Men of the Nigerian Navy have released 14 journalists and six Itsekiri youths who were kidnapped by ex-militants in Gbaramatu kingdom on Sunday.
The media men had attended a briefing at Ogidigben, the Itsekiri community where the contentious $16 billion Export Processing Zone (EPZ), is being sited. On their way back to Warri, however, armed Ijaw men, in six speedboats, ambushed them at about 1p.m. near Oporoza, headquarters of Gbaramatu kingdom.
The journalists are Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, Vanguard (Niger Delta); Shola O’neil, Regional Editor, The Nation and his Warri reporter, Bolaji Ogundele; Sola Adebayo, Leadership; Pilunus Odedey, Channels; Omoniyi Alex and Osaro Sado, AIT; Anthony Ebule, Publisher, Fresh Angle and two of his reporters, and Awoso Harry, DBS Warri. They were detained for six hours by ex-militants and handed over to the military at about 7p.m. on Sunday, but could not be released till around 4p.m., yesterday, due to security clearance.
Some of the victims have said that the ambush and abduction of the journalists among some Itsekiri youths of Ugborodo in Gbaramatu area, Warri South West Local Government Area, Delta State, was a set up.
“It is all a set up. Ijaw held a protest to thwart President Jonathan’s expected visit to perform the groundbreaking for the EPZ,” said Blessing Eyengho, one of the six Ogidigben youths held along with the journalists.
“We were at Ogidigben on Sunday to protest why the President bowed to their wish. They held us at Kpokpo to set us up,” Eyengho added.
Another victim said: “We were set up to simply prevent us from covering the event at Ogidigben and to get at the community leaders.
“Barely a week ago, some of us went to Oporoza to cover the threats by Ijaw of Gbaramatu, which aborted President Jonathan’s coming for the EPZ groundbreaking ceremony.
“When we covered their protest, we were not found with guns. When they searched our bags and the entire boats before trans-loading us to one of their boats, they did not find any gun.
“It was 30 minutes after they had taken us to their camp that one of them came with a pistol he claimed was found in one of the bags in the boat whose engine they had damaged and abandoned.
“After about an hour, another ran in again displaying an AK-47, which he claimed to have found at an undisclosed point in the captured boat.
“We do not have to speak for anyone. There was no gun found in the boat when they searched the entire boat in our presence,” the victim said.
The men ransacked the journalists’ bags, seizing all photo and video cameras, phones, wrist watches and other belongings, before taking them and their Itsekiri hosts to an unknown camp in the area, reports Vanguard.
After holding them for several hours, the abductors contacted the Nigerian Army and handed them over at about 7p.m. Sunday night.
The Army, thereafter, handed them to men of the Nigerian Navy, NNS Delta, who moved them to their Warri base.
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