By John Kayode
FAMILIES of a former staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Segun Akinmeji, who was kidnapped under suspicious circumstances for the past 21 months, have appealed to Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, to seek his whereabout.
They lamented that their son had only retired home to contribute to the economic development of his country and help reduce unemployment as a responsible citizen by investing millions of Naira in the state but was preyed upon by the wicked.
Mr Akinmeji (62yrs), who retired from NNPC and got all his retirement benefits in December 2020 as a director and top management staff, a native of Irele Local Government Area of Ondo State, was abducted alongside two of his workers.
Other victims are: Mr. Azeez Sikiru, a bricklayer and a tiler identified as Ibrahim, who were said to be kidnapped alongside their boss by unknown gunmen at his farm located in Iju-Itaogbolu, Akure North Local Government Area of the state, on Saturday January 30, 2021.
The “Guardian” reported that it was the last Saturday of the month and environmental sanitation day, which restricts human and vehicular movement from 7:00am to 10:00am monthly. The whereabout of the trip has since been a mystery.
While speaking to our correspondent in Akure, the family spokesperson and representative of the Akinmeji family, Mr. Samson Akinmeji, lamented that the entire family in Irele Local Government Area of the state have been thrown into despair for the past 657 days.
Akinmeji, who is a brother to the former NNPC staff, recounted that the immediate family and wife of the victim told the family that they were kidnapped on January 30 while sources in Iju reported that it was on January 15, 2021.
He narrated that “The circumstances surrounding their sudden disappearance for the past 21 months show that it was an abduction orchestrated by persons that are very close to him, not leaving the immediate family and workers on the farm out of any benefit of doubt.
“Mr. Akinmeji just retired from NNPC service in December 2020 and the kidnappers must have beeen aware that he just got his pension and gratuities, which will definitely be a huge amount of money.”
He added that “On that fateful day, all the regular staff of the farm, who had accommodation on the farm, were also absent; giving suspicious alibi as defence from the scene of crime.
“Being a sanitation day, Sikiru, who has been working on the farm and close confidant with Mr Akinmeji, contacted two other persons to work on an ongoing project in the farm. The three persons are: Sikiru, Ibrahim and one Aliu Akeem; they left earlier to the farm on Sikiru’s motorcycle before sanitation began by 7:00am.”
According to him, “It was revealed by tracking on Mr Akinmeji’s line that Sikiru, who was the head job-man, called his boss severally, perhaps waiting for him to come.
“It was learnt that the farm owner got there between 11:00pm to noon; and the unknown gunmen pounced on them shortly he arrived the farm. So, it was premeditated.
“The unknown gunmen whisked away three out of the four persons they met on the farm: Mr. Akinmeji, Sikiru and Ibrahim, while Akeem managed to escape the abduction. He ran away with Sikiru’s bike, reported at Iju Police Station but with a fake name; and disappeared into the thin air for many months.
“He neither returned to Sikiru’s wife to report the incident nor return her husband’s motorcycle,” he revealed.
Speaking on the complicity of the kidnapping, as reported by the wife, Mrs Comfort Akinmeji, he added that “The police sprang into action and organized a search party alongside Amotekun Security Outfit, local hunters and OPC members to no avail.
“In one of the searches, after the kidnappers had contacted the family members for N100m ransom, an OPC member, who was later discovered to be a former staff of the farm owner, was overzealous and didn’t wait to be teamed amongst the search groups: went alone to the bush and was killed by the kidnappers.
“After awhile, the search groups returned to the rendezvous, where they had departed, but the deceased OPC member was missing.
“They went back to the bush to look for him but found him murdered in cold blood under suspicious circumstances: his face was covered, his hands and legs were tied, and was shot at very close range.”
He revealed further that “As confirmed by the immediate past Commissioner for Police, Mr. Bolaji Salami, the OPC member must have identified the kidnappers, who killed him to cover up their tracks and identities.
“The kidnappers only contacted the family the first week of February and the ransom was negotiated to N20m, which was raised by relatives overseas and well-wishers at home.
“While speaking with family members from the kidnappers’ den, my brother asked the family to give his abductors whatever they wanted, informing them that his captors were people who know him very well and know that he could afford their demands.”
He disclosed that the attempt to pay random was to no avail, lamenting that the security agencies failed to give a clue on the whereabout of the former NNPC staff. He also expressed frustration at the huge money spent at Anti-Kidnapping Units of the police that yielded no result.
Meanwhile independent investigation, however, revealed that the farm owner, Mr Akinmeji and his two staff, were not kidnapped on Saturday January 30, 2021 as claimed by the wife but Friday January 15, 2021.
Sources in Iju, the town where the farm is located, reported that the incident became public on February 2, 2021 after the OPC man was killed by the suspected kidnappers.
According to them, the wife and immediate family of the victim also resumed operations at the Iju farm few weeks after her husband and their father was still declared missing, spiking the suspicion of the people against them.
Some residents of the town, who spoke to our correspondent under anonymity terms, mentioned that the farm owner had been released to his wife Comfort, who was said to have taken him to unknown destination for treatment.
Also, the Monarch of Iju Town, on several occasions noted that the farm owner had been released to his wife, Comfort, whom the family alleged of undermining every move to unravel the mystery behind her husband’s disappearance.
The brother of the ex-NNPC staff, Samson, confirmed that the wife did not inform any member of the family that his husband was kidnapped until the OPC member was killed and the news went viral across the state.
“There is also a conspiracy theory that suggested that Mr. Segun Akinmeji has been released by the kidnappers but hidden by his wife and children. Some people in Iju town, where the farm is situated, believe that he has been released to his wife and children.
“And whenever family members at home and overseas call them on efforts to rescue him, the wife and children would scorn them, responding with ease that their father and husband will soon come home but nowhere to be found for the past 16 weeks,” the brother said.
He lamented that several efforts made to reach the police, Amotekun Corps and other security agencies in the state did not yield any fruitful result, alleging the Anti-kidnapping Unit of the Nigeria Police Force, Alagbaka, of conspiracy.
“The family was asked to bring N250,000 to track the phone of the victims and suspects, but till today we did not get any reasonable results on the call-logs from the police. Even the Department of State Security (DSS) and Amotekun Corps left the family in the lurch.
“Several letters were submitted at the Governor’s Office, Alagbaka, to register our frustrations and seek the prompt intervention of the state government. But it appeared there was a deliberate move to jeopardize our efforts to rescue our kinsman.”
He lamented that the sister-in-law, Comfort, who hails from Cross-River State, alongside her children, had not been cooperating with the family in the bid to find the missing man, revealing that their attitudes point to the fact that they have skeleton in their cupboard.
The family appealed to Ondo State government, DSS, police, NSCDC, Amotekun Corps and other relevant security agencies to wade into the matter to unravel the circumstances surrounding the mysterious disappearance of their kinsman.
“Our son and brother is the pride of the family and Ondo State at large and should not just be missing like that without any clue to his whereabouts. He is a benefactor to everyone that came his way and we cannot afford to miss such a rare gem.
“We appeal to the state Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, to intervene in this matter. Our ‘Talk-and-do-Governor, should re-open this matter by keeping the security agencies on their toes, especially the Amotekun Corps that have been unraveling such security matters in the state.
“For years, he has been managing diabetes and keeping him perpetually away from home would further complicate his health condition. Mr Governor, as the Chief Security Officer of the state, help us bring back our kinsman.”