From Okey Sampson, Aba
Residents of Abia State, particularly those living in the commercial hub of Aba went through hell between 2009 and 2010, when kidnapping for ransom reached its crescendo in the state.
Abia State had its fair share of the new crime now turned into business when in 2006, a young man from Ugwuati in Ukwa West Local Government of the state, Obioma Nwankwo a.k.a Osisikankwu popularized kidnapping in Abia.
Osisikankwu then bestrode the landscape of Abia, especially its Southern zone like a Trojan horse, leaving on his trail kidnappings, killings, maiming and raping of young women.
Kidnapping in Abia State got to its peak in 2009 when five school children of a private school were kidnapped as they were travelling in their school bus.
It was one kidnap too many. The public outcry which trailed this particular incident forced the Federal Government which hitherto had remained docile over this menace, to send soldiers to the troubled area, which made normalcy to return sometime.
This new crime which made many prominent men and women to flee from Aba when it was at its zenith is gradually returning as there have been pockets of reported cases of kidnapping in the state.
Piqued by this resurgence, on January 26, 2016, Hon. Ossy Prestige the member representing Aba North and South Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives as a way of drawing Federal Government’s action to the menace moved a motion on the floor of the House drawing attention to the spate of kidnappings and other violent crimes in his constituency.
While presenting the motion, Hon Prestige presented what could be termed a graphic picture of how kidnapping nearly brought Aba to its knees and the fear by many now that the city might face similar situation if nothing was urgently done by the Federal Government.
The motion, Daily Sun gathered, was referred to the House Committee on Army of which the sponsor is a member to look at it critically and clinically and bring back their findings to the whole House.
In tandem with that mandate, the Committee on Army recently visited Abia State and Aba in particular for two days for a fact finding tour.
During the visit, the committee members met with critical stakeholders in the state, including the state governor, Dr. Okezzie Ikpeazu, members of the state House of Assembly and heads of security establishments in the state.
The visit ended with a town hall meeting in Aba where residents relayed their experiences over the years on kidnapping and other violent crime.
Speaker after speaker called on the Federal Government to address the development urgently by adequately funding the police and other security agencies and equipping them with hi-tech security gadgets, frequent transfer of security personnel posted to the state and Aba in particular to avoid undue compromise.
An Aba-based lawyer, Victor Chima Nwaugo, described kidnapping incidents in Aba as “it’s in one day, too many kidnapping incidents,” saying that more than 10 lawyers have been kidnapped in the recent past.
Speaking to journalists at the end of the town hall meeting in Aba, leader of the team, Hon Rimamnde Shawulu Kwewom said their visit to the state, which was the direct fallout of the motion moved by the lawmaker representing Aba North and South Federal Constituency, Ossy Prestige, was worth their visit.
“Our mandate is on the spate of kidnappings, armed robbery and killings in Aba. What we have come to do is on-the-spot assessment. We have come to investigate and to find out facts as were ascertained in the motion moved by the lawmaker representing Aba North and South Federal Constituency (Ossy Prestige) on the floor of the House that there is indeed the problem of kidnapping, armed robbery and other violent crimes in Aba.
“So far, we have met with the state (Abia) House of Assembly members, the security chiefs and we decided to come down to Aba to meet with the people of Aba and to hear from them. Of course, we have heard the things that they said and we are waiting for those who could not speak to us to send in their presentations through the email that we have given out on the situation as we have it in Aba”.
Kwewom disclosed that the second leg of the motion was for the House to look at the role communication companies in the area could play in tracking down the criminals who perpetrate these acts, stressing that they were yet to meet with the telecom companies and the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) in that regard.
Appreciating the aggregate opinion, Kwewom noted that the challenge was not as bad as it was in 2009 and 2010, but stated, however, that his committee would take their findings back to the House.
He urged residents of the city to corporate with the police and other security agencies in the fight against the menace.
Also speaking, an elated Hon Prestige thanked his constituents for coming out en masse even at short notice to bare their minds on the ugly situation in the state.
He assured the people of Aba North and Aba South Federal Constituency and indeed all Abians that he was going to do all within his powers to ensure that the report of the committee would see the light of the day and called for their continued support.