Aba, the once bustling commercial and industrial hub of Abia State, has finally been brought to its knees by the lingering insecurity situation in the city which culminated in the abduction of 15 school children on Monday.
By yesterday, all social and commercial activities in Aba had ground to a halt as residents continued to flee the city in droves while schools, banks, markets and business premises were shut down.
Those still remaining in Aba have either moved their families out of the city or in the process of doing so.
The capital city of Umuahia and Owerri in neighbouring Imo State are known to be playing host to most of the fleeing Aba residents.
In spite of mounting speculations that the kidnappers have let go of the innocent school children, there is still no sign of the children as their parents and relatives wait and pray for their freedom.
Commissioner of Police, Mr. Jonathan Johnson, told newsmen yesterday that the expected release of the children got stalled owing to conflicts in negotiating terms with the kidnappers.
According to him, there were three different groups, including parents, school authorities of Abayi International School, all negotiating with the kidnappers.
He said each of the groups had reached different terms of agreement with the kidnappers but owing to logistic reasons the expected freedom for the kids could not materialise.
But the CP stated that the police were yet to identify the exact location where the minors are being kept.
He ruled out launching an attack on the kidnappers in order to safeguard the lives of the innocent children.
Meanwhile, Governor Theodore Orji has appealed to the kidnappers to release the children in their custody, saying that he felt "totally embarrassed that our Japan of Africa which used to be the envy of all is gradually becoming synonymous with kidnapping. It is indeed worrisome".
In a statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Kingsley Emereuwa, the Abia chief executive was quoted as expressing deep sorrow over the criminal activities that had enveloped Abia South senatorial district, prompting him to grant unconditional amnesty to the criminals on two occasions all in a bid to persuade them to change their bad ways.
"As a governor, I have almost bent backwards on this issue to the point of granting unconditional amnesty to these our boys, yet this ugly incident continues. I am not unmindful of the activities of some politicians who are behind this menace as is being revealed, but as a leader sensitive to the anguish of his people, I can feel the trauma of the parents and guardians too, but I would rather continue to seek solution than to engage in name calling or buck-passing,” he said.
Orji added: “Let me once again appeal to these boys to consider the ordeal this traumatic experience will have on these minors and for the sake of their parents release them and embrace the rehabilitation programme which the Federal Government has gratuitously extended to the state."
The Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), the governor's former party, yesterday called on the Federal Government to impose a state of emergency on Abia State as a lasting solution to the problem of insecurity pervading the state.
PPA, which until July was the ruling party in Abia, made the call at a press conference addressed by the party's publicity secretary, Chief Oliver Eze-Obiezu, saying that there was noticeable failure of governance in “God's own state” hence President Goodluck Jonathan had to intervene to save the situation.
“Consequent upon the glaring total collapse of governance in Abia State, it is our genuine call to Mr. President to appropriately consider declaring a state of emergency in Abia State to save the citizenry from imminent annihilation occasioned by absolute insecurity that is underscored by the failure of the sitting government to provide minimal need of its people,” the PPA said.
But in a prompt reaction to the call, Emereuwa lashed out at the PPA leaders, accusing them of being the brains behind the insecurity problem in Abia.
He said that there was nothing for them to buttress the allegations; rather Abia is now paying the prize of past actions of PPA leaders when they were in control of government.
“It is a direct handiwork of most of the members of PPA,” Emereuwa said, adding that security reports had shown that many politicians were involved in promoting and sponsoring criminal activities in the state.