Kidnappers in Rivers State have changed their approach, now resorting to the mass murder of family members of kidnapped persons when their demand for ransom is not quickly met.
A report in today’s edition of Saturday Vanguard blew the lid on the new trend, citing Eleme Local Government Area, which it said “has been under siege in the last couple of weeks as Mba Joe, wanted cultist and kidnap kingpin, relentlessly torments the people.”
The paper noted that “Mba Joe, a.k.a. Mba Boy, is on the wanted list of the Rivers State Police Command and that of Governor Nyesom Wike, who placed a N20 million bounty on him among others in his recently released security watch list.”
Paramount Ruler of Egbalor, HRH Godwin Chinwi, told the paper that the terror gang leader has kidnapped five residents for ransom in the last couple of weeks and only days ago burnt the house of another victim, Eyina Ngechu, for refusing to pay N200,000 gratification over a new car the victim acquired.
The worried Egbalor monarch said: “Sometime ago, Engr. S.N. Nwafolor was adopted in the middle of the night. I was one of those who went to the banks to get N10 million to pay as ransom, but they took the money and still killed him. This time around, we are experiencing a sophisticated level of same act. The approach now is, ‘if you don’t give me what I want, I will burn your house. You have an option, either you give me millions or your house is burnt’.”
Narrating how the criminal gang tried to burn his family of seven inside his three bedroom home, Eyina Ngechu said: “They broke into my wife’s shop and burnt everything inside. Then they said if I don’t open my house for them, they will burn me and my family inside.
They started burning my house. From my wife’s bedroom, my room, parlour and dining, they were burning everywhere. My saving grace was the kitchen where we took cover. They had no entrance. If not for God’s grace, they would have burnt my entire family, before soldiers came to our rescue around 2am.”
Vanguard painted a disturbing picture of a state where cultists and kidnappers are having a free reign. It reported that “in Omerelu, Ikwerre Local Government Area, where cult attacks left five persons beheaded not long now, residents are calling on security authorities to establish a joint task force to restore law and order in the community as the unpredictable mayhem has left shops, schools, churches and all businesses and social activities shut. Residents have turned to refugees in their areas.”
The paper quoted the community’s traditional ruler as saying: “We don’t sleep in the house. In fact, from 7pm we sleep in the bush. Even in day time, those boys will come from the bush, shooting military types of gun.
“Those boys will come from the bush; if they see a dog, a goat, they will kill. A situation where they come to the market to confront traders and buyers. They meet you and say, give me money. If you hesitate they pull up their shirt to show the nozzle of guns and you comply.
“Our women don’t go to farm again, because they will ambush them, seize their bikes and handsets. Our young girls going to the farm are waylaid, dragged into hiding, beaten and raped. Those who put up resistance are sometimes killed. The situation has gotten out of hand.”
The paper added that “beyond Eleme and Omerelu, in Ajakaja, Andoni local government, unpredictable fatal cult invasions, kidnappings and clashes are equally common experiences that leave residents displaced and economic activities disrupted, aggravating hardship among the people.”