Even President Goodluck Jonathan is not immune to the security challenges bedevilling the country, as some gunmen last Sunday, stormed his familyâ€™s compound in Otuoke, Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State and abducted his uncle, 70-year-old Chief Inengite Nitabai.
The incident threw the quiet fishing community into confusion and panic as men of the Nigerian armed forces took over the community in search of the kidnappers. Many were thrown aback by the audacity of the kidnappers since the community had long been under strict military surveillance.
Kidnappings and other forms of violence have been a standing malaise in most parts of Nigeria, where the rich or relations of the rich and influential men of the society are kidnapped and released only after a ransom has been paid. Sometimes, those kidnapped get killed.
THISDAY gathered that the invasion took place at 8.30 pm on Sunday by a 10-man gang. At the time of writing this report, almost 24 hours later, two helicopter gunboats of the Nigerian Air Force were still hovering over the community, apparently in search of the kidnappers.
There was no word yesterday about the fate of the chief nor was a ransom demanded by his abductors.
Nitabai is the traditional head of the compound from which the president hails. He took over from the presidentâ€™s father, and his residence is a few metres away from the heavily guarded residence of the president.
He was said to have been quietly spirited away without firing any gun shot his compound which is located before the Otuoke Bridge, off Otu-Okpoti-Ogbia Road. It could not be confirmed if the gunmen used the waterways or road to smuggle their victim out of the community.
The victim, his wife, sister-in-law and three of his children were in the house when the assailants stormed the compound.
THISDAY further gathered that immediately the 10-man gang gained entry into the chiefâ€™s residence, they rounded up everyone in the building, tied them up and stuffed dirty rags into their mouths, before locking them up in the building.
Before they could break down the door and raise the alarm, the men had made away with the presidentâ€™s uncle.
His sister-in-law, 37-year-old Akinobe Jin, said Silas, one of the sons of the chief, was the first to sight the criminals and tried to raise the alarm.
â€œWe came back from somewhere around 8 pm. Silas was on the verandah doing his assignment, while my in-law, my sister and two other siblings were in the living room.
â€œAfter sometime, Silas came shouting and saying that some people had just entered the compound. As we sprang up to our feet, we were confused because we didn’t know where to run,â€ said Jin.
However, a security source claimed that the incident occurred at about 9 pm and that the armed men used the private vehicle of the abducted traditional head to take him away. The vehicle was later recovered at the neighbouring Onuebum community waterfront.
â€œInformation available to me is that a certain Chief Inegite Nitabai was abducted by 10 gunmen at about 9 pm at Otuoke Community in Ogbia Local Council by using his private vehicle which was later recovered at the Onuebum water front,â€ he said.
The Deputy Commander of the JTF, Commodore Ime Ekpa, and a team of security agents visited the location to assess the crime scene and investigation was still in progress yesterday to unmask the kidnappers and rescue the victim.
The spokesman of the Bayelsa Police Command, Mr. Alex Akhigbe, however denied that there was any family tie between the abducted chief and the president.
He said available preliminary reports had identified the kidnappers, adding that one suspect was in police custody.
Akhigbe said the police report showed that the abducted community leader had made a report at the Kolo Police Station on the illegal sale of his land by some unidentified persons only recently. He however did not divulge if the police were exploring the allegation.
â€œWe have identified those involved and are on their trail. One of the suspects is in our custody. The vehicle also has been recovered. I cannot establish the relationship between the abducted chief and Mr. President,â€ he said.