By Cullen Browder, WRAL presenter/reporterFor nearly two years, WRAL Investigates has been covering the mental…
The Nigerian Navy said it rescued seven male victims who were abducted on May 10 by sea pirates off Bonny Island in Rivers.
The Tide’s source reports that the seven passengers were transiting to Port Harcourt from Bonny when their commercial vessel was intercepted and the victims abducted by pirates.
Commodore Suleiman Ibrahim, Commanding Officer of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, Port Harcourt presented the rescued victims to reporters on Tuesday at the Navy Headquarters in Port Harcourt.
He said the kidnappers, after intercepting the commercial boat, diverted it to an unknown location inside the state’s thick swamp forest.
“After the pirates abducted the passengers on May 10 along Bonny Channel near Yellow Platform, we (NNS Pathfinder) immediately mobilized and began tracking to identify the kidnappers.
“Through intelligence gathering, we were able to identify a certain Mr. Victor Padei, whose intelligence revealed that he orchestrated the abductions.
“Afterwards, we mobilized troops and stormed his camp (at Rivers). Unfortunately, by the time we arrived at the camp, Padei had already moved in with his victims.
“Padei knows the terrain very well and he deploys his local informants who give him information on the movement of troops,” he said.
Ibrahim further said that a reconnaissance was carried out to determine the whereabouts of the fleeing kidnappers, which revealed that the suspects had been transferred to another camp in Bayelsa.
“Again, we mobilized personnel in conjunction with our naval base in Bayelsa to attack the camp of the kidnappers, but unfortunately they already moved with the victims before our arrival.
“However, the intelligence services later discovered another camp in Bayelsa where the kidnappers held the victims against their will.
“After storming the hideout of the kidnappers, we exerted pressure (force) and demanded that they (the kidnappers) release the abductees unconditionally.
“Subsequently, on May 21 at midnight, the seven victims were returned to us safe and sound and they are currently with us,” he added.
The naval officer said the troops are currently on the trail of Padei and his band of kidnappers and assured of their arrest and pursuit in no time.
He called on members of the public to go about their lawful business as the Navy, in conjunction with other security services, made Rivers’ waterways more secure.
Recounting his ordeal, one of the rescued victims, Jude Ichikpro, 57, expressed his gratitude to the Nigerian Navy for saving him and his traveling companions from kidnappers.
The victim told the source that after their boat was intercepted, their captors blindfolded them and took them to an unknown area.
“We transited several hours by sea and later arrived at their camp, the location of which I am still unsure of.
“After we arrived at the camp, they gave us our phones to contact and inform our family members of our abduction.
“Afterwards, they demanded 350 million naira (50 million naira each) for the seven of us to secure our release; threatening to kill any of us whose family did not pay their ransom.
“I was horrified and worried to be killed knowing that my family cannot raise such large funds to secure my release. So I continued to pray earnestly.
“The whole experience was horrible because they kept threatening us. I was too worried knowing that my family can’t raise such large sums of money to secure my release.
Ichikpro, a native of Delta State, said they were held for 12 days and fed uncooked food; drank dirty, salty water and sometimes slept in marshy waters.
He said that on the day of their rescue, he heard a loud noise that he initially thought came from the villages that shadowed the kidnappers’ lair.
“But the sound got louder, and it was only then that I realized it was security guards because I could hear their voices but I was terrified and confused at the same time.
“Moments later, men came to where we were being held and asked for our identity. It was only then that I understood that they were members of the navy.
Ichikpro said navy officers then took them for a debriefing.
“I am so grateful to God and the Nigerian Navy for coming to my rescue without even paying a Kobo ransom to my captors,” he said.