Thursday, March 14, 2019 2:11 pm
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Seven out of about 15 passengers kidnapped on Sunday March 3 at the Omerelu-Ubima axis of the Ikwerre local government of Rivers state regained their freedom early Thursday.
Commander of IGP Anti-Kidnapping monitoring Unit, DCP Ben Igwe confirmed the release.
Among those rescued is a naval officer, who sustained injury and has been taken to the hospital.
Before their release this morning, security agencies in Rivers State have been under immense pressure to secure the release of a total of about 33 passengers, including a pregnant woman who were kidnapped at different times and at separate locations within Ikwerre and Emohua local government areas of the state in the past 11 days.
On Sunday March 3, a commuter bus with more than 15 passengers, including a pregnant woman was ambushed along Ubima-Omerelu road in Ikwerre local government area.
It was learnt that the diehard kidnappers of the 15 passengers had demanded and collected an undisclosed amount as ransom from the relations of the victims, but refused to release their victims 11 days after.
The passengers were abducted on their way to Imo state.
It was gathered that the apprehensive relations of the victims have been piling up pressure on a crack team of the Inspector General of Police Anti-Kidnapping monitoring Unit under the headship of DSP Bello Yusuf to rescue the victims this week.
It was also learnt that the Commander of IGP Anti-kidnapping monitoring Unit, DCP Ben Igwe, had issued an ultimatum to the residents of Omerelu and Ubima to to appeal to kidnappers in their midst to ensure the release of already traumatized passengers or face dire consequences.
It was learnt that the Anti-kidnapping monitoring team had visited Ubima and Omerelu at different times to carry out some arrests and gather intelligence reports that would lead to the freedom of the victims.
Police is yet to react to a similar development where another set of 18 passengers were hijacked on Monday March 11, exactly a week later, on between Elele-Alimini and Ndele Police checkpoint along the East-West road.
An eyewitness who said he was driving from Bayelsa to Port Harcourt on the fateful day pointed out that no Policemen was seen at the usual checkpoints near the crime scene.
An eyewitness said that the gunmen still mounted blockades perhaps to intercept more victims. Luck ran out of them when a trailer driver who noticed the kidnappers’ blockade rammed into it on top speed and scattered it.
“The trailer scattered the kidnappers’ blockade and nearly run over one of the suspected kidnappers who quickly dashed into the bush. The action of the trailer paved way for other motorists trailing behind to escape another possible operation of the hoodlums.”
It would be recalled that few weeks to the Presidential election, the Rivers State Police command declared a State of Emergency on the stretch from Choba to Mbiama junction on the East-West road and the Omerelu-Ubima axis of the state.
The spokesman for the Police Command, DSP Nnamdi Omoni made the announcement on behalf of the Commissioner of Police, Usman Belel.