Two Media Advocacy Groups, International Press Centre (IPC) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA) have condemned the kidnapping of The Punch Newspaper Correspondent, Mr Okechukwu Nnodim; calling for his immediate release.
According to one of the statements signed by the Program Officer/Safety Desk Officer of IPC, Ms Melody Lawal, Mr Nnodim was said to be kidnapped from his home at about 11p.m on Wednesday, February 3, 2021, by five armed men who stormed his compound in the Arab Road area of Kubwa in Abuja by scaling the fence.
The kidnappers were also reported to have abducted the two sons of a widow in a neighbouring house.
The Punch on Thursday February 4, 2021 reported that: “Nnodim’s wife, Mrs Oluchi, explained that her husband was working on his laptop when five strange men scaled the fence and entered their compound while ordering them to open the door. She said the gunmen fired several shots at the windows and subsequently pulled down the burglary proof after which they forced open the front door. Mrs Oluchi said her husband asked her to stay with the children in their room. She heard the men asking her husband to bring out money, but he told them he did not have money in the house. The abductors took their phones and marched Mr Nnodim out of the house.“
Reacting, the IPC Executive Director, Mr Lanre Arogundade noted that the spate of insecurity in the country should be of serious concern to all; lamenting that it is very disturbing that Journalists and media practitioners have also become easy targets.
Mr Arogundade enjoined the Security Agencies to do all they can to ensure that Mr Nnodim is set free without being harmed in any way.
Also condemning the kidnap, MRA noted in a statement by its Programme Director, Mr Ayode Longe, that although the reasons for the abduction of Mr Nnodim and the two others by the gunmen were still unknown, since they are citizens and under the jurisdiction of Nigeria, the Government, its Law Enforcement and Security Agencies have a duty to investigate the crime and bring perpetrators to justice.
Mr. Longe said “Security and Law Enforcement Agencies in Nigeria need to wake up from their slumber as the level of insecurity of lives and property of Nigerians, and other residents in the country has now reached unacceptable proportions and those responsible for ensuring their security appears unable to rise to the occasion.“
He noted that “in the last few years, Journalists have been kidnapped in their homes, on their way to work or from work with no effective response from the Law Enforcement and Security Agencies, with most people consumed by the fear that it is likely to be their turn at anytime and feeling helpless to do anything about the situation.”
According to Mr Longe, in 2020, MRA documented several cases of Journalists kidnapped both from their homes and while returning from work, such as “Mr Maxwell Nashian, a Journalist with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), who was kidnapped from his home in Adamawa State in January 2020 and later died in the Hospital after his release; as well as Chinenye Iwuoha, another Journalist with the FRCN who was kidnapped in Umuahia, the Abia State capital on May 6, 2020 while returning from work. Others were Mr Mienpamo Saint, a news blogger and owner of Naijalivetv.com, who was abducted on May 9, 2020 from his home at INEC Road in Kpansia, a suburb of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State by masked gunmen; Mrs. Chinyere Okoye, an Assistant Manager of News and Current Affairs at the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Channel 6 Aba, who was abducted by unknown gunmen in front of her house at Obikabia Road in Aba, Abia State on May 27, 2020, while she was returning from her office.
The MRA Programme Director noted that incidents of kidnapping of Journalists and other citizens have become too rampant, and a real cause of concern that requires urgent and concerted action; reminding the Government that it has a duty to ensure the safety of lives and property of Nigerians, and it must not shirk that responsibility as it derives its legitimacy from them.