17 April 2013

Nigeria: Police, OPC Get Cracking As Bamigbetan, Ejigbo Council Boss, Is Abducted

The Lagos State Police Command and Oodua People's Congress (OPC) have ordered their men to begin a manhunt of kidnappers of the Chairman of Ejigbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, who was whisked away at about 11 p.m. on Monday by gunmen.

Bamigbetan's abduction has introduced a new dimension in the spate of kidnappings in Lagos. On Sunday, barely 24 hours before the chairman's incident, a banker, Nnenna Edu, who is a member of the Good Shepherd Pasture Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) was abducted alongside her driver in front of the church, located near Ozone Cinemas, Sabo-Yaba.

Confirming the politician's abduction, the state Police Command's Deputy Public Relations Officer, Mr. Damasus Ozoani, an assistant superintendent of police, said the command was making concerted efforts to secure his safe release.

Although he would not say if they have been able to track the whereabouts of the kidnappers, he however said the safe rescue of the chairman was paramount.

He said: "His safety is important to us and we are managing the situation to ensure he is rescued safely. At this point, all hands are on deck. All men are on ground doing what is expected of us.

"The police are investigating and we do not want the workings of our investigations on the pages of the papers so that it will not jeopardise the investigators' work."

He however said the Commissioner of Police (CP), Umar Manko, had instituted a crack team of detectives including the Abba Kyari-led Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), to fish out the kidnappers and rescue the victim alive.

He assured Lagosians and the family of the victim that the command would get at the abductors just like it had smashed other kidnapping incidents in the state.

While reiterating that the state government would not condone acts of criminalities, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Ademorin Kuye, said the police were currently working on the case.

In its reaction, the OPC directed its members in Lagos and the South-west to collaborate with security agents to launch a manhunt for Bamigbetan's kidnappers.

Leader of the Congress, Dr. Frederick Fasehun, in a statement issued Tuesday, said: "We warn whoever is behind this evil act that Bamigbetan must be released unharmed. Not one strand of his hair must be hurt. We just heard about this unfortunate incident, which has filtered through Lagos State and is all over the internet.

"Bamigbetan is our son, a Yoruba man. Whoever touches any Yoruba man touches the apple of OPC's eye and will pay dearly."

Recalling that OPC had helped secure the release of kidnap victims in the past, Fasehun said Bamigbetan's kidnappers had made the "worst mistake of their evil career".

The OPC had last October assisted in the rescuing of Muibat, wife of the Speaker, Osun State House of Assembly, resulting in the death of two of her abductors.

Bamigbetan was abducted at the entrance of his Ejigbo residence located at Ona Iwamimo Street, and his kidnappers have demanded a whopping ransom of $1 million less than 12 hours after the incident.

They made the demand in a phone call to his wife, Fatimah, early Tuesday as a condition to let the council chairman go safe and alive and warned against the involvement of the police and other security agencies.

While his driver, Mr. Biodun Olayiwola, escaped, it was gathered that Bamigbetan's abduction was possible because he had not been using police orderlies or security details since he became chairman in 2008.

Olayiwola recounted that the gunmen shot sporadically into the air to scare away residents. While trying to escape, the driver said, he drove into the muddy portion of the road where the SUV got stuck.

He explained that Bamigbetan was later driven away in a car parked close to his (chairman) residence, adding that the incident had been reported at Ejigbo Police Division.

Olayiwola, who escaped with minor bruises, said three armed men came down from their vehicle while the driver remained in the car in an operation he said was not more than three minutes.

According to him, "The chairman could have escaped from the gunmen if the road was good. When I saw them, I put the SUV in a reverse gear. They gave us a hot chase and started shooting in the air. They would not have succeeded in kidnapping him if the road was good. I tried my best to ensure that we escaped but I was not seeing properly because it was very dark.

"The SUV was eventually halted by an electric pole and we could not proceed beyond that point. I managed to squeeze myself out of the badly damaged vehicle and escaped. I do not know the kind of vehicle they came with and I could not recognise them because it was very dark".

Secretary to Ejigbo LCDA, Mr. Remi Gbadegesin, said Bamigbetan's abductors made a call to the wife at about 4am through the phone of her husband and demanded a ransom of $1 million.

He added that the abductors warned the chairman's wife not to involve the police or play any pranks by blowing the issue out-of-proportion, and threatened that any attempt to flout their directive could lead to a grievous consequence.

After speaking with his wife, Gbadegesin said, Bamigbetan's lines were switched off. He also confirmed that the abducted council boss was with his driver, Olayiwola, in his black Ford Everest Jeep with special registration number, KOK.

Friends, party leaders and well-wishers have been thronging the residence, though they were prevented from gaining entry into the house to prevent sympathisers' access to the wife and family.

THISDAY gathered that Bamigbetan's abduction may not be connected to politics, though the motive could purely be to extract some ransom from his family and the council authority.

Expectedly, activities at the secretariat of the council have been brought to a halt as workers were seen already dissolved into an organised prayer meeting to cry out to God for the release of their chairman, who they described as "a good man".

Meanwhile, Edu's friends and relations are still at a loss as to her whereabouts. According to a friend, Nkiru Olumide-Ojo, their friend was kidnapped when her driver was trying to park the car, and the kidnappers swooped in and abducted them at gun point, adding that the car was found same evening with her bag and shoes at Ijebu-Ode where the tracker stopped it.

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