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Kidnapped Immigration officers recount ordeal, thank Navy

Officers of the Nigerian Immigration Service rescued from kidnappers’ camp by troops of the Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder in Port Harcourt on Wednesday

By Desmond Ejibas
Port Harcourt, Nov. 14, 2019

Mr Samson Raphael, an Immigration officer, has lauded the Nigerian Navy for rescuing him and three of his colleagues from kidnappers in Rivers.

Raphael, a Senior Immigration Inspector from the Rivers Marine Command, Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) in Onne, Rivers, was abducted alongside three others by suspected militants on Tuesday.

The other victims are: Peter Ofili, Asuquo Ededet and Hafiz Moyi.

The officer, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Port Harcourt on Thursday that they were kidnapped while travelling onboard a speed boat.

“We left Bonny Island on board a speed boat for an official assignment in Onne. On our way to Onne, we were apprehended by gunmen at about 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

“Immediately the kidnappers stopped our boat, they pointed their guns at us and threatened to shoot if we did not cooperate.

“Thereafter, they forcefully took us and sailed on the sea for about 10 endless hours before we arrived their camp.”

He said that they were kept in a hut after they arrived the kidnappers’ camp in a dense mangrove forest.

“Later, our abductors told us that they will contact our superiors to demand for our ransom. They threatened to bury us alive if NIS and our families failed to cooperate.

“Thankfully, they were unable to carry out their threats due to the timely intervention by troops of the Nigerian Navy that raided the camp on Wednesday.

“On the day of our rescue, we heard heavy gunshots and immediately laid flat on the floor. We suspected that such superior fire power could come only from security agencies.

“Afterwards, we saw naval operatives shooting and pursuing the fleeing captors. Later some Navy personnel came to where we were held and rescued us,” he said.

Capt. Adegoke Ebo, Executive Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, said the Navy had immediately deployed gunboats after learning of the abduction.

Ebo handed over the victims to personnel of the Police Command in Rivers.

“After we learnt of the abductions and gathered available intelligence, we conducted a clearance operation on Nov. 13 at the suspected militant camp in Ikelekele, Rivers.

“The operation, comprised of combined officers and men of NNS Pathfinder and Navy Forward Operating Base (FOB) Bonny, successfully rescued the NIS officers without any casualty.”

He said items recovered from the militantS’ camp included one Pump action rifle, a locally made gun, 7.62mm ammunition, hammers, cutters and several mobile phones.

“We were unable to make any arrest as the suspects escaped from the camp during the raid. However, we saw traces of blood that suggested that some of them sustained gunshot injuries.

“To this end, a search is currently ongoing with a view to locate and apprehend the hoodlums that fled the camp.

“We urge the public to report any suspicious person with gunshot wounds, particularly, those living in communities where the militant camp exist, to the nearest police station,” he appealed.

Also speaking, the Comptroller of NIS Marine Command in Onne, Rivers, Mrs Elizabeth Inok, commended the Navy for the timely response to its distress call.

She said the rescue confirmed the long held belief of professional capabilities and expertise of the Nigerian Navy to effectively secure the waterways from illegalities.

“On behalf of the Comptroller General of NIS, Muhammad Babandede, we are delighted that our officers have been returned to us alive and without injuries,” she said.

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