This is one too many since the turn of the year in Calabar, Cross River State. The fear of kidnappings is so strong it is altering life in the serene and peace city of Calabar. And the target these days seem to be thriving businessmen.
Barely 48 hours after five spare-parts dealers were kidnapped in Cross Rivers State two weeks ago, another businessman, Mr. Sunday Ekanem, Chief Executive Officer of Akito Rentals, was last week kidnapped at his residence in Atu Street, off Academy in Calabar South Local Government Area of Cross River. Ekanem’s kidnap was the second in his life, having been abducted before in November 2014.
Earlier, five Igbo businessmen had been abducted by hoodlums within three weeks this year in Calabar metropolis, causing fear among the Igbo community in the state. While one Ifeanyi and Lazarus, spare-parts dealers, were kidnapped two weeks ago, an electrical parts’ dealer and contractor popularly known as ‘But Why’ was whisked away in late January. The victims were kidnapped at their shops at Victor-Akan Street off Bedwell, all in Calabar South.
Heckled by the string of abductions despite assurances of safety from the state government, businessmen and traders in Calabar, are planning to close down shops for one week in protest against the spate of kidnapping in the state. Already the disturbed traders and businessmen have declared the state not safe for business, as security situation seems to have collapsed irretrievably.
A briefing by Concerned Businessmen Forum (CBF) at weekend, said the proposed shut down of all shops and business premises for at least one week in the state is to press home their demands for provision of adequate security in the state and government immediate clampdown on kidnappers that have made Calabar their safe haven.
It would be recalled that doctors in the state under the auspices of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) had last month down tools over the kidnap of their colleagues, Dr. Usang Ekanem and Dr. Emem Udoh, within a period of one week forcing the state government to enter into meetings with the association on the way forward.
Kidnapping was not common in the state but since 2015, activities of kidnappers have become a reoccurring decimal forcing some businesses to close or leave the state as witnessed in 2017 .
It is a commonplace that over 15 persons, which include motor spare-parts dealers, building material merchants, oil marketers, contractors, transporters, pharmacists, doctors and others have been kidnapped in Calabar and its environs between December 2017 and February this year with victims paying huge amount as ransom.
In the briefing at weekend, spokesperson of the forum, Chief Innocent Anyamelukwe, said it has become imperative for the traders and businessmen to take to the streets to protest against the incessant kidnapping and extortion of ransom running into millions of naira from businessmen by gunmen in recent times.
Anyamelukwe said the Igbos, which dominate the spare-parts, building materials and electrical appliances business chain, and are hard hit, have agreed to close shops once the date is announced and other businessmen and women have also agreed to join the fight against kidnapping.
He said: “Over 10 prominent sons have been abducted so far and millions of naira paid as ransom. Most of the victims pay between N500,000 and N20 million to secure their release from the kidnappers’ den even when injuries are inflicted on them. We have been made victims of kidnap in the state in the last one year and made to pay dearly to these hoodlums in the last couple of months. Unfortunately, nobody cares about our plight.
“As we speak, one Mr. Paulinus Obi, popularly known as Matata, and Emmanuel Ozokwu, an electrical contractor, and one Sunday Ekanem, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Akito Rentals are said to still be in kidnappers den for over a week now. We are now preys in the hands of criminals and everybody seem not to bother even when we pay our taxes.
“In this light, we have, therefore, resolved to shut down all shops on a day to be announced so as to attract attention and to see how this security lapse can be tackled. We will enforce the closure to press home our demand to stop the kidnapping”.
Also speaking, the coordinator of Onye Agala Nwanneya, a socio-cultural group, Amaechi Uwalaka, claimed that government has paid deaf ear to the plight of Ndi Igbo in Calabar with regard to kidnapping. He advised government to set up security posts and surveillance team at Nelson Mandella, Bassey Duke, Bedwell, Chamley, Target and White House to track down these hoodlums.
The state’s Security Adviser, Mr. Jude Ngaji, had recently reassured citizens of safety, saying security has been beefed up at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital as well as other public health institutions in Calabar and other places.
He said: “We have discovered that we have made the town too hot for them that they have relocated to neighbouring communities. What we have done, especially for the doctors and we intend to do for all corporate organisations, is that the governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, has approved a 24-hour security services for doctors in the teaching hospital and other hospitals.”