Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC in Cross River, Ben Ukpekpi was kidnapped about two months ago in his house at CROSPIL Estate in Akpabuyo. This is the second time he is being kidnapped after he was first abducted in December 2019.
In this interview with newsmen and transcribed by CHIEMEKA ADINDU, his wife, Katherine Ukpekpi lamented how everyone, including the government has given the family deaf ears since the incidence occurred. She is pleading with well meaning Nigerians and the state government to come to their aid to raise the 150 million ransom for the release of her husband from his abductors.
How long has your husband been in the kidnappers den?
Today is making it two months.
Would you like to tell us what happened before his kidnap?
Yes, you know that 17th of December 2019, my husband was kidnapped and God helped him he came back alive after six days. Then on the 21st of March, he traveled to Kaduna, came back on Saturday evening; he went to church on Sunday came back in the evening and he was just there, I don’t know whether they remoted him. He just left us from the parlour and went outside before you know it they kidnapped my husband. So since then, we’re in captivity, we’re in agony. Up till today, my husband is still suffering, still in the forest, still with the people he did not know before… (sheds tears)
Have the abductors made contacts with the family demanding for any money?
Yes. They started the negotiation on the second day. They called me and said, they carried my husband for money, I should give them the sum of 150 million naira. So I ask them, 150 million naira, where are we going to bring it from? Is it 150 thousand? Because hearing 150 million is what I don’t even know how to quantify it. So since then it’s not been easy. I know that we’ve been trying our best since from that time. I spoke with them for just a week because of the underlying conditions, health challenges that I have. I broke down and they carried me to the hospital. I decided to hand over the phone to the younger brother. He’s the one that has been doing the talking since then. They included the vice chairman of medical and health. So since then, we’ve been trying our best, even the union, even the family. Whatever we raise and when they call they tell them; they will not do anything, they will carry the phone and give to my husband, it’s my husband that will talk. When he talks all, they will collect their phone. So we’ve been begging them for a very long time but we don’t really know why they have decided to punish us like this. The family is scattered, my children are scattered, they’re no more going to school because nobody planned that such thing is going to happen, so we’re just frustrated, we don’t know what to do. Health wise, I’m still where I’m receiving treatment, I’ve not recovered because of psychological problem and other things, with family issues that I started carrying in his absence. It’s not been easy with me and the family… (breaks in tears)
Since that time, have you been able to contact the government?
Yes, I was told that the union wrote to the government several times and personally I’ve tried my best. I’ve sent text messages to the people I’m supposed to send to, even the governor, pleading they should help us and support us so that they will release my husband. I sent messages to many people even Her Excellency, not once, not twice. I sent that people should just help because he’s number one citizen in this Cross River State. We know that any case that he intervened there’s nobody that will do anything funny any longer but up till today it seems as if nothing is happening.
When was the last time you spoke to your husband through the abductors?
Yes, where I’m receiving treatment. Because after that one week, it was the brother that was talking. I was no longer comfortable because I was not hearing him, we’re not living together with the brother. It was last week Saturday he told the brother that wherever the wife is he should carry the phone to give her. So it was on Saturday that they brought the phone to where I was, then the doctor gave approval, then I discussed with him. It was on Saturday.
As it is now is he in good condition? Are you sure he’s not been harmed in any way? Does he have any medical condition?
I don’t know. I was so disturbed and worried and the unfortunate thing is that that day he did not wear any cloth. He was just with his knicker, they pushed him, he did not even carry shoe, the place, unknown place, in a static position without moving, I don’t know whether he’s even eating, whether he’s bathing, whether he’s in good condition since I’m not the one communicating. (Tears keep rolling her cheeks)
Now what is your cry? What is your demand?
My cry everyday is that, please, Cross River State as a whole, Nigeria as a whole, the government, the head of this state, family, local government, unions, members should please help me do something. I know that we’ve been praying, I know that people have been praying, but we demanded money and if we did not give money how will they release him? So they should just help me out because no body can fill the vacuum of my husband. I have sleepless night everyday because I know the type of husband I married to. We may suffer in the house but with the little money my husband have, he will give it to the people that are suffering. So he’s not a bad person because even when they kidnapped him, they didn’t want people to help him, they alleged that he masterminded the kidnapping. My husband is not like that, how can they say he masterminded the kidnapping so that government will give money. What do we want money for? We’re not after money, we live a simple life so we don’t have time. So they paid somebody to say so to spoil the minds of the people that were ready to help us out and since then nobody is ready to help. I know my husband, he’s a genuine man, simple man, a God fearing man, a loving husband and a loving father, a loving brother, a loving neighbour, a loving colleague. He loves everybody; even when he knows you’re our enemy, my husband will still love you the most because he fears God. He reads the word of God, he serves God but the world did not want him, the world deserted my husband. (Breaks out in tears)
How many days now?
As I counted it’s 60 days, I don’t know because it was on the 21st, please they should just help me.