcourt, Gen Bello said he was confident that the operation would soon record 100 per cent success in the achievement of its objectives. The GOC said the army is very prepared to tackle internal security challenges, such as armed banditry, kidnapping and terrorism, in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country.
On 25 January, soldiers from the Special Task Force (STF) on Internal Security in Abia State, codenamed ‘Operation Jubilee,’ killed four suspected kidnappers in Aba, the commercial hub of the state. One of the men killed is suspected to have been the third in command to the late kidnap kingpin, Obioma Nwankwo a.k.a Osisikankwu, who was killed by security forces on 12 December 2010.
Local sources said the suspected criminals met their end after they had siezed a lady and taken her to their hideout in a dense forest, near a community in Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area. Tipped by community residents, soldiers from the STF went after the kidnappers. In a shoot-out, the soldiers gunned down all the four kidnappers and rescued their captive.
The Special Task Force, a combination of intelligence operatives, police and the military, was deployed in Abia State in October 2010, to curb a surge of violent crime that peaked with the kidnapping of 15 minors in a school bus in September 2010. Residents of Aba and its environs say the STF has had a significant effect in improving security around the city.