By Etim Etim
I am elated to learn that Justice Joy Isaiah Unwana has been released by the kidnappers after six days in captivity. She was abducted last Monday on her way from Oron where she serves as a High Court judge. Receiving her at Government House yesterday, Gov. Umo Eno thanked the Commissioner for Internal Security, Gen. Koko Essien (rtd) and the security services for rising to the occasion to secure the judge’s freedom. It is notable that Eno has pledged to bring the kidnappers to book. We are watching.
I hope that her driver who was taken with her had also been freed. Again, my condolences to the family of her police orderly who lost his life during the kidnap operation. What a sad story!
I understand that the kidnappers had initially asked for a N50 million payment. It’s not yet clear how much the government eventually paid to secure her release. Kidnapping for ransoms has become a big organized crime in Nigeria. A former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai recently said that even politicians and highly placed persons are profiting from it.
I should also thank the NBA, judges and other judiciary workers for taking action and fighting for one of their own. Clearly, Mr. Umo Eno was under intense pressure and for a state that likes to describe itself as ‘’Nigeria’s best kept secret’’, this case was an indescribable embarrassment. The abductors went for a high-value target. They should answer for their crime.
I commend the governor and the security agencies for the alacrity with which they approached the matter. I had stated in my last article that the manner in which Gov. Eno tackles the abduction of the judge will reveal the essential character of his administration. I have made my deductions.
But it continues to sadden me that those eight Akwa Ibom young persons who were kidnapped in Zamfara State last August on their way to NYSC orientation camp in Sokoto are still in captivity. The SSG, Mr. Enobong Uwah, had informed me last month that ‘’something is being done in conjunction with sister states and security agencies’’. He noted that the government will not negotiate directly with the kidnappers, ‘’otherwise it would become a viral activity’’. I get that. But it is difficult to understand why all the efforts have yielded no results.
Yesterday, some Akwa Ibom people held a peaceful demonstration in Abuja to drum up support for the rescue of these would-be corps members. I commend their efforts. But why are our prominent and influential citizens so unconcerned about these children? Is it because they are from poor homes? Would there not have been an outrage and outcries if these children were from families of commissioners, judges, ministers or senior politicians?
In September, a family member of one of the abducted children said in a newspaper interview that the families had collectively contributed N13 million and paid to the kidnappers, but that they are demanding N200 million before the children are released.
I wish to plead with Pastor Eno to step into this matter and pay whatever ransom is needed to free these children. They have suffered enough. I pray that they come out alive. If we could pay handsomely for the release of the judge, there’s no reason and moral justification to abandon these children to their fate in the bushes of Northwestern Nigeria. In fact, the point that the children are from poor families makes a more compelling argument for government’s intervention. After all, a government does not exist to cater for the elites alone.
Pastor Umo Eno has often told us that he comes from a modest background; and that he understands what it means to be in want. I actually like him for his apparent humility, simplicity and knack to demystify government. May I also state that I also come from a humble beginning and that I really feel for these children and their families. I can imagine their agonies and anguish.
I pray for them and I urge the governor to go beyond the ordinary and get them out in the next one week. Their lives, dignity and value matter more than millions of naira.
Etim is a Journalist and Political Analyst based in Abuja