A former Minister of Environment, Mrs. Lawrencia Laraba-Mallam, and her husband, Pius, were on Monday evening abducted by gunmen along the Abuja–Kaduna Expressway.
It was learnt that the couple were on their way from Abuja when they ran into a roadblock, mounted by the hoodlums, along the Jere area of the highway around 7pm.
The incident occurred in spite of the drafting of 510 riot policemen on the road by the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, on August 5, 2016 to check kidnappings and other criminal activities.
The deployment, which was backed by 40 patrol vehicles and armoured personnel carriers, was expected to man dark spots and vulnerable points along the road which had become notorious for kidnapping and other violent crimes.
Idris, who was represented by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Operation, Habila Joshak, during the inauguration of ‘Operation Maximum Safety,’ directed the operatives to curb all forms of criminal activities in the area and provide security for commuters and residents of surrounding communities.
The deployment of the policemen followed the abduction of the Sierra Leonean Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Maj. Gen. Alfred Nelson (retd.), on the Abuja-Kaduna highway in July, 2016.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Donald Awunah, could not be reached for comment on the failure of the policemen to prevent the kidnap of the former minister and her husband.
He did not respond to calls to his mobile and he had yet to reply to an SMS sent to him as of the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile, the kidnappers have established contact with the family and demanded a ransom of N10m.
A source, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity on Tuesday, said, “The incident occurred between 7pm and 7.30pm. The driver of the car was spared and it was when he returned home and narrated the story that we got to know that the former minister and the husband had been kidnapped.
“They (kidnappers) made contact with the family around 10am this morning (Tuesday) and said we must bring N10m before they can release them.”
One of our correspondents, who visited the home of the Mallams on Tuesday, observed that visitors and well-wishers had been trooping to their residence in Kaduna.
The family members refused to talk on the abduction for security reasons.
“It is very possible that the kidnappers didn’t know their identities, otherwise the ransom could have been higher than the N10m demanded.
“You know these people can be callous; the moment they know the true identity of the victims, they can jack up the ransom,” a family source confided in one of our correspondents.
The Kaduna State Police Public Relations Officer, Aliyu Usman, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, confirmed the incident, saying the former minister and her husband were whisked away while the driver was spared.
Usman said the command was doing all it could to ensure that the couple regained their freedom.
Lawrencia was the National President of the Catholic Women Organisation of Nigeria before she was appointed a minister by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.