On 28 February, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported that armed pirates opened fire on a cargo ship off the Nigerian coast, kidnapped the captain and chief engineer, and robbed the crew before fleeing. The attack also left one of the 14 crew members missing and another injured.
Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, said about eight gunmen attacked the Dutch-owned, Curacao-flagged refrigerated cargo ship near the coast. He said he had received no word yet on any ransom demands.
The IMB said this incident is a continuation of serial piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea. In September 2011, the group had warned that the seas off the Republic of Benin, Nigeria’s neighbour to the west, were becoming a new piracy “hotspot”, partly due to the deficiencies of maritime security arrangements in the region.
Choong said: “The attacks off the Nigerian coast are very violent and they are increasing, So far we have seen seven attacks off Nigeria this year and one off Benin. So that makes eight since the beginning of the year and we believe many more attacks may have gone unreported”.
However, in one of the recent incidents in which a tanker was hijacked, the IMB said Nigerian security vessels intercepted the ship and rescued its crew.
On 5 December, the State Security Service (SSS) paraded an ex-militant arrested in connection with the kidnap of King Godwin Igodo, the paramount ruler of Atissa clan and a first class traditional ruler in Bayelsa State.
The monarch was abducted by three armed men at his Ogbogoro community home on 1 September. His abductors subsequently took him to a hide-out in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State. While he was in captivity, his kidnappers extracted GSM recharge credit totalling N150,000 from his family. They eventually released him at the Abonema River on 27 September, after his family had paid a ransom of N12.5 million.
Mr Didacus Egbeji, an Assistant Director of the SSS, said the suspect, 24-year-old Promise Adegbe, hails from Olodo compound, Azuzuama Community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. Formerly in the camp of militant leader Young Shall Grow, Adegbe signed up for the Federal Government’s amnesty programme and underwent training at the ex-militant’s camp in Obubra, preparatory to his rehabilitation and reintegration into the society.
Adegbe claimed he had never participated in any kidnap operation before, but that he was lured into King Igodo’s case by his friend Mikel. He said he was not part of the team that abducted the King from his community but joined them in Port Harcourt, six days later. He further confessed that out of the N12.5 million ransom paid by the King’s family, he had already been paid N50,000 and was about to collect the balance when he was arrested.
The SSS said others who participated in the kidnap include one Mikel, Osuo and Kingdom, who are still at large. It said it had completed its investigations and that Adegbe would be arraigned in a High Court in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on 6 December.
On 30 August, the gunmen who kidnapped retired Colonel Innocent Ejibas, father of the Port Harcourt-based journalist, Desmond Ejibas, made a first contact with his family and demanded a ransom of N10 million (about 66,700 USD) as the condition for his release.
The retired army officer was abducted on Monday 29 August, at his residence in Umudara-Ogwa in Mbaitoli Local Government Area of Imo State. Local sources said five armed men stormed his house and seized him, while shooting in the air, indiscriminately, to scare neighbours or anyone else who might have come to his rescue.
His son, Desmond, who is a reporter with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), told newsmen that the health condition of his father, who retired from the Nigerian Army in 1990, and is now aged 66 years old, was deteriorating as a result of his ordeal.
Desmond said: “My dad has arthritis and has been moving with the support of a walking stick. Worse still, my mother is now in hospital in Owerri as I am speaking with you, following the abduction of her husband”.
He said the family reported the incident to the police in the Imo State capital, Owerri, early on Tuesday 30 August. A public update on the progress of investigations is awaited.
On 31 August, the gunmen who kidnapped Elder Tes Sorae, Chairman/Managing Director of Tomline Industrial Company Limited and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Benin City, Edo State, contacted his family and demanded N100 million (about 667,000 USD) as ransom for his release.
Reports say Elder Sorae’s abductors allowed him to speak with his family when they called. This must have brought some relief to the family, following the rumours which spread through the city the previous day, that he may have died at the hands of his captors.
Reports citing unnamed family sources said the family and friends were making frantic efforts to secure his release.
It will be recalled that Elder Sorae was abducted in front of his residence last Sunday morning, as he arrived home from a church service. The armed men who came to seize him shot and killed his wife, Bridget Sorae, his driver and the two police orderlies attached to him to protect him. They also shot and wounded his daughter, who has since been in a critical condition at a hospital. Many residents have described the kidnap incident as the most heinous ever experienced in the Edo State capital.
On 29 August, the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. David Omojola, told newsmen in Benin City, that no effort will be spared towards tracking down the kidnappers.
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.
On 25 July, Mr. Udokwe Samuel, a senior official of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and two other persons – Mr Boyi Joseph and Ms Precilia Idane – were abducted by unknown gunmen in Warri, Delta State. Udokwe is the chairman of the Chevron Nigeria Limited branch of the oil workers’ association.
The circumstances of the kidnap are not yet clear, but reports said the incident took place on Monday night.
The reports said Ms Idane was released the next day, allegedly after paying an undisclosed amount of money. She was said to be receiving treatment at an undisclosed hospital in Warri. However, the whereabouts of Udokwe and Boyi remained unknown.
The sources said the kidnappers had contacted Udokwe’s family and pastor, initially demanding a ransom of N20 million. The reports further said that when the pastor told the kidnappers he could raise only N100,000 from members of his church, the kidnappers threatened to kill their captive. The reports however said they later dropped their ransom demand to N5 million.
The Police Public Relations Officer for Delta State, Mr. Charles Muka, told newsmen that the police was very much on the case.
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 27 June, four workers of a telecommunication company were kidnapped by unknown armed men in Ore, Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State.
The kidnapped men, working with a telecommunications support company, JMG Limited, comprise of an engineer and three others. The armed men pounced on them while they were working at the base station of a GSM service provider and took them to an unknown destination.
Shortly after the kidnappers took them away, they also seized their phones and then used them to contact members of their captives’ families. Oladele Adesokan, who is a brother of one of the victims, said the kidnappers were demanding N25 million as ransom from each of their hostages.
A message sent to him through his abducted brother’s phone said: “l and other victims are being kept at one of the camps of the kidnappers”. Adesokan said the kidnappers had seized the phones of the victims, but still left the phones on, allowing the captives to receive in-coming phone calls.
However, the Police Public Relations Officer for Ondo State, Mr. Adeniran Aremu, told inquiring newsmen that the police had not yet received any report of the case. Aremu said the relations of the victims should have reported to the police at Ore promptly, instead of trying to negotiate with the kidnappers.
This kidnap comes barely two weeks after Mrs. Mariam Oke, 82-year-old mother of the National Legal Adiviser of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olusola Oke, was kidnapped at nearby Igbokoda. Prior to that, the mother of the prominent businessman Jimoh Ibrahim, had also been kidnapped in Igbokoda.
However, ex-militant leaders in the area who held a meeting on the issue recently, had condemned kidnapping in the state, and called on the state government to set up a task force to curb it.