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By Emmanuel Unah, Calabar
Between April and June this year, criminals virtually held residents of the state captive as they carried out kidnap, armed robbery and rape in broad daylight. There was palpable fear amongst the residents as businesses, nightlife; even social events like weddings, burials, naming ceremonies were put on hold or done in a hurry to beat raids by the rampaging criminals.
Virtually every one with a reasonable financial base or considered rich enough was either abducted, attacked or threatened at some point. Most affected were pastors of major churches, big businessmen and university teachers whom the hoodlums believe stashed cash at home or carried large sums of money around.
Igbo traders as victims
Most affected by the crime wave were Igbo traders in the city. The situation got so bad that they had to cry out to the governor of the state, Senator Ben Ayade and the Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Abasi Otu, for help as they seemed the major targets of the criminals who daily kidnap their members to extort ransom or raided their shops to cart away large sums of money.
The Vice President of the Igbo community in the state, Mr. Rufus Eze, who led fellow Igbo traders to the Obong said that 80 per cent of kidnapped victims in the state were Igbo traders. According to him, “It has become worrisome that the Igbos are the target of the kidnappers. When they kidnap, they will make family members of their victim to go and borrow money, sell his or her belongings to pay ransom. We are appealing to the state government, traditional and religious leaders to help us. We came here to do business and not to be kidnapped and forced to pay ransom,”
Angry monarch reacts
The monarch who was furious at the level of criminality in the state, in his response stated that Calabar was known for its peaceful and serene nature and cannot afford to be home to kidnappers, hence the need for security agencies in the state to rise up to the challenge and curb the ugly trend.
“In the last three months, it looks as if a particular set of kidnappers have targeted the Igbo to carry out their ugly business. As a king of the Efik Kingdom, I cannot fold my hands and watch this unfortunate situation to continue. We must look at this issue critically and find a way of curtailing it. These kidnappers are not ghosts, they live among us and we must fish them out to the security agencies,” he said.
Police reassure residents
Also worried by the state of affairs in the state, Governor Ben Ayade, challenged the criminals in a state wide broadcast. “We know you by names, where you are, your modus operandi and your agents and we are coming after you” Ayade warned the hoodlums.” After the broadcast, the police seemed to wake up to their responsibilities as they carried out massive raids on criminal hideouts with several of them arrested.
Thereafter, police patrols and check points returned in all parts of the state and like a typhoon stopped on its tracks, the crime rate came down to almost zero. The hoodlums were either arrested or had to run for their lives. The new Police Commissioner, Jimoh Ozi Obe who was therefore posted to the state to replace Mr Henry Fadairo, re-assured the residents that the police will do everything to secure their lives and property.
“We have carried out raids on the hideouts of several cultists, kidnappers and armed robbers and these paid off as we have arrested about thirty six of them. All of them will soon appear in court.” The police boss said peace is gradually returning to the state capital and warned miscreants and criminals to stay away from the city because every one of them would soon be arrested and brought to justice. ‘They can relocate to other states and I don’t know which state would want to receive them but for Calabar, we will not rest until we pick everyone of them and bring them to justice.” The raids and arrests continued and normalcy is beginning to return to the city.
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