The House of Representatives is certainly not passive about the abduction in Abia State of four journalists, including the chairman of Lagos State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr. Wahab Oba since last Sunday, July 11. The Speaker and leadership may not have made any categorical statement on the journalists’ kidnap like their senate counterparts did last week following a motion on the floor of the senate condemning the nefarious act, there exists growing concern even in the house about the plight and freedom of the abducted journalists. Hon Vitalis Chukwuma Okafor is one member of the house who wants the journalists released immediately.
Hon. Okafor, a trained journalist and lawyer who represents Ihiala federal constituency of Anambra state told The Tide on Sunday in his House of Representatives’ office on Thursday that kidnapping is an aberration and all well meaning citizens should join in condemning it, and the police should intensify their search for the hide-out and dungeon of the kidnappers in their bid to secure the release of the journalists unharmed while government should intensify effort at beefing up security in the country.
Said he: “My reaction is: it’s an unfortunate situation. As a human being, I’m not happy. I was once a journalist and any man’s death diminishes me because I’m involved in mankind, so for any body kidnapped, I must be touched; as a human being, I could be a victim so I’m not happy that our colleagues were kidnapped and still being held by them (kidnappers). That is why the day you (Tide) interviewed me sometime ago, I said there’s need for government to address this issue of security once and for all”
The legislator passionately appealed to the kidnappers to spare their victims and refrain from causing bodily harm to them of attempting to take their lives. “They (kidnappers) should know they are Nigerian’s, and just like the journalists they are holding, have relations. They should know that there is something called “Law of Karma” … what they’re doing is not in the best interest of society and I will advise them to release those people and have a change of attitude. It (kidnapping) is some thing that does not profit”.
Okafor paints a picture of how Nigerians are currently hoodwinked by the menace of kidnapping, thus: “What we are suffering (in Nigeria) – people are not free to move about again; all the sectors are being affected. It you’re a businessman, you don’t move out anyhow; if you’re a politician, you don’t move out anyhow. You have to calculate and know when and where to move” adding “it’s not good for society and this country as a whole”.
He described the initial ransom of N250 million demanded by the kidnappers as outrageous, unrealistic and impossible, and asked rhetorically, “that journalists should cough out this? “Explaining to the kidnappers that for the Nigerian journalist, the amount is unrealistic, it’s not possible, the money they are calling is actually unrealistic” and strongly advised then to “rethink and retrace their steps by releasing the journalists unconditionally”.
He contended that, “you can’t give what you don’t have. If you don’t have N10 million and somebody asks you to bring N10 million, there’s nothing you can do so it (ransom) depends on individual and the financial position of the person they’re talking to. I don’t advocate for it because it’s not palatable for some of us”.
Hon Okafor commended the president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for reacting swiftly to the journalists kidnap and the Inspector – General of police, Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo for acting promptly by re-locating temporarily to Abia state and commencing intensive search for the journalists, and advised that “They should use every thing, every means that will make this people (kidnappers) to be caught (and) rescue them (journalists) from the hands of the kidnappers”. He said, they should not relent in their rescue mission because “freedom has no substitute.” He said the police should expedite action because “even now, I know that the shock they’re in now may affect their health because they’re thinking whether they’ll be killed – what could happen to them; they’re thinking about their families – they’re having (experiencing) one problem or the other, they’re having psychological problems or shock and all of these things, they’re in trouble actually!”
Answering The Tide on Sunday’s question on whether kidnapping that is now pronounced in the country in the year of Nigeria’s Golden jubilee, when the country is planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her independence portends danger or sends wrong signal to the international community, Okafor was affirmative. Said he: “Yes, it does!”
He was at a loss as to why people should resort to kidnapping and how it all started in the country but believe irrevocably that there is a way out of the menace, noting that kidnapping is something that should not be tolerated in the country and all hands must be on deck to flush it out, as it is worse than other cankerworms and societal malaise like armed robbery.
“… Everything has a solution; there must be solution (to kidnapping). And the law of gravity says that ‘anything that goes up will come down’. Maybe, one day, this thing will stop but I pray that it stops quickly! Initially, what we have in this country is armed robbery; when they discovered that people don’t have money again, they now “shifted to kidnapping – kidnapping is the worst! You know, armed robbery is better than kidnapping because this one (kidnapping) entails keeping you at a place… “he said.
He continued:” the fact that you are being kept in a place – somebody who doesn’t know he’ll be kept in such a condition – you know, such person will be thinking so many things (and) it may give rise to hypertension, and you know, they don’t give them water to take their bath – very useless situation!”.
Hon Okafor reiterated his earlier position that upon the release of these journalists from the kidnappers’ den, the federal government should intensify effort – through the use of maximum force, to ensure that kidnapping is quelled or annihilated in the country. “Infact, there is a serious need for federal government to bring out all the machineries at its disposal to stop or forestall future occurrence of this kidnapping of a thing.” Hon. Okafor expressed the optimism that government can arrest the situation but however gave government an idea of how to go about it.
“If government can now provide this armoured APS – Armoured personnel carrier – all these bullet- proof cars, provide helicopters as we see in overseas, bullet proof helicopter that will be hovering around to contribute their quota towards that direction, then train special people (for that purpose), have them in all the 36 states of the federation, (the situation could be arrested)”.
Okafor also advocated the provision of insurance schemes for security operatives who tackle these hoodlums and societal miscreants “so that if something happens, their families could be given hope.” With this, he believes that the regular cases of kidnapping recorded in the country of late, will at least abate.
While advising communities that are now notorious for kidnapping and their traditional rulers to sincerely join in efforts at ripping it in the bud, at least by providing police with useful information, Hon Okafor berated the police for turning round in some cases to make informants scape–goats, and advised them to desist if this war on kidnapping is to be won. “Some may know their (kidnappers) hide-outs, but for fear of being accused don’t tell the police; you know the police ought to protect anyone who gives them information and not to turn against that person” he said.
Justus Awaji, Abuja