OVER one hundred suspected kidnappers face the death sentence in Edo State following the signing into law of the state kidnapping law by Governor Adams Oshiomhole. Kidnapping in the state became worrisome after hoodlums descended on the state to a level that even teachers were being kidnapped for ransom. Lagos lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, a Benin High Court Judge, Justice Daniel Okungbowa, a chieftain of the APC, Athanacious Ugbome, were among those who suffered from the kidnappers onslaught along the Auchi-Abuja road, in Edo State.
It was later learnt that most of the evil perpetrated along that road was executed by a gang led by a kidnap kingpin, Kelvin Oniarah Eziegbe, who is currently facing trial in Abuja. Ordinarily, Oshiomhole believes very strongly in the sanctity of life but on 18 October, shortly after one of the bloody kidnap operations, the governor had no choice than to exercise his constitutional powers as governor, by signing into law the Kidnap Prohibition Law as amended by the state House of Assembly.
On that fateful day, Oshiomhole was in his office attending to state issues, when the news filtered in that those attending Esan Professionals Conference, scheduled for Uromi, were kidnapped while one was killed almost at the spot where Ozekhome was kidnapped. Sunday Vanguard learnt that the suspected kidnappers, who reportedly wore police uniforms with bullet proof vests, stopped the victims and informed them that they were under arrest. They were said to have ordered Mrs Ekhomu and her children to a vehicle while the chief executive officer of Thomas White Plc. Mr. Emmanuel Obiyan, and Dr Ekhomu, a security expert, were pushed to another vehicle.
The kidnappers headed towards Sapele. Sunday Vanguard learnt however that on realizing that their captors were kidnappers and not policemen after he inquired about the police station they were being taken to, Dr Ekhomu held one of the kidnappers with a gun and there was a fight. In the process, Dr. Ekhomu suffered a gunshot on his hand but he managed to escape through the bush.
Apparently angered by the Ekhomu resistance, the kidnappers rained bullets on Obiyan and abandoned his body. The gang that held Mrs. Ekhomu and her children ran into trouble when men of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta intercepted them around Sapele and rescued them. The body of Obiyan was deposited at the Irrua Specialist Hospital. The sad incident occurred on Thursday, 17 October.
Oshiomhole, visibly angry, came to office at about 7:30am the following day, and called for the amended kidnap law file. While this was going on, appeal came to the state government to flood the Auchi-Abuja road with soldiers. Oshiomhole was particularly touched that Esan sons and daughters, who came home from Europe, America and other parts of the world for a meeting, were either kidnapped or shot dead.
At about 11am, the governor signed the kidnap bill into law and urged all those concerned to ensure full implementation. The law prescribed death penalty for kidnappers.Speaking while signing the law, the governor said government would do everything within its powers to ensure the safety of lives and property in the state.
Oshiomhole disagreed with those who argue that kidnapping is a result of unemployment, saying “no one should try to trivialise very complex issues”. He said: “We need coordinated efforts to deal with the problem of crime in Nigeria”, lamenting that the governor does not have the power to deal with any security officer who might have misbehaved or through whose negligence the people might have been exposed to any criminal act.
“At best, we are able to provide resources and equipment as we have tried to do within our limited resources in spite of the fact that the language, the letter and the spirit of the constitution is clear that security matters are federal issues which is why the federal government continues to have monopoly of the police and of all the armed forces and the state security services.
None of these comes under the control of the state government. I am convinced as a matter of fact that the Federal Government is doing its best to arm and equip the police and the other security agencies. There are no quick-fix solutions to the issue of crime. Criminals are not in limited number that you exterminate and go and sleep”, he said.
Sunday Vanguard learnt however that over one hundred suspected kidnappers have been arrested since the passage of the law. Meanwhile, fifteen suspected armed robbers and fourteen child defilers were paraded on Thursday by the Edo Police Commissioner, Mr Foluso Adebanjo. He said the parade of the 29 suspected criminals amongst whom was a 24 year-old Ifeanyi Nwongi, who allegedly defiled a girl of one year and eight months, was part of the efforts by the command to wipe criminals out in the state.
Items recovered from the suspects include five vehicles, one AK47 rifle, three English pump action guns, three cut to size double barrel guns, five locally made pistols, 103 AK 47 rifle live ammunition, 505 live ammunition and other dangerous weapons. Adebanjo explained that 15 suspected kidnappers were arrested in different parts of the state. He said: “Operatives of the command, on routine patrol/ stop and search, stopped one Nissan Vannette bus for a routine check, search conducted on the occupants of the bus led to the recovery of arms and ammunition and arrest of two suspects.
Investigations however revealed that the suspects are notorious kidnappers who have been terrorising the state and were on a kidnap mission before they were arrested”.He further narrated that a crack team of detectives who acted on “credible intelligence” arrested one Osarumwense Ogbeide and Osahon Uhunamure at Aduwawa for alleged involvement in various kidnapping cases which occurred in the state, adding: “The suspects who have been on the command’s wanted list are notorious criminals who took part in the kidnapping cases reported on the 29/05/2011, 01/02/2012 and 09/02/2012 in the state.
The arrested suspects who confessed to the crime led the operatives to Idun-Ehigie community where a 60-year-old man, Raphael Noruwa, was arrested and cone Jojeff Magnum pump action gun was recovered from him. As you can see kidnapping has reduced in Edo and it was as a result of the strategy we adopted which is working”.
However, 24-year-old Nwonga, who allegedly defiled the 20 months old baby girl, told Sunday Vanguard: “I held the baby and was playing with her and had erection and sperm was now released on her body. That was what happened; it is not as if I defiled her”. However, Nwonga later confessed that he defiled the child, attributing it to the work of devil. The mother of the child, who took the matter to the police described the suspect as a liar. “ He is my tenant but I never knew that people could be that wicked. He defiled this baby and that was why I came to the police”.