President Goodluck Jonathan’s uncle, Chief Inengite Nitabai has been kidnapped by unknown gunmen in his home town, Otuoke in Ogbia local government area of Bayelsa State.
The 70-year-old man was whisked away about 7:30pm on Sunday night in an operation carried out by about 10 gunmen.
According to sources in Otuoke, the abducted chief is the traditional head of Jonathan’s clan and his residence is a few metres away from the heavily guarded palatial residence of the president.
Nitabai, a cousin of President Jonathan, was kidnapped from his compound located before Otuoke Bridge, off Otu-Okpoti-Ogbia road. The bandits were said to have isolated their target without firing a gunshot.
Nitabai has been acting like a father to the president since Jonathan’s biological father died, sources from the family said.
The victim, his wife, his wife’s sister and three of his children were in the house when the assailants stormed the compound and abducted him.
His wife’s sister, 37-year-old Akinobebh Jin, said Silas, one of the sons of the victim, first sighted the criminals and raised the alarm. “We came back from somewhere around 8pm. Silas was at the veranda doing his assignment while my in-law, my sister and two other siblings were in the living room together.
“After some time, Silas came shouting and saying that some people had just entered into the compound. As we sprang on our feet, we were confused because we didn’t know where to run to.”
A senior source within the Joint Military Task Force codenamed “Operation Pulo Shield” claimed the incident occurred about 9pm and that the armed men used the private vehicle of the abducted traditional head. The vehicle was later recovered at Onuebum community waterfront.
The military source confirmed: “Information available to me is that a certain Chief Inegite Nitabai was abducted by about 10 gunmen at about 9pm at Otuoke community in Ogbia local council by using his private vehicle which was later recovered at the Onuebum water front. The deputy commander of the JTF, Commodore Ime Ekpa, and a team of security agents have visited the location to assess the crime scene and investigation is in progress to unmask the kidnappers and rescue the victim.”
The hitherto quiet community of Otuoke is witnessing heavy military and police presence with a helicopter combing the creeks and waterways in search of the gunmen.
The spokesman of the Bayelsa police command, Mr Alex Akhigbe, who denied knowledge of any close family affiliation of the abducted chief with President Jonathan, said preliminary reports available have identified the kidnappers and that one suspect is in police custody.
Akhigbe said the police report showed that the abducted community leader had made a report at the Kolo police station on the illegal sale of his land by some unidentified persons. ”After it was discovered, the abducted man insisted that the culprits refund the buyer his money and leave his land alone. He was later kidnapped,” he said. “We have identified those involved and are on their trail. One of the suspects is in our custody. The vehicle also has been recovered. I cannot establish the relationship between the abducted chief and Mr President.”