Armed bandits were on the prowl again in Benin-City, Edo State capital. They abducted human rights activist and lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN).
Four officers of the Edo Police Command were killed in a gun duel with the kidnappers that ensued in an attempt to rescue Ozekhome.
THISDAY learnt Ozekhome was kidnapped together with his driver. Their abduction occurred barely 48 hours after the state police command paraded 44 suspected kidnappers in Benin-City.
Narrating the development to newsmen, the state's Commissioner of Police Foluso Adebanjo said, "Operatives of the command led by DPO Ehor Division responded swiftly to a distress call at about 3:30 pm that unspecified number of armed men had blocked the Benin-Auchi road by Ehor axis. But on their way, the hoodlums ambushed the police patrol vehicle and opened fire on them, prompting an exchange of fire.
"At the end of the gun duel, the hoodlums escaped with bullet wounds but not without their victim who was later identified upon search on his abandoned vehicle as Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and his driver. Regrettably, the command lost four officers in the encounter.
"We salute their rare courage and bravery for they fought and died as heroes for the cause of humanity. Their death shall not be in vain. We remain undeterred in our fight against armed banditry". Indications, however, emerged last night that the police in Edo led by Adebanjo were on the trail of the suspected kidnappers of Ozekhome.
The Inspector General of Police Muhammed Abubakar was said to have directed the Commissioner of Police to fish out the suspects, just as he vowed to ensure that the suspects are brought to justice.
Force Public Relations Officers Frank Mba told journalists on telephone that the IGP had directed the Edo CP to commence immediate and vigorous manhunt for the hoodlums "who must be arrested and brought to justice and the kidnapped victims rescued".
"We therefore once again call on the general public not to relent in their partnership with the police to fish out the criminals as common enemy to our society and report anyone found with the bullet wounds to the nearest police station."
In May unknown gunmen had kidnapped the wife and daughter of Supreme Court Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour. Also abducted was their driver.
The trio were intercepted as they were about to enter Benin-City. They were later released about three weeks later, presumably on the payment of some ransom to the kidnappers.
Responding to Ozekhome's kidnap last night, prominent lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, said "I have just confirmed that Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) was kidnapped yesterday while travelling between Benin and Auchi in Edo State.
"Since the Nigerian state has demonstrated, over and over again, its incapacity to protect the lives and property of citizens and aliens living in our country, I am compelled to appeal to the kidnappers to release Chief Ozekhome (SAN) without delay".