IGP, Mohammed Abubakar
The scourge called kidnapping hit Enugu State again Wednesday when unknown gunmen kidnapped the Vice-Chancellor of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, (ESUT), Prof. Cyprian Onyeji.
THISDAY checks revealed that the vice-chancellor was abducted at about 11.30am at the university gate, Agbani, while on his way to work.
An eyewitness said the kidnappers, on sighting the VC’s convoy, jumped out of their hiding and started shooting into the air and others appeared from nowhere to attack the convoy. They attacked the police van, deflated its four tyres and fired bullets into the air to scare away anybody from attempting to thwart their operation.
Another account said the five-man kidnap gang laid ambush for their victim at the gate and on sighting his convoy of two cars, his official car and a police van, its members reportedly opened fire on the vehicles, apparently to ward off any resistance.
However, efforts by the three policemen said to be accompanying the vice-chancellor to engage the gunmen in a duel were futile as they succumbed to the superior firepower from the kidnappers.
A source said in the process of the skewed gun duel, the three policemen sustained serious gunshot wounds. The driver of the police van and the vice-chancellor’s orderly were said to be the worst hit as they were shot on the shoulder and neck respectively. The policemen soon surrendered, not wanting to risk further their lives in the operation, especially as they were no match for the assailants. The injured policemen have been taken to an undisclosed hospital for medical treatment.
But whichever account is correct, many have wondered why the university’s internal security personnel did not see or suspect the presence of the assailants who parked their car strategically around the university’s gate, before the arrival of the vice-chancellor’s convoy.
After succeeding in overpowering the police officers, the kidnappers made away with their victim in his own car while their waiting Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) followed suit. It was an operation that barely lasted more than seven minutes. The assailants looked fierce, prepared and determined.
“They held him hostage in his own car before taking him to an unknown destination,” the university Public Relations Officer, Ossy Ugwuoti, told THISDAY.
The Police Public Relations Officer of the Enugu State Police Command, Ebere Amarizu, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, confirming the incident, said the police were already on the trail of the kidnappers.
He said no ransom had been demanded as at the time of filing this report.
Tension and anxiety have started building up on the university campus Wednesday.
Meanwhile, academic activities have been grounded at the university following the abduction. As with all bad news, the story about the kidnap soon spread round the campus within minutes after it happened. And naturally, the tempo of activities in the institution dropped, in deference to the sad development.
According to Ugwuoti, all unions in the school—the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Universities (SSANU) and Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) — have embarked on an indefinite industrial action.
According to him, the unions resolved that they would remain on strike until the vice-chancellor is released. It is believed that the action of the university community will put pressure on the Enugu State Government to intensify the search and rescue of the vice-chancellor.
The kidnappers may have targeted the VC, not necessarily because of his huge financial worth, but essentially because he is a top official of a government institution which raises his socio-economic premium. Businessmen, entrepreneurs, fairly wealthy persons and their family members have largely been victims of kidnapping in the country.
Kidnapping which had initially reduced in most of the South-east states after the killing of Osisi ka Nkwu and the routing of his gang two years ago, seems to be picking up again. Abia and Anambra States had been the worst hit states in the kidnapping menace. Several communities in Anambra State have been harassed by the kidnappers with the serial kidnap of elders and people perceived to have high net worth.
Last week, a gang of kidnappers was rounded up at a hotel in the state, leading to the seal-off of the hotel pending the conclusion of investigation into the circumstances of their presence in the hotel.