*Dr. Mercy Mokobia’s whereabouts still unknown five months after kidnap
*We have arrested suspects—Police
Abraka—THERE has been palpable tension in Delta State University, DELSU, Abraka, Delta State in the past few months over the wave of abduction of lecturers by suspected kidnappers.
Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Mordi told Vanguard that lecturers were particularly disturbed, as educators are not millionaires, but the gunmen keep attacking them.
In the last two years, he said over 20 members had been abducted, but what has troubled the academic community more in recent times, was the kidnap of a lecturer of Department of Science Education, Dr. (Mrs.) Mercy Mokobia, from her nuptial home in Obiaruku, since April 9 without trace by the Police.
Indeed, during his visit to the university, some months ago, the vice-chancellor, Professor Eric Arubayi, told Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba, that the university was under siege.
Mordi said in most of the previous kidnap cases, it was demand for ransom by abductors, after which the victims regained freedom.
However, in Dr. Mokobia’s case, they demanded, it was paid, yet, she was not released.
He said: “Lecturers have their hearts in their mouths because we do not know who will be kidnapped next and nobody is comfortable doing his work here.
“As a matter of fact, the academic staff of DELSU are demanding the release of their colleague; we are going to embark on a fresh strike after the current nationwide strike action to protest the failure of the police to secure her release.
“We are not safe here if some gunmen can come to the home of our colleague and kidnap her and for almost five months, the police have no answer to her whereabouts, that is our plight, we are lecturers, we are not politicians, our duty is to teach students and do research, why are kidnappers after us.
“Academics are not money bags but law abiding, knowledgeable citizens who sacrifice day and night, all their comfort to impact knowledge and skills to Nigerian youths so as to equip them to become useful members of the society who can perpetuate human civilization.”
How gunmen abducted Mokobia
Gunmen kidnapped Dr. (Mrs.) Mokobia, whose husband, Prof. Mokobia, is also a staff of the university, between 12.00 am and 1.00 am, Tuesday, April 9, in Obiaruku. They broke into their residential apartment.
The couple was reportedly sleeping when the hoodlums struck in a commando style and took away the female lecturer. They contacted the family two days after the incident through a close associate demanding N20 million ransom for her release.
Gov Uduaghan…vows to stem the tide
According to Dr. Mordi, “They robbed the family after which they took her along on foot to an unknown destination. Her whereabouts has since remained unknown
“Until her kidnap, there was a lull in the kidnapping of our members and their spouses, which gave lecturers at DELSU a false sense of security.”
A security source said: “It is either an insider or somebody that knows the family was involved in the kidnap because they robbed the family and still abducted her.”
The source stated: “In fact, an artisan who has worked for the family before is believed to be working with the kidnappers.”
“Some 12 hours before the incident, some motor cycle, popularly known as Okada riders were seen near the vicinity of the Mokobias discharging some unidentified passengers,” our source added.
Following security report on the activities of kidnappers in the area, who found it easy operating with motorcycles, the state government, after the incident, banned the use of Okada for commercial transportation in Abraka, Kokori and other parts of Ethiope East Local Government.
Police not sleeping on the matter
Delta State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba, told Vanguard that he understands the plight of the lecturers and like any other kidnap case; the police were not sleeping on the matter.
He said the police spread their dragnet but the kidnappers initially went underground and the police did not get useful information.
Vanguard gathered that when police got information that the kidnappers had told the husband of the victim to pay ransom, they marked the money and urged him to play along.
His words: “The Special Anti-Kidnapping Unit and tracking team tracked the gang to a house at Uremu Road, Ozoro. The suspected kidnappers upon sighting the squad, opened fire and in the hot exchange of gunfire that ensued, one of the suspects later identified as Vote Michael suffered fatal gunshots, while three female suspects were arrested.”
Two persons, including the kingpin of the gang escaped on that day, while police recovered the N1.2 million ransom, a locally made pistol and 50 rounds of cartridges.
Police trailed and arrested the fleeing leader of the gang in Kogi State, as well as a pastor, but none could tell her whereabouts.
At a stage, about 11 persons, including a pastor, were seized in connection with Mokobia’s abduction. Nevertheless, nobody would say where she was or what happened to her.
In keeping with the anti-kidnapping law of the state government, the building in which the gang was believed to have detained Dr. Mokobia before she was moved to an unknown location was demolished.
Aduba told Vanguard that the husband of the kidnapped lecturer was around when the police was asking one of the suspects, a pastor, the whereabout of his wife, but he said nothing.
The police chief said his comment that police were not magicians, which was misinterpreted by some persons, was borne out of the fact that the police have done a lot in the matter and was investigating the incident, up till date, yet some persons are accusing security agents of non-performance.
“Yes, we are still investigating the matter; we cannot sweep it under the carpet. Sometime ago, I heard that ASUU people in Abraka were saying something about not understanding our role. I visited the university and took time to explain to them what we have done, including how we traced the ransom to a suspected kidnappers den in Ozoro and arrested some persons.”
ASUU chairman, Dr. Mordi, who urged the gangsters to release the woman and for the Obiaruku community to take more than a passing interest in the matter since Mokobia was living in the community prior to her kidnap, insisted the Police should produce the lecturer, dead or alive.
He said it was not the duty of the union or the family of the victim to tell the police the whereabout of Dr. Mokobia and was, therefore, surprised the Police were saying the lecturers and family were not giving them adequate information.
His words: “We do not know where her abductors took her to, we are citizens and the police are supposed to protect us, how do they expect us to know where the kidnappers took her to, if we know, we would have done everything no matter the cost to bring her out.
“Each time we ask the Commissioner of Police about our colleague, he tells us he is not a magician. The Commissioner came to visit ASUU when we were about to embark on strike some time ago, they made some arrest quite all right, but we still do not know where our member is, for about five months now. His best is not enough.
“He must tell us clearly and unambiguously what has happened to Dr. Mercy Mokobia and where she is. If she is dead, we want to know and her remains must be found, if she had been sold into slavery and taken to another country, we want to know also.”
Dr. Mordi said he had the privilege of meeting a top government official in the office of the National Security Adviser, Abuja, and was not impressed with what government was doing to stem kidnapping, saying, “All they are concerned about is Boko Haram.”
He accused the police of compromise in the several cases of kidnapping involving lecturers in Abraka, saying, “We even now see ourselves as endangered species, as kidnappers target lecturers, who are non-indigenes of the area.
“Lecturers do not have money, we impact researched knowledge to develop students, kidnappers should leave us alone, police and other security agencies should do their job well by providing security.”
He alleged that in the case of Abraka, security agents and vigilance groups were colluding with kidnappers and appealed to government to equip police to fight criminals.
“The other day I went to the office of the Commissioner of Police in the state, I find out that even the Close Circuit Television in his office is not working, I found out that the funding for the police is about N3,000 per police station in the country, this is disturbing.
“Besides, Mrs. Mokobia and several other cases, Dr. Ugochukwu Uzuegbe was also kidnapped in Edo State in May 9, this year, and only regained his freedom after paying ransom,” he added.
We need information –Police
Commissioner Aduba told Vanguard he did not want the kidnap of Dr. Mokobia to turn into a war of words between him and ASUU, Abraka, saying the reality was that the Police were not getting helpful information.