•Govt offers reward to public for information on kidnappers
Amby Uneze in Owerri
If they keep to their promise, Owerri, the Imo State capital, will witness a new scene today. Notable names in Nollywood will converge on the town; not to shoot any film, but to show their displeasure with the spate of kidnapping in the state and the country in general.
The kidnapping on Sunday in Owerri of one of their colleagues, Ms. Nkiru Sylvanus, Special Assistant on Public Affairs to Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, triggers the planned protest. Until her appointment, Sylvanus was a screen diva.
The film stars are planning to hold the protest under the umbrella of Actors’ Guild of Nigeria (AGN), which has begun to mobilise for the march on the state.
The news of her kidnapping had caused panic and tension within the state capital.
The actors’ guild is mobilising their members and other members of the public to participate in the protest march today so it can pressure the kidnappers to forsake their ways, and more importantly release Sylvanus.
The news of her abduction had started with some denials and doubts.
For instance, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Chinedu Offor, and the state Chairman of the AGN, Chief Chibueze Umez, as well as the state’s Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Vitalis Onugu, had dismissed the incident as hoax.
Offor while responding to enquiries by THISDAY on the matter said that there was nothing like that.
But apparently after receiving further briefing on the incident, they reversed themselves. Offor later sent a text message confirming the incident.
In the short text message sent, he said: “The government of Imo State is aware of the kidnap of the Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Nkiru Sylvanus. All security agencies in the state are doing everything possible to get her back safely.”
He said the kidnappers had contacted certain government officials, adding that government would offer a substantial reward to anyone with useful information about her whereabouts.
However, unconfirmed reports say the kidnappers have made a demand of N100 million ransom.
The PPRO of the Imo State Command is yet to confirm the report but promised to get back as soon as the report of the incident reaches his office.
But Umez told THISDAY that the actress had a brush with the suspected kidnappers but was later released on Sunday.
He told THISDAY that the South-east Vice-President of the guild, Mr. Iyke Ezenagu, is expected to lead the protest march across major streets within the state capital.
Another actor, who preferred anonymity, told THISDAY that the incident was quite clumsy as those who trailed Sylvanus to an undisclosed hotel could not succeed as she (Sylvanus) noticed their moves on time and disguised herself, adding that she was in hiding and had decided to switch off her phones.
“Ble-Ble”, as she is fondly called, given the character of Blessing she played in A Cry for Help, the video film which launched her to limelight, was said to have been serving the state government in the Lagos Liaison Office previously, but she was recently redeployed to Owerri, necessitating her relocation to the state.
The determination to lead the protest, the actors reasoned, is because if the trend is not halted, they (actors) will soon become endangered species who will be abducted indiscriminately by the kidnappers.
They fear that their freedom of movement will be curtailed if they become prime targets for kidnappers.
Fear has gripped other actors and actresses who arrived in Owerri at the weekend to shoot a movie under the invitation of their kidnapped colleague.
One of the actors who did not want to be named said: “They forget that all they see is the mere glamour of the tube, which is a façade created by the act of drama. We do not have the money or status they see us act in the films. Actors are normal people also struggling to earn a living. So tell them (kidnappers) that like them, we are also struggling to make ends meet.”