A brave mother, Mrs Priscilla Ekpenyong, on Friday damned the consequences by clinging to a moving vehicle in order to rescue her nine-month-old child, Emmanuella, from the hands of fleeing abductors.
The abductors had pushed the 23-year-old woman out of the moving vehicle, but she held on to her daughter and was dragged on the tarred road for some distance before the kidnapping was aborted by security operatives.
The incident happened by the Eburutu Army Barracks along the busy Murtala Mohammed Highway in Calabar, the Cross River State capital.
Narrating her ordeal at the Police Clinic in Calabar, where she and her daughter received medical attention from bruises sustained during the incident, Priscilla said she boarded the taxi, a Volkswagen Jetta, at the Pyramid Hotel Bus Stop along the highway with another unidentified woman who was carrying a male child.
She said shortly afterwards, the taxi stopped to pick two men, who on entering the vehicle demanded the babies in the vehicle.
Priscilla said, “I entered a taxi at Pyramid Hotel Bus Stop on a journey to my village, Idoma, in the Biase Local Government Area. Another lady was also in the vehicle with her son, but when we got to the Army Barracks junction, two men joined us.We thought they were passengers, but as soon as they got in, they started dragging our babies with us.
“I was sitting in the front with the driver, while the other woman was sitting at the back with her baby too. The two men sat at the back and while one of them was dragging the other woman’s baby (a boy), the other man was also dragging my daughter.
“The luck I had was that I strapped my baby in a tummy-carrier and the man struggled to remove the baby inside the carrier. He succeeded in removing my baby’s hand from the carrier and she started crying. He almost pulled my baby’s hand off, so I shouted for help.
“He then pushed me out of the vehicle, but I held on to my baby. The vehicle dragged me on the road from the Army Barracks junction to Sampet Filling Station, a distance of about 500 metres, before some security agents intervened. They caught the man who was trying to snatch my baby and took him to the Federal Housing Police Station. I don’t know where the others went.”
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Hogan Bassey, said the taxi driver and other accomplices escaped, while a suspect, Victor Edem-Bassey, was arrested and was being detained at the headquarters of the Cross River State Police Command in Calabar.
Edem-Bassey told PUNCH Metro that the harsh economic realities forced him into stealing children.
Edem-Bassey (30) from the Akpabuyo Local Government Area of the state, said he was introduced to the business by a friend, named Essien.
It was gathered that Edem-Bassey and his fleeing accomplices pretended to be passengers while another co-conspirator posed as a commercial driver.
Edem-Bassey said they were to take the stolen children to one Albertino who was introduced to him by Essien around the Eight-Miles area of the the Calabar metropolis.
The suspect, who claimed he had a 13-year-old son, said he was a taxi driver, but lost his job after he fell sick.
He said, “I fell sick and the owner of the car I was driving collected it from me. After he collected it, there was no money to survive. Essien came to me and told me about this business. He said he would take me to his boss who would help me.
“He then introduced me to a man called Albertino, who said he would solve all my problems if I bring babies to him. He did not say he would pay me anything but he promised to solve all my problems. I met him in a joint at Eight Miles, but I don’t know where he lives. He was driving a jeep. I met him at the Old Market Road. He told me to bring the babies to him.”
It was gathered that the police had arrested Essien, and was being detained at the command headquarters.
The PPRO said the arrest would aid the police in unravelling the mystery of child stealing in the state, adding that it was obvious that the suspects were kingpins.
Calabar had in recent weeks been under the menace of kid abductors. The children that had been snatched had yet to be found.