Zenith Bank silent over rumoured death of kidnapped staff

ZENITH Bank has refused to clear the air on the rumoured death of a staff member at Suleja branch who died after a kidnap incident in Abuja.

Reports said Austin Ilom was abducted three weeks ago, with kidnappers demanding N50 million. A woman named Oby, who claimed to be his friend, reportedly said Mr Ilom was kidnapped at his home in Kubwa, Abuja.

As a result of that, the Source Magazine said, Zenith Bank reportedly failed to become part of the negotiations for the release of its staff as he was not kidnapped on duty but at home.

Mr Ilom’s brother-in-law, a senator, was contacted to assist but said Zenith Bank must first contribute before he could do anything. The senator later brought N3 million to support the release of Mr Ilom.

Subsequently, Mr Ilom’s colleagues contributed N11.5 million for the kidnappers, who insisted on keeping him hostage until the balance was sent. While they were working to raise more money, the kidnappers contacted Mr Ilom’s friends and asked them to pick him at a particular spot.

“They went and picked a half dead man. Shortly after he got to Bwari Hospital, he asked for water, before they brought him the water, he gave up. Best marketing staff in Suleja branch,” the woman, Oby, reportedly posted.

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“Such a sad end of Austin Ilom. I have lost count of people I know, who were involved in one RANSOM contribution or the other for kidnappers to release their friend, family or colleagues,” she added.

Zenith Bank failed to respond

Economy Post wanted to confirm the authenticity or otherwise of the story. To do that, the newspaper contacted Team Lead for Media Relations, Mr Ayoola Kusimo, who was responsible for responding to journalists’ enquiries.

However, he neither responded to Economy Post‘s enquiries as to what really happened to Mr Ilom nor did he explain Zenith Bank’s position on the matter.

Kidnapping rising in Abuja

As Economy Post earlier reported, data show that insecurity is rising rapidly in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. A June 2023 Nextier report said there had been 40 kidnap cases involving 236 victims in the FCT between January and June 2023.

Its April 2023 report had noted that there were 29 persons involved in just one kidnap incident.

The report had claimed that “there is no week in Abuja without a record of kidnapping or related violence,” stressing that “Kwali Area Council and towns on the outskirts of Abuja were worst hit by the menace.”

Nextier cited a report saying that kidnapped victims in the capital city paid ₦653.7 million between 2021 and 2022.

Kidnapping rising nationwide

Kidnapping is also growing nationwide. According to SBM Intelligence, “between July 2022 and June 2023, 3,620 people were abducted in 582 kidnap-related incidents in Nigeria and at least N5 billion ($6,410,256 as of 30 June 2023) were reported as ransom demands, while verified ransom payouts amounted to N302 million ($387,179), or six percent of what was demanded.”

Source: SBM Intelligence, Economy Post

Within the period, Zamfara reported highest kidnap incidents with 765 cases. It was followed by Kaduna and Niger, which had 690 and 468 cases respectively. Katsina and Sokoto states were next with 241 and 176 cases respectively, trailed by Kogi and Edo with 163 and 130 cases respectively. Other states not represented in the graph above had fewer than 10 cases of kidnapping within the period.

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FCT Police Commissioner, Mr Haruna Garba, has, however, assured residents of the capital city that his men has made several arrests and are desirous of uprooting kidnappers from the capital city.

“I wish to reassure you that the FCT Police Command, under my leadership, will do all that is humanly possible to prevent crime and criminality, but when it does occur, to detect it. To all law-abiding residents of the FCT, I wish to solicit your support and cooperation in the spirit of community policing. Together, we shall defeat crime in the FCT,” Mr Garba said.

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