Elder statesman and former Minister of Petroleum, Shettima Ali Monguno, remained in captivity yesterday, 24 hours after he was seized by four gunmen in Maiduguri, Borno State.
His abductors, believed to be members of the Islamist sect, Boko Haram, were said to be awaiting ransom from the family of the 92-year-old elder statesman.
Although Shettima Monguno is reported to be ‘fine’ in captivity, his family pleaded last night that he should be allowed access to his drugs.
The kidnappers reportedly phoned the family yesterday with an assurance that “Baba is safe.”
Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State flew into Abuja on Friday evening to brief President Goodluck Jonathan and Borno stakeholders in Abuja on the situation.
There were indications that the military Joint Task Force (JTF) and other intelligence agencies have located where Monguno is being held but most stakeholders, including the state government, prefer dialogue with the gunmen to military action.
A highly-placed source said: “They have not released the elder statesman; they said they are awaiting ransom. What has made the situation dicey borders on the fact that they have not named their price. Their silence has created anxiety for everybody. But they put a call to the family saying ‘Baba is safe.’
“Following an appeal from Governor Shettima, some eminent clerics and leaders with link to Boko Haram have been intervening to secure the release of Monguno.”
The abduction of Monguno has created worries for the state governor.
“The governor is concerned that given his age, Monguno eats less and takes some food supplement to make up for his body functioning.
“The governor appeals to his captors to consider the health conditions applicable to his age and release him to reunite with his family. Family members are said to have the same fears expressed by Governor Shettima.”
It is said that the old man takes different drugs seven times daily based on physician’s prescription.
A government source said that Monguno spoke with his family members by phone. He was said to be psychologically stable and appealed for calm and prayers. He was quoted as saying “Don’t get worried please. I am fine, just be reciting lahaula wa la quwata illa billah, (Allah is in control). Nothing to worry about, I am fine.”
The remarks was said to have immediately brought some relief to his family, according to the source.
The Governor’s Special Adviser, Communications, Alhaji Isa Gusau said: “As concerted efforts are being made to ensure the safe release of Monguno from captivity, Governor Shettima yesterday expressed concern over the fact that the elder statesman may be without some drugs made of food supplements some of which have remained the elder statesman’s companion in the last twenty years or more.”
Asked if the government was sure of the safety of Monguno, another source added: “The abductors were said to have requested that they needed some ‘alms, to help their course but didn’t specify any amount.”
“While he was being forced into a car, his abductors were said to be apologising to him and insisting they merely needed money and they had to do what they did.”
The Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) yesterday demanded the immediate release of the elder statesman.
Describing the action as totally unacceptable, the Chairman of the forum and Governor of Niger State, Dr Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Malam Danladi Ndayebo in Minna said that it was sad that an elder statesman who has served the nation selflessly became the target of kidnappers.
He said: “It is bad enough that several innocent citizens have been killed by unknown gunmen in the troubled Borno State in recent times. Adding the fear of kidnapping of elder statesmen who have served their father land selflessly to their burden is unbearable’’.
He called on security agencies to act swiftly to trace and arrest those behind the abduction to serve as a deterrent to those who may want to now target elder statesmen, or any Nigerian for that matter.
It hailed the Borno State Government for the steps taken so far to rescue the 92-year-old from his abductors, while assuring Nigerians that the forum was working closely with the federal government to tackle the challenges of insecurity decisively.