Gunmen who abducted six Independent National Electoral Commission officials that participated in the governorship and state assembly elections in Kogi State, have demanded the sum of N50 million for their release.
While addressing a press conference on Monday on behalf of the families of the kidnapped victims in Lokoja, an Assistant Presiding Officer II, in the March 18 Kogi House of Assembly election identified as Babalola Peter, said his sister was part of those still held in captivity.
Recall that some INEC staff were abducted in Obajana in the early hours of Sunday, March 19, 2023, during the Kogi State House of Assembly election.
The victims were said to be returning from Kupa North and South under Lokoja Local Government Area in Kogi State before they were attacked by armed hoodlums.
But the Police Public Relation Officer in Kogi State, SP William Aya, had in a statement issued to journalists concerning the incident said 96 persons were rescued by the police, three injured while two victims were yet to be accounted for.
Peter, who is a brother to one of the victims, faulted the claim from the Nigeria Police Force that all the kidnapped victims had been rescued.
He mentioned those still in the hands of the kidnappers as Muhammed Maimunat and Abdulrahaman Raji, who are two serving corps members.
INEC ad-hoc staff who are still in captivity according to Peter are, Oyaniran Atinuke Ruth, Florence Shayo Ajayi, Opara Tina and Blessing.
Explaining how the ugly incident occurred on that day, Peter said, “We were actually coming from Kupa North and South for the Kogi State House of Assembly election. I worked in the North, so we left North some minutes past six and we got to the South at 8:03pm in which we were asked to move to Lokoja by our SPOs.
“I told them personally that we are not going, that they should allow us to sleep, and that by 4am the next day we would get up and go, just like the way we did during the presidential election. But the SPO South said he wants to move. As an APO two, I cannot just tell them no. All other corp members told them to let us sleep over but they insisted. So we had no option than to move.
“When we got to Obajana, the armed robbers attacked us. We had six vehicles, and our vehicles happen to be the second one. The first vehicle was able to move away, while the second vehicle mistakenly hit the culvert and could not move again. But before we could know what was happening, the third vehicle hit us at the back.
“We had three police officers but only one was armed. When the armed robber attacked us, the armed police officer instructed us to pull off our white and run for our dear life. After everyone was running for their life, I discovered that I didn’t see my sister, Oyaniran Atinuke Ruth.
“The incident happened between 1am and 2am. Those people that were kidnaped were directly from our bus. We told the security agency including INEC that we are still looking for six people including my sister. They said we should not worry that we will find them. Up till now, nothing has been done. I was shocked when I read in some newspapers that the kidnapped victims have been rescued. Nothing of such. They contacted us recently, demanding for N50million.
“The kidnappers keep calling us with different numbers. You cannot call them, but they can only call you. They even told us to send them recharge card which we did just because we don’t want them to hurt my sister and every other victim in their custody.”
He, however, called on the government and security agencies to work towards the release of the abducted victims.
The husband of one of the kidnapped victims, Olawafemi Olakanmi, said he last spoke to his wife, Florence Shayo Ajayi, around 12am before the incident occurred.
“I have not slept since my wife was kidnapped on 19th March 2023. I only call on God to set my wife free,” he stated.
All efforts to speak with the state Police Public Relations Officer in Kogi State, SP William Aya, proved abortive as at the time of filing this report as he failed to pick calls or respond to text messages sent to his phone lines.