Precisely on Saturday June 29, 2013, 3 corp members; Ogochi Martins (male), Chijioke Richard (male) and Esther Nwachukwu teaching at Egbolom Comprehensive Secondary School in Rivers State got kidnapped after their lodge was raided by hoodlums.
Hoodlums, it was gathered, that had been monitoring their prey and took them by surprise. Definitely, when the kidnapped corps members were posted to the state, it never for once crossed their mind that they would one day be kidnap victims.
Sadly, it's been more than five days now, nothing cheery has come out of the kidnappers den, except for their demand of N20m as ransom.
A corps member, Raymond (not his real name), who witnessed the invasion of the Ogonokom Corpers’ Lodge told Punch that the bandits came in 20 minutes after they had switched off the generator supplying the entire building with power, armed with local pistols.
Raymond explained that about a dozen of his colleagues, who were in the lodge when the marauders came in at about 12.30am, ran into the bush while four corps members were held and warned not to move.
One of them, a young man, was able to escape from their hold and join his colleagues in the bush.
The incident was said to have lasted about 15 minutes with no security in sight to save the situation.
Though the entire place was dark because we had already put off the generator, we heard their voices as they forced the three corps members away. We learnt that they took them to the waterside, put them in speed boats and sped off.
The waterside is very close to the school and it was easy for the kidnappers to come in and take our colleagues away,” a distraught Raymond disclosed.
He told Saturday PUNCH that the council chairman, Mr. Udi Odum, immediately directed that they should be moved to Ominima Central Corpers’ Lodge, some kilometers away from the riverside where Ogochi, Chijioke and Nwachukwu’s abductors came from.
Another corps member, who preferred not to be named as a result of the standing rule barring them from speaking to newsmen, said they had been living in fear since that night.
He expressed worry that the Ominima Central Corpers’ Lodge was more vulnerable than the one located at the Government Comprehensive Secondary where their colleagues were seized.
According to the Mass Communication graduate, the entire building at the Ominima Central Lodge has no fence and no iron protectors.
You can see for yourself that this place has no fence. Even the doors and windows are without iron protectors. What we see at the front of the building are banana trees and this can only serve as a hideout for kidnappers. It is not a fence.
Since three persons among us were kidnapped, we have not been able to sleep well for the fear of being attacked again. But we are praying for the affected corps members.
But an indigene of the community, who spoke with the Punch correspondent, said kidnapping had become a ‘trade’ in Abua/Odual within the last five months.
He said the kidnappers usually invade the area in speed boats from the waterside, drive a waiting car to the point where they get hold of their victims, return to the river shore and force their victims into standby boats before speeding off to an unknown destination.
On the absence of a fence and a burglary proof at the Ominima Central Corpers’ Lodge, the Public Relations Officer of the National Youth Service Corps in the state, Mrs. Violet Appolo, said the authorities would speak with the Zonal Inspector of the area for immediate action to be taken to ensure the safety of corps members.
When contacted, Abua/Odual Local Government Chairman, Mr. Udi Odum, said there were plans to erect a fence at the new corps members lodge to enhance their security.
He told Saturday PUNCH in a telephone interview that efforts were being made to ensure the kidnapped corp members' release.
We are planning to erect a fence and other necessary things that will ensure the safety of the corps members at Ominima. We had to move them from Ogolokom to Ominima so that they would be far away from the riverside. I pray to God that this (kidnap of three corps members) will be the last in the area.
As I speak with you, we are consulting and talking to both security operatives and leaders in the area to ensure that the corps members are released. It is a pity that the people who came to assist us were kidnapped,”
Also, the State Police Public Relations Officer, Mrs. Angela Agabe, said the command had intensified the search for the three corps members, with a view to ensuring their quick release.
Agabe promised that no stone would be left unturned in ensuring that the corps members regain their freedom.