Ozekhome Freed After 20 Days In Captivity

•Ozekhome embracing  his wife after his release by kidnappers this morning. PHOTO… IDOWU OGUNLEYE

•Ozekhome embracing his wife after his release by kidnappers this morning. PHOTO: IDOWU OGUNLEYE

Exactly 20 days after he was forcefully abducted by gunmen suspected to be kidnappers, human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate, Chief Mike Ozekhome was released by his captors in the early hours of today.

He arrived his Lagos home at 11.45 a.m. in a  black SUV with registration number LXR 24 AY enroute from airport to his Igando home. He returned into the waiting arm of his wife, Josephine.

•Ozekhome embracing  his wife after his release by kidnappers this morning. PHOTO: IDOWU OGUNLEYE
•Ozekhome embracing his wife after his release by kidnappers this morning. PHOTO: IDOWU OGUNLEYE

Hundreds of well wishers, family members and associates gathered in his mansion on Ozhekome Lane in Igando to welcome him. They praised God for bringing him back alive.

Journalists also besieged his home and when he alighted from the vehicle, there was dancing and shouts of praises to God for His mercy.

Ozekhome, who was in tears of joy, said he will address the press later in the day and the only thing he could say at that moment was “thank you Jesus.”

Some prominent lawyers and human rights activists on Thursday hailed the release of a legal practitioner, Mr Mike Ozekhome (SAN), by his abductors.

They also urged government to intensify efforts in addressing the security challenges in the country.

Mr. Taiwo Taiwo, Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos branch, told NAN that the release was a huge relief for the legal profession.

“We are happy about the release, but we should not lose sight of the fact that there is so much insecurity in the nation.

“The government must double its efforts to arrest the incessant kidnapping of Nigerians,” Taiwo said.

A lawyer and human rights activist, Mr Fred Agbaje, said he was disappointed with the time it took to secure Ozekhome’s release.

Agbaje said, “We are happy that he has been released, but we are disappointed with the efforts of our security operatives.”

He urged government at all levels to take urgent steps to address the issue of the welfare of Nigerians.

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Mr Adetokunbo Mumuni, Executive Director, Socioeconomic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a human rights group, also expressed a similar view.

Mumuni said: “The point that should be made, in spite of the release of Ozekhome and others who had been kidnapped in the past, is that we need to improve our security apparatus.

“This is the only way to attract foreign investments into the country, because nobody would want to invest in an unsafe environment.”

On his part, a human rights activist, Mr Ayodele Akele, said the security agencies should live up to their mandate.

“It is embarrassing that someone could be kidnapped for over two weeks in this country,” Akele said.

Ozekhome, who was kidnapped with his driver and chieftain of All Progressive Congress, APC, Athanasius Ugbome, at Ehor, located along Benin/Auchi highway, remained in captivity for so long allegedly due to the inability of his family members to reach an agreement on the ransom to be paid to the kidnappers.

While Ozekhome remained in captivity, Mr. Ugbome was released last week after an undisclosed sum of money was paid by his family members.

A family source who allegedly spoke under condition of anonymity, then said the family offered far below what the kidnappers demanded.

“They (the kidnappers) were saying that the lawyer (Ozhekome) is a very rich man, and N100 million should be a chicken change(sic) to him. They said they were aware that he made so much money from election tribunals’ litigation,” the source allegedly said.

The Senior Advocate was allegedly let off the hook by the kidnappers this morning after an undisclosed sum of money was paid as ransom.

When contacted on phone, Edo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Foluso Adebanjo, confirmed Ozekhome’s release, saying, “yes, he has been released. I will give you the details later.”

—Jethro Ibileke/Benin & Cyriacus Izuekwe

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