From Idongesit Inyang
Seventeen ferry passengers, who were on their way from theCalabar beach in Cross River to Oron in neighbouring Akwa Ibom, were allegedly kidnapped along the river. While five of them were reportedly released, 12 of them are still in the creeks.
The abductors, numbering up to eight in their boat were reportedly fully armed with AK-47 rifle, some masked their faces while some did not, according to the driver of the boat, one Bassey Udo Essien.
Those who have been released among the 17 passengers, include a child aged four, a pregnant woman, an old woman, a gunshot victim and the driver whose faces were covered and dropped off at about 10am on Wednesday at a beach in Akpabuyo Local Government Area.
The remaining 12, including a naval officer and a professor at the University of Calabar, were said to be still in bondage.
“The abductors are demanding a ransom of N3 million each for the remaining 12, which equals N36 million,” Bassey Udo Essien, the speed boat driver told the Police and Nigeria’s secret police, the SSS, in Calabar.
The boat carried 10 males including Essien, himself and seven females, the driver further stated, adding that the heavily armed abductors wielded AK-47 rifles and shot at his boat, while he tried to speed away, adding that a bullet grazed a passenger simply identified as “Jesam” on his face and close to his ear.
Essien, who added that the abductors used an engine more powerful than his, said he was freed to go in order to take Jesam for treatment because the abductors had no form of medication in the camp even after robbing them of all their valuables.
Hear him, “In the morning of Monday, 17 January, 2022, we loaded from Calabar to Oron. Immediately we passed all the rounds and close to the Marine police at about 9am, we drove at the middle of the water because if we drive by the side of the water, those sea pirates will quickly attack us.
“Just few minutes, about ten minutes drive we saw them driving to meet us, I increased the speed of our boat to the highest but unfortunately, it was not fast enough because our engine is 115 (horsepower) while theirs is 200 (horsepower),” Essien hinted.
“I couldn’t slow down because I was trying to escape from them, they started shooting. They shot sporadically at us and unfortunately the bullet caught one of the passengers by name Jesam on the face, close to the ear who sat at the second bench of the boat,” he also said.
According to him, “They kidnapped us and took us to one dangerous creek. We just departed Calabar and had not approached Oron. At the creek where they took us to, they robbed us and collected every single thing we had – phones, money, shoes, wrist watches, bags, ATM cards, necklace, my boat; everything and also beat us.”
The Pioneer gathered that the earliest recorded attempt was in October 2020 when a boat was attacked and a passenger was shot and sources say the passenger later died.
The Calabar channel is 87 kilometers long and is usually patrolled by the Marine Police command as well as the Nigerian Navy Ship, Victory.