A journalist with The PUNCH Newspaper in Nigeria, Okechukwu Nnodim, was on February 3, 2021, kidnapped at his home at Arab Road, Kubwa, Abuja by gunmen who demanded money.
According to the journalist’s wife, Oluchi, the incident took place when her husband was working on his laptop.
Oluchi narrated that the gunmen, who were five in number, scaled the fence of their house around 11 pm, entered their compound, and ordered them to open the door.
She said the attackers fired several shots at the windows, pulled down the burglar-proof iron at the entrance, after which they forced the front door open. They then took him away when he failed to comply with their demand for money.
“The gunmen demanded that my husband give them money, but he told them that he did not have any money in the house,” she said. When Nnodim could not give the gunmen any money, Oluchi said they collected his and her phones and then took the journalist away.
MFWA learnt that the gunmen also abducted two people in the neighbourhood.
There were reports that the kidnappers had demanded a ransom of N10 million (USD$26,000) before releasing Nnodim.
The police spokesperson for the Federal Capital Territory, Ms Mariam Yusuf, on Friday told MFWA that the police had launched a rescue operation for Nnodim and the two others. But she was silent on the issue of ransom.
“We have launched a rescue operation to ensure the safe return of the victims and arrest the perpetrators,” she said via a text.
Meanwhile, this was not the first time a journalist was kidnapped in Nigeria in recent times.
In January 2020, a journalist with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Maxwell Nashan, died at the hospital following his abduction from his home in Adamawa State. He was found half-dead with several lacerations on his body.
Also, in May 2020, a journalist with the FRCN, Chinenye Iwuoha, was kidnapped in Umuahia, Abia State.
The President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Chris Isiguzo, in an interview with MFWA, condemned Nnodim’s abduction and demanded his freedom.
“We ask the people behind the heinous act to release our colleague because he does not have the wherewithal to pay any ransom, and I don’t think he offended anyone to warrant his kidnap,” Isiguzo said.
“At the same time, we ask the security agencies to work hard to ensure Nnodim is released unhurt as soon as possible. The government must ensure those behind this act are brought to justice,” the NUJ President added.
In Nigeria, kidnapping for ransom is a huge business as in recent years. A 2020 report by research firm SB Morgen (SBM) showed that between 2011 and 2020, over $18 million was paid in ransom to kidnappers by their victims. Out of this figure, SBM stated that around $11 million was paid between 2016 and 2020, which makes it appear that kidnapping has become a burgeoning industry.
The situation has added to the climate of insecurity in the country already in the grip of insurgents’ attacks in the north, and the increasing journalists’ victims is a serious concern to the media and press freedom organisations.
In the face of the increasing insecurity, the country’s service chiefs last week resigned their appointments, after several months of citizens’ calls for them to do so for failure to tackle the menace of terrorism and banditry.
President Muhammadu Buhari has immediately named new service chiefs, urging them to win the war against kidnapping and other forms of insecurity in the country.
The MFWA condemns the kidnapping of Okechukwu Nnodim and demand his immediate release. We urge Nigeria’s security and intelligence services to do everything possible to get the journalists released to return to his family and resume his work.