Who will rescue the poor teachers, the NYSC member and School labourer of Rundele High School, Agba -Ndele in Emohua Local government area of Rivers State who were presently held by their abductors in spite of their ransom being reduced from N25million to N8million? Paul Obiajunwo who visited the school and community reports that the journey to the victims’ freedom is uncertain.
The kidnapped teachers of Rundele High School in Agba Ndele community, Emohua Local government area of Rivers are still vulnerable at the unknown kidnappers den after three weeks of their abduction. The gunmen on October 12th 2015 while class activities were going on invaded the school through the River linking them to Abuah and Abonnema and abducted two teachers, Christie Mbadigwe and Martha, the school labouer Mr. Joseph Dimkpa Wofurum and a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member simply identified as Azubuike.
One of the teachers Mr. Awute Sylvester Denis who is still nursing his wound after being given the beating of his life for trying to resist abduction said he was asked to go back by the abductors’ commander because he was seriously bleeding. He noted that he has every reason to thank God for not being among those held by the abductors.
Denis, in his earlier interview granted to this reporter said when the gunmen arrived the school premises they were shooting sporadically. “At a time they surrounded me with their arms, they told me not to run. I made an attempt to run through the window. When I got to the other side I met another person. The one that told me not to run became angry and hit me with the gun and I felled down. He told me to follow them, on getting to the water side where they had their speed boat ready. Their leader saw how I was bleeding and became angry over their action on me. Luckily he told them to search me and take away everything I had. So they took away my phone, the money I had on me and asked me to go. And they took the other victim entered the speed boat and left. I think the community needs to do something about the insecurity of the area if teachers would continue teaching in that community.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Azubike an NYSC member who was serving at Rundele High School in Agba Ndele community was and still in kidnappers’ den when his colleagues passed out from the service two weeks ago, though the authority of Rivers State NYSC Secretariat, and the Ministry of Education has pleaded with the family of the kidnapped victims to be patient as to enable the security agency fish out the culprits.
However, the gunmen two weeks ago have agreed to free the victims with a ransom of N 25 million which was later reduced to N8million but have insisted according to the community leaders that the teachers would not be set free for less than N8million. Now, the question is which of the victims held by the kidnappers can afford one million naira?
But the Chairman, Community Development Committee (CDC) Elder Ikechi Chimezie who spoke on behalf of the chiefs and elders of the community said they are working hard to free the victims from the hands of their abductors. He noted that if nothing is done to free the teachers the community will lead a protest to block the East-west road.
He called on the government to assist the community to ensure the freedom of the victims and the reopening of the school to allow the students continue with their studies. He said the only remedy now is putting hands together with the elders, the youths, the CDC everybody as to reason out the way forward to get these people free.
The CDC Chairman said the school is the only government presence in their community, “that school is the only thing we have in this community and now that the school has been shut down. All the teachers are packing out of the community; the community cannot get anything good again. Imagine since the incident took place the school automatically close down and the children are no longer going to school. And if the gunmen succeed in closing down this school permanently what would be the hope of our children, they will have to trek from this community to the next which is about three or four miles away. For children to go to school with that distance it’s not possible.”
Elder Chimezie also revealed that even if the ransom is reduced to two million the community or the victims’ families cannot afford to contribute or pay, adding that the best option is to release the victims unconditionally.
“We cannot afford the N8million ransom which the gunmen have insisted is the highest they can negotiate or they close down the school permanently. But we are pleading with them that we cannot pay such amount. The two teachers receives meager salaries, the poor labourer’s condition is the worst, so where do we get the money. The community has sent letters to governor Wike, Rivers Police Command, the State Security Service (SSS) and School Board begging them to assist us but as I am talking to you now none of them have replied us. So we have decided to carry out a peaceful protest as a way to create awareness over our plight. Though we got signal that our delegation is going to brief us at the weekend on their discussion with the ministry of education but we will no longer sit on the fence to allow our school close down and children suffer because of the recent development we must do something to cry out for our plight.”
Some of the NYSC members serving in the state who spoke to The Nation in Port Harcourt said the issue of abduction of corps members serving in Rivers State is becoming alarming. They however demanded for unconditional release of their colleague.
A corps member, Emmanuel Baba, Accounting graduate said, “I felt so sad when I heard about the news of his kidnap. We were doing counting and everybody was jubilating when the news broke. We are praying to God and calling on the kidnappers to release our colleague unconditionally.”
Another corps member, Ononogbo Chibuike, a Mathematics graduate said, “The government should provide adequate security in all the corpers’ lodge. Sometimes they post us to places where we cannot understand their security challenges. I want to beg the government to assist in the release of the kidnapped corps member.
Nigerian Democratic Awareness Forum (NIDAF), a non- governmental organization in the state while reacting on the kidnapped saga accused the NYSC state coordinator of lack of seriousness in fighting for the freedom the kidnapped corps member.
The leader of the group, Comrade Obiajunwo Paul said, “We are not happy over the nonchalant attitude of the NYSC state coordinator; they have done nothing to create awareness to the public on how the kidnapped corps would regain freedom. We will not take it for granted if NYSC fails to show a serious concern.”
The Public Relations officer of NYSC Rivers State Mrs. Violet Apolo said there is no way anybody could accused NYSC of not showing concern with something that has to do directly with them, she noted that with the level they have shown commitment so far it would be wrong for her to speak further on the matter.
The Rivers State Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO) Mohammad Ahmad, a Deputy Superintendent of Police said the command is aware of the incident, adding that they will do everything within their powers to safely rescue the victims.
Speaking further on the abducted teachers, Hon. Lucky Worluh, an educationalist from the area described the abduction saga as a long time crisis affecting the area. “The same community Agba Ndele has produced prominent personalities. The worst thing now is that if teaching and learning is not going on there then there will be crisis. There will be break down of law and order. These things are not only happening in Agba Ndele and Rumuekpe those along the harbour line have the same problem like Abuah and Degema which were affected before now because of militancy. We don’t need any miracles; I think the opinion leaders and royal highnesses are supposed to speak because they are the custodian of the rules and traditions of the people.
Rundele today, the level of unemployment and underemployment is very high, there is no company around that area to take care of those that graduated from the university, college of education and secondary schools.
“The former administration in Rivers state did so well in building schools, Governor Amaechi left office not long than six months ago and now they are kidnapping teachers. Any society that kidnaps a teacher is a gone society. What is happening here in Rivers state is not happening anywhere in the world even in Iraq. Go and check all the bombings and killings going on they did not touch teachers, it is a noble profession and teachers are noble people. The Odili’s regime recorded the worst educational system and it is still affecting us up till now. We must put to an end all these things so that we will know what led to what so when the time comes for Rivers people to select their leaders we should be able to vote people who can represent us.”
Hon. Worluh, a former Board member of Universal Basic Education (UBE) under Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi said the security agencies in the state have not done enough in regard to the freedom of the abducted teachers.
He noted that because of the porous nature of security in the area teachers have always fallen victims of kidnapping, “Because of the oil and gas deposit in the area, Rivers state and the federal government owes us a responsibility to provide security. This is not the first time kidnapping is taking place in that same community and nobody has come to our aid. I’ve not heard that there was the presence of the security agency in that community. Two nights ago another teacher was kidnapped from her house, there is no presence of security agency trying to find out from the royal highness and support them. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop; if the children don’t go to school they will look for another school whether formal or informal. They will learn how to steal which for them is part of school, even learning how to kidnap and robbing. I have spoken before that this institution shouldn’t be brought down, we are putting more concentration in Boko Haram. What is happening in Rivers state today and in my community is worst than Boko Haram.”