19th July, 2010
Inspector-General of Police, Ogbonna Onovo, has asked his men to fish out the kidnappers of the four journalists released yesterday.
Onovo said on Sunday in Umuahia that police operations have just started against kidnappers with the release of four kidnapped journalists and their driver.
Alhaji Wahab Oba, the Chairman of Lagos NUJ , Mr. Adolpus Okonkwo of Voice of Nigeria, Mr. Sola Oyeyipo of PMAN and Mr. Sylvester Okereke of Champion Newspapers, kidnapped with their driver, Mr. Azeez Yekini, in Abia a week ago, were released on Sunday.
Onovo while handing over the rescued journalists to Governor Theodore Orji of Abia, said that â€œthe releasing and handing over is the first stage,â€™â€™ while â€œthe second stage is to go after the kidnappers.â€™â€™
He said that stage two would not be easy, pointing out that â€œwhile going after them, we will inconvenience some innocent people living within the area.â€
Onovo appealed to the kidnappers to surrender themselves and their arms in their own interest to avoid bloodshed, sayingÂ â€œif they refuse, we will have no option than to confront them headlong.â€
He explained that policing in a democratic state required a lot of care, but warned thatÂ â€œour care not to hurt innocent people should not be taken for weakness.â€
Narrating how the police handled the situation, Onovo said that after combing the area on July 11, the police re-strategised and were able to locate the hide-out of the kidnappers in Obingwa.
â€œI deployed a contingent to start combing the bush, house to house search and with a charge to rescue the journalists alive because if there is confrontation, we donâ€™t know who will survive the assault,â€ he said.
Onovo said that a police helicopter closed in on the hide-out of the kidnappers but exercised restraint to attack because â€œour primary aim was to rescue the journalists alive.â€
He said the police resorted to sensitising the people, adding that the strategyÂ paid off because everybody could feel the tension that the kidnap of the journalists showed that none was exempt from the act.
Onovo said: â€œI am happy to announce to you that the journalists sitting in our midst live,â€ adding, â€œwe welcome you back to civilisation after your experience in the jungle.â€
He commended the State Security Service, the Army, NUJ and other groups, as well as the state government and the police particular for their gallantry during the one week search for the media men.
Onovo said that security was paramount and should be regarded as the business of all, adding that armchair critics believed that they could gloat over the situation.
He appealed to all to join hands to fight crime in Nigeria.
Ukpakiri, in Obingwa Local Government Area of Abia, where the four kidnapped journalists were rescued is calm but there is still a heavy presence of securitymen in the area.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the kidnappers had abandoned their victims in the market square in the early hours and the police rescued them few hours later.
A NAN correspondent reports that the people carried on their normal activities but they expressed joy that the journalists regained their freedom unhurt.
Policemen posted to the area on the rescue operation were also happy as one of them told NAN at their camp in Ukpakiri Primary School that their allowances were stopped over the problem.
The policeman, who did not want to be named, said that there was a standing instruction from “the top” that no allowance be paid them till the journalists were rescued alive.
Chief Okoro Kalu, a community leader, told NAN that he was happy that the journalists, who had helped to shape the country positively, regained their freedom.
“We all in prayers consulted oracles in the community and were assured that the journalists were still alive. We are happy they have regained their freedom at last,â€™â€™ he said.
Chief Azuka Alagwu, the President of Aba Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, said the kidnapping of the journalists had drawn the attention of the Federal Government to the sufferings of the Aba business community.
He urged the government to eradicate kidnapping to save businesses in Aba, which is 10km from Obingwa.
Alagwu commended the Federal Government and security agencies for conducting the rescue operation successfully and urged them to sustain the tempo toward eradicating kidnapping in Nigeria.
“The progress so far shows a hope for Nigeria, they should not relent,â€™â€™ he said.