Friday, 2nd June 2023

Kogi: Save our loved ones, families of abducted INEC officials cry as kidnappers demand N50m ransom

By Ibrahim Obansa, Lokoja
28 March 2023   |   4:21 am
Family members of six Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) adhoc officials, kidnapped in Kogi State, have cried to the authorities for their rescue.

Kidnapped INEC adhoc officials

Family members of six Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) adhoc officials, kidnapped in Kogi State, have cried to the authorities for their rescue.

The cries followed the demand of N50 million ransom by their abductors before their release.

Recall that some INEC staff members were abducted in Obajana in the early hours of Sunday, March 19, 2023, during the Kogi State House of Assembly election.

The victims were returning from Kupa North and South in Lokoja Local Council before they were attacked by hoodlums.

Spokesperson for Kogi State Police Command,  Superintendent of Police (SP), William Ovye Aya, had at the wake of the attack, said 96 persons were rescued by the Police, with three injured, while two victims were yet to be accounted for.

But speaking yesterday on behalf of the victims’ families, an Assistant Presiding Officer II (APO II) ,in the March 18 election, Babalola Oluwatobi Peter, said his sister was part of those still in captivity.

Peter faulted police’s claims that all kidnapped victims had been rescued.

He gave names of those still in captivity to include: Muhammed Maimunat and Abdulrahaman Raji (two serving corps members).

Others  are Oyaniran Atinuke Ruth, Florence Shayo Ajayi, Opara Tina and Blessing.

Explaining how the incident occurred. Peter said: “We were coming from Kupa North and the South when it occurred. I worked in the North. So, we left North minutes past six and got to the South at about 8:03p.m., when we were asked to move to Lokoja by our Supervisory Presiding Officers (SPOs). I told them that we were not going, that they should allow us to sleep and pick us up by 4:00 a.m., as was the case during the Presidential election.

“But the SPO South insisted that he wants to go. As an APO too, I couldn’t say no. All other Corp members also asked them to let us sleep over, but they insisted that we move. When they insisted, we had no option than to move. When we got to Obajana, the bandits attacked us. We were moving in six vehicles and our vehicle happened to be the second one.

“The first vehicle was able to escape, while the second vehicle mistakenly hit the culvert and could not move again. But before we knew what was happening, the third vehicle hit us from the back. We had three police officers, only one was armed. When the bandits attacked us, the armed police officer instructed us to pull off our white and run for our dear life. When everyone was running helter-skelter, I discovered that I didn’t see my sister, Oyaniran Atinuke Ruth.

“The incident happened between 1:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m.  Those kidnapped were directly from our bus. We told the security agencies, including INEC that we are still looking for six people, including my sister. They said we should not worry that they will find them. Up till now, nothing has been done. I was shocked when I read in some newspapers that the kidnapped victims had been rescued. They contacted us recently, demanding N50 million as ransom.

“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 to recharge cards, which we just did because we don’t want them to hurt my sister and other victims in their custody.”

Peter called on government and security agencies to rescue the abducted victims.

Also, the husband to one of the kidnapped victims,  Olawafemi Olakanmi,  who said he last spoke to his wife (Florence Shayo Ajayi) at about 12:00 a.m., before the incident, lamented that he has not slept since his wife was kidnapped on March 19, 2023.

“I only call on God to set my wife free,” he cried.

Spokesperson for the police in the state, William Ovye Aya, was yet to respond to text messages sent to his telephone lines.