Chidiebube Okeoma, Owerri
Some gunmen on Wednesday kidnapped five members of the National Youth Service Corps who were travelling to their orientation camps in Akwa Ibom and Rivers states.
Two other passengers on the bus conveying the corps members were also kidnapped.
The fresh graduates and the other victims were travelling from Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, to Rivers and Akwa Ibom states where they were billed to undertake their three-week NYSC orientation.
They were kidnapped on the Owerri-Port Harcourt Expressway and taken to the Umuapu forest in the Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State.
Briefing journalists after the victims were rescued by the police, the Commissioner of Police in charge of the Imo State Police Command, Dasuki Galadanchi, said the kidnappers established contact with the families of the corps members and demanded N5m ransom.
The CP gave the names of the corps members as Abiola Temitope, Olubisi Adekanmi, Jose Temitayo, Folarin Opeyemi and Shonibare Ademola.
Other victims were identified as Leonard Uzondu and Raymond Ojodahe.
The CP said, “The victims were travelling from Ibadan to Port Harcourt. Five out of the seven of them are prospective corps members. They were on their way to the NYSC orientation camps in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states for the three weeks camping.
“They were kidnapped around 5am on Wednesday at Umuapu, on the Owerri-Port-Harcourt Expressway. The kidnappers took them to a forest and dispossessed them of all their belongings, including money, phones, ATM cards and voter cards.
“They compelled them to call their relatives at home to speak to them. Immediately contact was established, they instilled fear in the parents and demanded N5m for their freedom.”
The CP explained that through intelligence gathering, the operatives of the Counter Terrorism Unit of the command were alerted.
He said, “The operatives went into the bush and on sighting the officers, the kidnappers abandoned their victims and fled. We rescued them unhurt, but the hoodlums made away with their valuables.
“This is part of the dividends of community policing. I urge Imo State residents to keep sharing information with the police. We cannot do it alone.”
Galadanchi said he had ordered investigation into the incident with a view to arresting the fleeing suspects.
One of the victims, Abiola, said, “They stopped our bus and ordered us at gunpoint to follow them into the forest. They were five with guns and machetes.
“In the bush, they took our belongings except our credentials and ordered us to call our parents. They made a demand of N5m, but they later brought it down to N3m.
“They ordered us to close our eyes. They were even quarrelling on how to share our personal belongings which they took from us. It was in the process that the police intervened and they abandoned us and ran away.”