By Joseph Kingston, Calabar
Few months after the Cross River state security outfits, Operation Akpakwu, made life unbearable for robbers and kidnappers with tens of them arrested and some killed, the dare-devil criminals seem to have returned to Calabar.
Checks indicated that their recent activities were forcing residents of the ancient city to now sleep with one eye open for fear.
Our reporter gathered that, at least, 10 high-profile kidnappings had taken place within the past few weeks, with the latest victims being Dominic Akwa Edem, former House of Assembly Deputy Speaker and Ben Ukpepi, Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, who has been in captivity for the past 43 days.
Another recent victim is a 58-year-old Etubom Nto Okon Etim, a traditional ruler in Esuk Atu village in Calabar Municipal Council, who was kidnapped last Friday.
An eyewitness, who preferred not to be named, said the chief was kidnapped at about 11.50 pm and that he was the fourth person in that axis to have passed through such ordeal within the last couple of months.
He disclosed that the kidnappers had, on Sunday, reached out to Chief Etim’s family to demand N5million ransom
He said: “The abductors called on Sunday to demand N5 million. Within a period of 4 months, the youth leader’s wife, who sells meat, was kidnapped and a ransom of N700, 000 was paid before she was released,
“The kidnappers came and carted away two cows. Another person who works at the University of Calabar (Unical) was also kidnapped alongside his wife. N500, 000 was paid as ransom.
“Another person who does sand business at our beach here was also abducted and money was paid before he was released. Our people are now living in fear. We are appealing to Operation Akpakwu security operatives to extend their services to us.”
Also speaking, the victim’s wife, Arit Nto Okon Etim, said “The kidnappers came to our house at Esuk Atu, shot sporadically, inflicted injuries on my husband before they took him away. They passed through the creeks and, on Sunday, they called us to demand N5m.
“We don’t have such money. We are appealing to government and the security agencies to come to our help and ensure that my husband is rescued.”
The police public relations officer for Cross River, DSP Irene Ugbo, could not pick her calls despite several attempts.
However, most of those our reporter spoke with over the rising cases of kidnapping feared that the menace was gradually shattering the peace of Calabar and, therefore, appealed to Operation Akpakwu to rediscover the tactics and zeal they used in making criminal elements run out of the town a few months ago.