By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
KIDNAPPING (read man-stealing) has metamorphosed into such a very big industry in Delta State that it currently has a
loose association, comprising graduates and undergraduates with an organized set-up and leadership.
Our investigations showed that it is no longer a case of the money-making kidnappers abducting and looking for where to hide their captives from security agents. There are four major departments in the industry. The first is the abduction squad, which kidnaps victims. The second is the transportation/receiver unit, which is in-charge of shepherding the victims to secret locations and keeping them in hideouts.
The third group is the negotiation department, which negotiates ransom with relations of victims and others; the fourth is the security department. The duty of the fourth group is to provide round-the-clock security in the dens and other hideaways where victims are kept until ransom is paid for their release. All these groups are armed.
An insider confided in Sunday Vanguard that the kingpin of the kidnapping syndicate at the moment in Delta State is one Kelvin from Kokori, Ethiope-East Local Government Area.
Delta State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba, confirmed the restricted information in an interview in Asaba on Tuesday, saying, “Kelvin is the most dangerous kidnapper in Delta State and we are looking for him”.
Aduba said Kelvin was training kidnappers and was recruiting graduates and undergraduates, as well as Okada (motorcycle) riders into his underworld team.
It was alleged that Kelvin’s parents know about the involvement of their son in kidnapping , as they reside in the same neighbourhood, but, because of the modus operandi and influence of the syndicate, it has been very difficult for the police to make a breakthrough, as information always leaked information on imminent crackdown to him.
Kidnapping nerve center
Our findings corroborated by a dependable source showed that the operational headquarters of the kidnapping industry in the state now is Kokori. Victims abducted from several parts of the state are whisked there for the next stage of the business.
Other alleged hot dens of kidnappers are Ekampreme, Agbarho and Ovwian, all in the Delta Central Senatorial District. The presence of the former chair of the defunct Delta Waterways Security Committee, DWSC, Warri, Chief Ayiri Emami, at Ubeji area is scaring kidnappers from using Jeddo as an operational base.
How it started
Kidnapping as an industry is a new development in the state. As a weapon in the Niger-Delta struggle, it was introduced by militants, who kidnapped foreign nationals to draw attention to the plight of the people of the region. It was supported because the purpose was not self-centered. Unfortunately, some criminals in the struggle veered into commercial kidnapping, that is kidnapping for money.
They kidnapped both expatriates and blacks, including politicians and the affluent. People did not raise eyebrows, as they even said it was good for the victims. Now, kidnappers not only seize footballers, judges, teachers, lawyers, journalists, they abduct children for ransom.
One of the governors, who saw the dangerous trend early in the day was Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. He quickly set up the defunct DWSC on assumption of office to tackle the menace, which was principally committed on the waterways. However, the kidnappers shifted base from the creek to land, which is outside the mandate of the committee. The DWSC was quietly dissolved and a joint force of soldiers, police, navy and other security services, put in place to battle kidnappers on land.
The battle has not been easy, as the kidnappers developped sophisticated ways of carrying out their operations whenever security operatives inched closer. This, probably, explains why the police have not been able to catch Kelvin, the alleged most dangerous kidnapper in the state, even when they know his base to be Kokori.
Some top officials, within and outside government, are said to be involved in the kidnapping industry because they make money from it.
These persons have their gangs and act as intermediaries between government and kidnappers when the demand for ransom is placed. Politicians even use kidnappers against themselves. The officials involved will not want the industry to fold up because it is their major source of income. What goes for them is that because of their status in the society, people do not easily suspect that it is their line of business and they get patronage from government unsuspectingly.
They join in the search for kidnappers whenever they are invited, but they know what they are benefitting.
Besides Kelvin, there are smaller gangs of kidnappers scattered in Delta, but they are not structured. Sometimes, one or two bad boys agree to kidnap one or two persons and make money and they put their plan into action.
There is also a kidnap gang in the state suspected to be led by the younger brother of an ex-militant leader shot dead by the Joint Task Force in Bayelsa State, in the first quarter of this year. The gang is still operates on the waterways of the state and was alleged to have kidnapped the two Lebanese workers of Setraco Construction Company, recently, at Gbaregolor in Ughelli South Local Government Area.
Up till date, the gang that kidnapped the Commissioner for Higher Education, Professor Hope Eghagha, and kept him for up to three weeks in their custody after killing his police orderly and injuring his driver, has not been identified, but it is believed to be led by one Bukumo and David.
Kidnap leaders in detention
However, the police have arrested some of those who initiated profit-making kidnapping on land in Delta. A number of them are currently on remand in the prisons for different offences. What is happening, nevertheless, is that that while they are incarcerated, their boys are carrying on, and under a new structure with Kelvin as godfather.
One of those detained, according to sources, is Rufus, alias Infinity. He is in detention in the Federal Prisons, Okere, near Warri, and was alleged to be the leader of the kidnap gang that struck in Kaduna, Abuja, Kogi and other states. The gang whisked their victims to Delta State and hid them in a privately owned hotel, from where they called their families, demanded and obtained ransoms in naira and dollars.
That time, they kidnapped outside the state and brought their victims to the state for ransom. Infinity’s boys are believed to be still intact and carrying on with the business even though he is in detention.