Justice for the Port Harcourt three

DURING these perilous times when Nigerians are daily confronted with hunger and pain, with waves of joblessness and privations surging since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, some felons are still at their beastly best, perpetrating horrendous and blood-curdling crimes. The times are indeed terrible: housemaids are being reportedly beaten to death and then hung to fake suicide, mothers are killing their own children for occult manipulations designed to gain sudden wealth; lawless men in uniform are gunning down hapless citizens under the guise of enforcing Covid-19 lockdown. Despicably wicked acts are occurring almost on a daily basis. In one of such incidents, three young innocent Nigerians were killed by kidnappers in cold blood even after their relatives had paid ransoms.  Joy Adoki, Nelson Nwafor and Fortune Obemba were kidnapped on April 7 and later killed by their abductors. According to the Rivers State Police Command, the deceased were killed and buried in a shallow grave in the Etio community, Eleme Local Government Area of the state. Although all the victims were initially reported to have been students of the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the university has since clarified that only Adoki was a student of the institution.

To say the least, the country was shocked by the barbarity. Appalled by the incident, President directed the police to arrest all the suspects. In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in Abuja, Buhari extended condolences to the university authorities and the Rivers State government over the unfortunate incident, describing it as “sad and heinous.” Buhari regretted that the “evil perpetrators have cut short the prospectively bright journey of these youths and prayed that God Almighty would comfort all those who mourned these young students and grant their souls eternal rest.” While noting that the Nigerian Police Anti-Kidnapping Unit had apprehended one of the suspected perpetrators, the president further directed the police authorities to intensify the search for the remaining suspects and bring them to justice. He said: “This administration will continue to equip the law enforcement and security agencies to bring to an end the evil activities of kidnappers in the country.”

Apparently spurred by the president’s intervention, the police swung into action and arrested the remaining suspects. One of the suspects, Friday Akpan, was arrested and, upon interrogation, reportedly gave details that led to the apprehension of two others. The police also recovered one AK-47 rifle, three magazines and 72 rounds of ammunition from the suspected kidnappers. Akpan, an indigene of Akwa Ibom State, confessed that two of his accomplices gang-raped Adoki before the gang eventually killed all the victims. Hear him: “We held the three persons at the sand field. All of us, five in number, killed them.”

It is indeed saddening that three innocent souls were cut down by the blood-thirsty killers. They gang-raped the female victim, but their beastly thirst was still not slaked. They gunned her and one of the male captives down, then hacked the other male victim to death in a fit of barbaric rage even after reportedly receiving ransoms from their relatives. No doubt, the families of the victims are in pain and agony right now. Sadly, vast swathes of the Nigerian environment remain firmly in the grip of non-state actors; they are ungoverned territories designated for evil. Thus, while the police deserve kudos for tracking down the killers of the Port Harcourt three, the point must not be forgotten that many hapless citizens are right now in the den of kidnappers across the country, and may never escape from their captors unless the Nigerian state intervenes to stop the sad fate that awaits them. In this connection, while appreciating the efforts of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) in this particular case, we encourage it to extend its investigative dragnet and ensure that other victims of kidnapping are rescued and reunited with their families. It should liaise with other agencies and ensure that the kidnapping gangs yet to be busted are  smashed and brought to justice.

However, while bringing criminals to justice is a laudable step, the country must not lose sight of the factors that predispose citizens, especially youths, to crime and criminality, particularly joblessness. Thus, even while the Covid-19 pandemic rages with increasing job losses, it is imperative for governments at all levels to map out strategies to create jobs in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, and going forward. That done, they would have saved the country avoidable headaches in the future.

We commiserate with the families of Joy Adoki, Nelson Nwafor and Fortune Obemba and wish them the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss. We commend President Buhari, the Rivers State government and the Nigeria Police for their respective roles in tracking down the killers of the Port Harcourt three. Needless to say, these felons should be given their just deserts, and without delay.



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