Gunmen who struck at the Igueben Train Station in Edo State on Saturday and kidnapped 31 passengers have reportedly demanded N620 million.
This was disclosed yesterday by the executive director of Esan Youth for Good Governance and Social Justice, Comrade Benson Odia, who said the kidnappers had contacted some families of the victims and demanded N20 million for each person.
Odia described the demand as absurd and appealed to the authorities to intensify efforts at rescuing those still being held captive by the gunmen.
When contacted, the police spokesperson Chidi Nwabuzor said he would confirm the veracity of the claim.
Meanwhile, the Edo State commissioner for information and orientation, Chris Nehikhare, has said six of the 32 persons kidnapped at the train station had been rescued.
The victims were waiting at the Ekehen-Igueben train station to board a train to Warri, Delta State at about 4.00pm when the gunmen struck.
Giving an update yesterday on the efforts to rescue the victims, Nehikhare said among the six victims rescued included a 65-year-old man, a nursing mother and her baby, a six-year-old girl and two siblings.
He said the rescue operation was carried out by a combined team of security agencies which embarked on what he termed “Operation Comb the Forest” and appealed to members of the public to give useful information that could lead to release of other captives.
In another development, the president of Igueben Area Customary Court, Edo State, Mrs Precious Aigbonoga, has been kidnapped.
She was abducted yesterday morning around Ugoneki axis, on her way to the court in Igueben local government area of the state.
A statement by the publicity secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Benin branch, Festus Usiobaifo, said the chairman the branch, Nosa Francis Edo-Osagie, condemned “the worrisome insensitivity of these bandits in kidnapping Mrs Precious Aigbonoga; an easygoing, gentle, and hardworking judicial officer”, and also expressed his sadness over the incident.
The statement added that the executive of the Benin branch was in close touch with the commissioner of police, Mohammed Adamu Dankwara, to ensure that the victim is released unhurt.
Also yesterday, a former Edo State House of Assembly member, Hon. Festus Edughele, was kidnapped by suspected gunmen in Ubiaja on his way from Orhionmwon to Benin.
Edughele was said to be travelling to Benin to board a plane to Abuja when he was abducted by the gunmen who took him into the bush.
A former speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Festus Ebea, who confirmed the incident, said Edughele had planned to board the now suspended train service from Ubiaja to Abuja.
Ebea said, “He was kidnapped this morning in Ubiaja on his way from Orhionmwon to Benin. He had intended to take the train to Ubiaja but he could do so since the train services had been suspended.
“The family is aware of his kidnap, the police division in that area has been informed and we hope action will be taken to rescue him,” he said.