By Tony Edike
The Police in Enugu made a breakthrough over the week when they arrested a five-man kidnap gang that specializes in kidnapping prominent businessmen and personalities within the South Eastern States for which ransoms worth several millions of naira had been paid to them. Members of the gang were intercepted at a police check point manned by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Enugu State Police Command on the Enugu â€“ Onitsha highway Monday evening, the police said .
Interestingly, the gang has already confessed to the kidnap of a prominent Anambra billionaire businessman and Chairman of Pokobros Group of Companies, Chief Paul Okonkwo popularly known as Pokobros at Awka on June 5, this year.Â They claimed they collected a huge ransom of N70 million from the businessman before he was set free few days later.
The gang also claimed responsibility for the killing of the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) for Central Police Station Awka, CSP Francis Effiong Bassey (44) and a junior policeman shortly after kidnaping Pokobros as well as the kidnap of an Isreali woman married to an Igbo man, Mr. Ezenwa.
They also kidnaped a businessman from Ideato, Imo State last Friday shortly after his late fatherâ€™s funeral and was taken to Ihe town in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State where he was held until the SARS operatives rescued him on Tuesday.Â One of the arrested persons took the police to the hideout where he had spent about five days while his family was being contacted to pay a ransom for his release.
DPO Bassey, a 1987 graduate of English Language at the University of Port Harcourt was eagerly looking forward to his long expected elevation to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) when he was felled by bullets from the kidnappers.
His brutal killing took place after the 15~man gang of kidnappers who were heavily armed with sophisticated weapons succeeded in kidnaping the Chairman of Pokobros Group, Chief Paul Okonkwo at the popular UNIZIK junction in Awka, capital of Anambra State on Friday June 5, 2009.
They were escaping from the scene when the Police was alerted by their sporadic release of gunfire indiscriminately.Â Â Both Anambra State Police Commissioner, Amusa Bello and DPO Bassey reportedly mobilized their men and went in their pursuit.Â Â Unfortunately, when the effrontery of the police team became so unbearable to the fleeing kidnappers, they decided to confront the Police.
It was during the ensuing exchange of gunfire that DPO Bassey, a father of four was hit on the eye and the bu
llet pierced his skull.Â Â He died before he got to the nearest hospital.
The Police gave the identities of the kidnappers now being detained at SARS operational base in Enugu as Emeka Uzonwanne alias â€œChiefoâ€ from Uga, Anambra State said to be leader of the gang; Anayo Okorougbo from Agbor, Delta State; Ogbonnaya Emmanuel Sunday from Obollo-Eke, Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State; Kingsley Mammah also from Obollo-Eke; and Chidi Onyechi from Amokwe, Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State.
â€œLuck ran out on this deadly kidnap gang while returning to Enugu from Nsukka Monday evening.Â They had gone to Nsukka to negotiate for a place to keep their captives and were returning to Enugu when SARS men at a check point accosted them.Â Their rickety vehicle was searched and an incriminating material was found on one of the occupants prompting the policemen to drag them to the station,â€ a senior police officer attached to the state police command told Crime Guard .
Investigations conducted on the gang revealed that some of their GSM phones contained text messages which suggested that they were kidnappers.Â One of such messages read: â€œDonâ€™t bring the kaya to Enugu because Enugu is not safeâ€. As the policemen were conducting further investigations ,some of them reportedly confessed to have been involved in several kidnap cases within the South East Zone and named some of their victims in the illicit business which has fetched them several millions of naira.
â€œHowever, Wednesday morning, one of their phones rang and behold the caller was a relative of one of their victims, the Ideato businessman who was kidnapped last Friday after his fatherâ€™s burial and kept at Ihe in Awgu local government area of Enugu State.Â The caller asked the kidnappers to tell them where to pay the ransom earlier demanded as condition for the manâ€™s release,â€ the source said.
Following the phone call, one of the kidnappers took the SARS operatives to the detention camp where the captive was set free Wednesday. A search at one of their hotel rooms in Enugu, it was further gathered, led to the discovery of some bank tellers indicating lodgments of several millions of naira into some second generation banks.
â€œWe saw bank tellers containing cash deposits of N2.5 million, N3 million, N4 million amongst others,â€ the top police officer said, adding that the leader of the gang from Uga is currently building a mansion worth millions of naira at his hometown.Â It was learnt that police recovered two AK 47 rifles and one barretta pistol from the gang.
At the time of going to press, Crime Guard learnt that efforts were being made by Police authorities to parade the arrested suspects at the Force Headquarters in Abuja while other members of the gang are beingÂ rounded up.Â Â Â A source close to the family of the slain DPO said that when news of the arrest of the suspects got to the wife, she burst into another round of wailing and gnashing of teethÂ with her children.Â Meanwhile, Anambra State Police Command has reportedly completed plans to accord a befitting burial to the slain DPO early July.