– May regain freedom this week
‘We’ve established contact with him’ – wife, JOSEPHINE
‘God is in control’ – Elder brother, HIGH CHIEF PIUS OZEKHOME
AS radical lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), spends the third week in kidnappers’ den, a close family member of the Ozekhomes has confidently told ENCOMIUM Weekly that the Edo High Chief would certainly be freed this week.
According to our highly reliable source, the kidnappers are co-operating with the Edo State Government and some of their prominent sons who are negotiating on behalf of the Ozekhome family.
“I can assure you that Chief (Mike Ozekhome) would be released in a matter of days. It is just some logistics issues that are being sorted out. The Edo State Government and security agents are on top of the situation.”
We also learnt that Chief Ozekhome’s first son, Barrister Ilugbekhai Ozekhome have since relocated to Benin City to facilitate his father’s released. It was equally revealed that he was allowed to speak with him sometime last week to be sure he was hale and hearty.
Confirming this in an exclusive phone interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly on Saturday, September 7, 2013, Ozekhome’s wife, Lady Josephine Ozekhome said, “I have not spoken with my husband since he was abducted more than 14 days ago, but his son (Ilugbekhai) is in touch with him.”
Reminded that staying without hearing from her husband for this long could be traumatic, Chief (Mrs.) Ozekhome said she has God by her side. “God is there for us. He has been with me and my children all these while. I know my husband is fine and okay and would soon be reunited with us.”
One of Chief Mike Ozekhome’s older brothers, Chief Pius Ozekhome also waxed spiritual when ENCOMIUM Weekly called on Saturday, September 7 to know the latest development. He stated, “All I can say is that God is in control. If He has decided that my brother would be freed today or tomorrow, nobody can stop it.” When we probed for more information, he declined further comments.
The police on their part have not really been carrying the public along in their investigation. Before going to press no official statement has emanated from either the Edo State Government or the Force Headquarters, Abuja in respect of the high profile kidnap case.
The Force PPRO, Frank Mba also declined comments when we called him on Saturday.
Before the fresh glimpse of hope filtering in from Edo State, the kidnappers had reportedly demanded all of N150 million as ransom before they would release the respected and popular lawyer. They also wanted the family of a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Athanasius Ogbome (who was also abducted the same day with Ozekhome) to pay another N100 million for his freedom.
It was, however, revealed last week, that the ransom has been reduced to N100 million and N40 million respectively for the Senior Advocate and the leader of APC in Edo North.
Ozekhome’s family never made any statement on the alleged N150m and N100m ransom. All they have been saying is that God would intervene at His appointed time. They have also been keeping vigil, praying and hoping that their most popular and illustrious son would be released to his wife and children after spending more than fourteen days in captivity.
Chief Ozekhome was on Friday evening, August 23, 2013 abducted by armed men. Four officers of the Edo Police Command were killed in a gun duel that ensued with the kidnappers in an attempt to rescue Ozekhome who was kidnapped with his driver. Similarly, a chieftain of the APC, Chief Athanasius Ogbome was also abducted by the same gang about the same time.
Narrating the development to newsmen that day, the state Commissioner of Police, Foluso Adebanjo said that the operatives of the Command led by DPO Ehor Division responded swiftly to a distress call at about 3.30 p.m that unspecified number of armed men had blocked the Benin-Auchi Road by Ehor axis. But on their way, they ambushed the police patrol vehicle and opened fire on them, prompting an exchange of fire.
“At the end of the gun duel, the hoodlums escaped with bullet wounds but not without their prime victim who was later identified, upon search on his abandoned vehicle, as Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and his driver. Regrettably, the Command lost four officers in the encounter,” the Police Commissioner lamented.
He also vowed to bring to justice the suspected kidnapers, while assuring the public that it was a matter of time for their victims to be rescued. But more than two weeks after Chief Ozekhome’s abduction, the police are yet to secure their release from the deadly kidnapers’ den.
The human rights activist was said to be travelling to his hometown, Ivhiukwe, Agenebode in Etsako East Local Government of Edo State that Friday. And with several calls for his release by eminent Nigerians and the masses, there are indications that he would regain his freedom this week.
– UCHE OLEHI