From Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
The abductors of officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Kogi State during the March 19 general elections are demanding N50 million ransom before they would release their victims.
Contrary to police claim that they had rescued all the kidnap victims, six of the INEC officials, including two corps members are still in the kidnappers’ den.
Some INEC staff were abducted in Obajana at the early hours of Sunday, March 19, 2023, during the Kogi State House of Assembly election. The victims were said to be returning from Kupa North and South, under Lokoja Local Government Area in Kogi State, before they were attacked by armed hoodlums.
But the Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO) in Kogi State, William Ovye Aya, had, in a statement issued to journalists on the incident, said 96 people were rescued by the police, three injured, while two victims were yet to be accounted for.
Addressing a press conference, on Monday, on behalf of the kidnap victims’ families, an Assistant Presiding Officer II (APO II) in the March 18 Kogi House of Assembly election, identified as Babalola Oluwatobi Peter, said his sister was part of those still held in captivity.
Peter, who is a brother to one of the victims, faulted the claim of the Nigeria Police Force that all the victims have been rescued. He mentioned those still in the hands of the kidnappers as Muhammed Maimunat and Abdulrahaman Raji, who are both serving corps members. INEC Ad-Hoc staff who are still in captivity, according to Peter, are Oyaniran Atinuke Ruth, Florence Shayo Ajayi, Opara Tina and Blessing.
Explaining how the ugly incident occurred on that day, Peter said: “We were actually coming from Kupa North and South for the Kogi State House of Assembly election. I worked in the North, so we left North some minutes past six and we got to the South at 8:03pm in which we were asked to move to Lokoja by our SPOs. I told them personally that we are not going, that they should allow us to sleep, that by 4am the next day, we should pick up and go, just like the way we did during the presidential election.
“But the SPO South said he wanted to move. As an APO two, I could not just tell them no. All other corps members said we should sleep over, but they refused.
As they insisted, we had no option than to move. When we got to Obajana, the armed robbers attacked us. We have six vehicles, and our vehicle happened to be the second one.
“The first vehicle was able to move away, while the second vehicle mistakenly hit the culvert and could not move again. But before we could know what was happening, the third vehicle hit us at the back. We had three police officers, only one was armed. When the armed robber attacked us, the armed police officer instructed us to pull off our white and run for our dear lives. As everyone was running, I didn’t see my sister Oyaniran Atinuke Ruth.
“The incident happened between 1am-2am. Those people who were kidnaped were directly from our bus. We told the security agency, including INEC, that we were still looking for six people, including my sister. They said we should not worry, that we would find them. Up till now, nothing has been done. I was shocked when I read in some newspapers that the kidnap victims had been rescued. Nothing like that. They contacted us recently, demanding for N50 million.
“The kidnappers keep calling us with different numbers. You cannot call them, but they can only call you. They even told us to send them a recharge card which we did just because we didn’t want them to hurt my sister and every other victim in their custody.”
He, however, called on the government and security to work towards the release of the abductees. The husband of one of the victims, Olawafemi Olakanmi, said he last spoke to his wife (Florence Shayo Ajayi) around 12am before the incident occurred.
“I have not slept since my wife was kidnapped on March 19, 2023. I only call on God to set my wife free,” he stated.
All efforts to speak with the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in Kogi State, William Ovye Aya, proved abortive at the time of filing this report, as he failed to pick calls or respond to text messages sent to his cell phone.