…As NDLEA destroys 40 hectares of hemp plantation in Oyo state***
Mr Samson Raphael, an Immigration officer, has lauded the Nigerian Navy for rescuing him and three of his colleagues from kidnappers in Rivers.
Raphael, a Senior Immigration Inspector from the Rivers Marine Command, Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) in Onne, Rivers, was abducted alongside three others by suspected militants on Tuesday.
The other victims are: Peter Ofili, Asuquo Ededet and Hafiz Moyi.
The officer, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, said in Port Harcourt on Thursday that they were kidnapped while travelling onboard a speed boat.
“We left Bonny Island onboard a speed boat for an official assignment in Onne. On our way to Onne, we were apprehended by gunmen at about 8 a.m. on Tuesday.
“Immediately the kidnappers stopped our boat, they pointed their guns at us and threatened to shoot if we did not cooperate.
“Thereafter, they forcefully took us and sailed the sea for about 10 endless hours before we arrived their camp.”
He said that they were kept in a hut after they arrived the kidnappers’ camp in a dense mangrove forest.
“Later, our abductors told us that they will contact our superiors to demand for our ransom. They threatened to bury us alive if NIS and our families failed to cooperate.
“Thankfully, they were unable to carry out their threats due to the timely intervention by troops of the Nigerian Navy that raided the camp on Wednesday.
“On the day of our rescue, we heard heavy gunshots and immediately laid flat on the floor. We suspected that such superior fire power could come only from security agencies.
“Afterwards, we saw naval operatives shooting and pursuing the fleeing captors. Later some navy personnel came to where we were held and rescued us,” he said.
Capt. Adegoke Ebo, Executive Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, said the navy had immediately deployed gunboats after learning of the abduction.
Ebo handed over the victims to personnel of the Police Command in Rivers.
“After we learnt of the abductions and gathered available intelligence, we conducted a clearance operation on Nov. 13 at the suspected militant camp in Ikelekele, Rivers.
“The operation, comprised of a combined officers and men of NNS Pathfinder and Navy Forward Operating Base (FOB) Bonny, successfully rescued the NIS officers without any casualty.”
He said items recovered from the militant camp included one Pump action rifle, a locally made gun, 7.62mm ammunition, hammers, cutters and several mobile phones.
“We were unable to make any arrest as the suspects escaped from the camp during the raid. However, we saw traces of blood that suggested that some of them sustained gunshot injuries.
“To this end, a search is currently ongoing with a view to locate and apprehend the hoodlums that fled the camp.
“We urge the public to report any suspicious person with gunshot wounds, particularly, those living in communities where the militant camp exist, to the nearest police station,” he appealed.
Also speaking, the Comptroller of NIS Marine Command in Onne, Rivers, Mrs Elizabeth Inok, commended the navy for the timely response to its distress call.
She said the rescue confirmed the long held belief of professional capabilities and expertise of the Nigerian Navy to effectively secure the waterways from illegalities.
“On behalf of the Comptroller General of NIS, Muhammad Babandede, we are delighted that our officers have been returned to us alive and without injuries.”
In the meantime, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA),Command in Oyo State, on Thursday destroyed over 40 hectares of hemp plantation in Abatade in Oluyole Local Government Area (LGA) of the state.
Addressing newsmen during the exercise, the state NDLEA Commander, Mr Ralph Igwenagu, said the command had previously destroyed six hectares of plantation in Ibarapa LGA of the state.
Igwenagu said the discovery of the plantation was an indication that a good number of farmers in the state engaged in cultivation of hemp.
The commander said five suspects have been arrested in connection with the plantation while investigation was on to arrest others.
Igwenagu said the agency was not only determined to destroy hemp plantations, but to also reduce its trafficking and abuse to the barest minimum in the state.
He called on community leaders not to give their land for cultivation of illicit substances.
“The owners of the plantation are not from the village but they got the land from the village head.
“If the villagers refused to give them the land, the people will not get land to cultivate again and eventually they will leave the illegal business,” he said.
He urged members of the community to always report to the agency anytime they noticed farmlands being used for hemp cultivation.
Mr Mutiat Okuwobi, the state’s Public Relations’ Officer of the agency, said the command would continue to monitor farmland to prevent cultivation of hemp.