Stakeholders in Abia State have decried the reported abduction of students of Abia State University (ABSU) Uturu in Isuikwuato Local Government Area on Wednesday night by unknown gunmen.
DAILY POST gathered that the students were kidnapped while transiting on a bus on Okigwe-Uturu Road.
Reacting to the ugly incident, a renowned economist, Dr. Alex Otti called on relevant authorities and security agencies to swiftly swing into action and ensure timely rescue of the students without harm, and promised to offer the necessary support and assistance that could fasten the release of the students.
Otti viewed such acts of violence against the students as wicked, barbaric and reprehensible, and reminded the perpetrators of the dastardly act that nothing justifies any form of violence against innocent members of the society, much more students on legitimate academic pursuit.
The former Gubernatorial Candidate from Abia state in a release made available to newsmen in Umuahia by his Special Adviser on Media, Ferdinand Ekeoma called on governments at all levels to treat the present security challenges bedevilling the country as a pressing emergency and consider coming up with far reaching measures and strategies aimed at finding a permanent solution to the present challenges.
The ex-Bank Chief appealed to the government to engage the youths in a sincere and comprehensive dialogue that could help reduce the present tension and security challenges.
Also reacting to the abduction of the university students, the Abia State chapter of the All Progressive Congress (APC), condemned the act and asked the security agencies to redouble effort and rescue the innocent students.
APC described the incident as evil, terrible and unacceptable.
Benedict Godson, the Publicity Secretary of the APC in Abia State, Comrade Benedict Godson in a statement on Friday, tasked security agencies in the state to step up manhunt of the perpetrators to ensure the rescue of the abducted ABSU students.
The Party Leadership said, “the main duty now as a matter of urgency is to help the security agents with relevant information that can help secure our state because Abia belongs to all of us.
“This is no time to blame anybody. This is a time for us to reason together because it is only by reasoning together that we can conquer such unspeakable acts.
“The kidnapped ones are students, they’re only studying for better tomorrow and do not deserve such evil. There’s absolutely no justification for this on the part of the perpetrators.
“As a people, we must realize that security is a serious business and we have to start seeing it so. We don’t have any other state to call ours except Abia, so we must not sit and watch Abia turned into something else.
“All over the world, security is no more the business of the government only. It’s our business because a secured environment is the only environment that will thrive in business and other necessary activities.
“For the parents of our kidnapped students, we urge them to calm down and we pray together with them that their children will surely be rescued in full health”.
On his part, the Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu described the scenario as unacceptable and tasked security agencies to work in synergy in exposing the perpetrators of the evil acts in the society.
The former Abia Governor lauded the prompt response of the Governors of Abia and Imo states in working closely with other stakeholders in a bid to ensure the safe release of the abducted students.
Kalu appealed to their parents, as well as the ABSU community to be calm and optimistic, emphasizing that the fight against kidnapping and other vices remained a collective responsibility of all levels of government regardless of political affiliation.
“The students are our children and future leaders of tomorrow and as such they don’t deserve to go through this emotional trauma.
“I am not only touched but extremely disturbed by this sad and ugly development. Moving forward all hands must be on deck to secure the release of the abducted students unharmed.
“On my path I have established contacts with the relevant security agencies to ensure the safety return of these students as well as putting in place proactive measures,” he said.
Expressing worries on the worsening insecurity in the entire southeast zone, a Security expert, Emmanuel Nsofor said concerted effort should be taken to ensure the release of the kidnapped students.
Nsofor canvassed adequate funding of the Nigeria security archecture to enable them nip in the bud the upsurge of kidnapping, banditry and terrorism threatening the peaceful co-existence of the country.
He tasked security agencies to further step up strategies particularly in the area of intelligence gathering to tackle any act of insecurity in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, at the time of this report, the abductors are yet to contact the ABSU authority or parents of the victims under their custody.
Addressing journalists in a press conference held in Umuahia, on Friday, the Vice Chancellor of the Abia State University, Uturu, Professor O. M Ogbulu confirmed the abduction of the students by the gunmen.
The Vice Chancellor also confirmed that two of the students escaped from the hoodlums, while one student was still being held by them.
Professor Ogbulu assured that the school authority is working assiduously with security agencies to ensure the release of the students and prosecution of the culprits.
He said, “Two of the students managed to escape from the hoodlums while one other student is still being held at a yet to be identified location. Management of the University through our security outfit is working assiduously in assisting both Imo and Abia State Governments and Law enforcement agencies to rescue the victim. Steps are also being taken to avert any further occurrence of this ugly incident in the university”.
Continuing, the ABSU Vice Chancellor said, “members of the public and Abia State University community should remain calm as we will spare no effort in ensuring the safety of the victim and our dear students.
“Let me assure you that Abia State University is safe, as staff and students are going about their normal academic activities”.
Meanwhile, the Abia State Government says it is working with the government of Imo State and relevant security agencies in both states to ensure the rescue of the abducted students and others.
In a release issued by the State Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu on Thursday, the Government reiterated that no criminal operating within its environment will be allowed to escape justice, as it takes the job of protecting the lives and property of Abians and visitors to the State seriously.
The press release partly stated, “Abia State Government is currently monitoring an incident that happened in Okigwe, Imo State, yesterday which led to the suspected abduction of yet to be determined number of students of the Abia State University, Uturu (ABSU), who apparently ran into a yet to be identified gang of hoodlums operating along the Okigwe-Uturu Road.
“Preliminary information available to us indicates that the students were moving in a mini van from Okigwe to Uturu between 7pm – 8pm when they ran into the armed gang who marched them into the nearby forest along with other yet to be identified travelers. Two of the students managed to escape from the hoodlums while others are still being held at a yet to be identified location.
“Members of the public and ABSU community are advised to remain calm as we will spare no resource in ensuring the safety of the victims”.
As part of measures to arrest the situation, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has directed for security reinforcement along the Abia segment of the Okigwe-Uturu Road to prevent future occurrence.
The Governor stated that he was directly coordinating efforts to ensure safe return of the students and the others as quickly as possible.
According to a statement on Friday, “Law enforcement agencies of both Abia and Imo States have been mobilized to rescue the student and all those still in custody of the kidnappers”.