By Osaigbovo Iguobaro, Benin
Kidnappers who took Mrs Hassana Zakawanu, widow of former Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly, Mr Zakawanu Garuba have demanded the sum of N20 million (Twenty Million) from the victim’s family, barely 48 hours after the Nigeria police claimed to have rescued her and two other hostages.
A member of family Zakawanu’s family who dropped the hint on Monday, faulted the report by Kogi State Command on Sunday that the Mrs Hassan has been released.
The widow and driver of late Speaker were kidnapped Saturday afternoon on the Irepeni axis of Lokoja-Abuja Highway on their way to Auchi, headquarters of Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State for the burial rites.
There was a twist in the incident when the Kogi State Police Command on Sunday afternoon announced the rescue of Mrs Hassana Garbua, the widow of the late Speaker of Edo State.
The Command’s spokesman, Mr Willy Aya, said officers were able to locate an abandoned Spot Utility vehicle (SUV) on the dreaded Abuja-Lokoja-Okene highway on which the late Speaker’s wife and mother were travelling, which gave the police a clue on her rescue.
But he said that the driver is yet to be rescued.
The Commissioner of Police, Ayuba Ede, while confirming the incident last Saturday night, had promised that his men would be deployed to the scene to rescue the victims.
But, Mr Zakawanu family member who pleaded for anonymity insisted that the kidnappers opened negotiation with the deceased family 24 hours after the incident.
He alleged that the kidnappers scrolled through Mrs Hassana’s mobile phone called one of her late husband’s associate and demanded for the N20 million cash sum from him.
He also said that he suspected that the hoodlums may have mistaken the former Speaker’s mother who was abandoned on the Highway by the kidnappers who took the widow and her driver hostage.
But, Mr Victor Oshioke, a leader of the All Progressives Congress in the State and close aide of the former national Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole on Monday accused Edo State Government of insensitive to the plight of residents of the State, alleging insecurity in the State.
“When Charles Idahosa says that Adams Oshiomhole sneaked into Edo State at night, I only want to remind him that light shines brighter at night, before it breaks into daylight. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has arrived Edo State, the coming days will convince Charles Idahosa and his paymaster that Oshiomhole is serious about returning Edo State to the APC fold.
“It has been established that Hon. Zakawanu Garuba was very conscious of the seriousness of Covid-19 and thus ensured that his entire household observed all the preventive protocols religiously, since the outbreak of the disease. Unfortunately, being a political leader, Oshioke succumbed to pressure”, he declared.
His comment comes after a Chieftain of the Peoples Democratic party in Edo State, Mr Charles Idahosa had berated the former Chairman of the All Progressives Congress for not suspending campaign at his Country home — Iyamho in Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State in honour of the dead who hails from the locality.
Earlier, the Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki on Saturday July 18, 2020 in a statement, by his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, had tasked the Nigeria police authorities to rescue the kidnapped victims.
He said a rescue operation commenced immediately the incident was brought to the attention of security agencies in the state and the Police Commissioner, Mr. Johnson Kokumo.
Osagie said, “Governor Godwin Obaseki is deeply saddened by this incident, which he described as distressing more so, with the passing of Rt. Hon. Zakawanu Garuba, earlier today. He has ordered the Police Command to ensure that the kidnap victims are rescued. The Commissioner of Police has contacted his Kogi State counterpart and leading the rescue operation.”
He maintained that the governor has ensured that the police gets all the necessary support to track down the kidnappers and fast-track the safe rescue of the victims
Meanwhile, the body of former Edo State House of Assembly Speaker, Rt Hon Zakawanu Garuba, was laid to rest on Sunday in Auchi, Etsako West LGA, in strict observance of NCDC regulations on social distancing.
His body arrived Auchi on Saturday night and he was immediately buried in accordance with Muslim rites.
The private Ceremony which was done in strict compliance with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) regulations on Covid-19, amidst speculation that Zakawanu died as a result of Covid-19 complications in Abuja hospital in the early hours of Saturday July 18, 2020.
But, his family has, however, denied the report of Covid-19 infection, insisting their son died of natural causes.
The widow, Hassana Garuba whith her driver was still in the kidnappers den when her husband was buried.