By Evelyn Usman, Ifeanyi Okolie and Kingsley Ndemile

The Lagos State Police Command seems to be matching action with words, regarding warnings to kidnappers to stay away from Lagos, or have themselves to blame.  This followed the smashing of three different notorious kidnap gangs in one week, with the rescue of their victims which included children , ladies and a man.

The latest rescue operation said to have taken close to eight hours , took place at Prophet Afam Ikosi street, Victory estate, close to Adophe bus-stop in Iba area of the state.

Residents of the area were gripped with trepidation , at the sight of teams of fully armed policemen that fateful Wednesday morning. The entire Afam Ikosi street was deserted as most of the residents  locked themselves up in their respective apartments for fear of the unknown.

At the end of the rescue operation by policemen from Festac division and operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery squad, two suspected members of the gang were arrested while two ladies who were locked in one of the rooms in the building for  twenty-five days were rescued. The abducted ladies, one of whom is a student of the University of Lagos , were discovered to be sisters who were abducted  since September 2, 2010, until  they were rescued on September 27th 2010.

Narrating their ordeal in the hands of their abductors, one of them who simply identified herself as Uchendu  said, “ On that day, we were returning from the dry cleaner’s when at 7th junction, Festac town, a car pulled up to us, with one of the occupants pointing a gun at us.  They ordered that we get into the car.

Inside the car, they asked us to close our eyes, informing us that one of them was with a pen  knife with which he would pierce us in the eye. My sister and I, held our hands and started praying.

From there, we were  taken to a bungalow and kept inside a room at the boys quarters.  They locked us in there. We were fed once a day or once in two days. At times, we would not eat but preferred to fast and pray.

They collected our phone from us and contacted our mother . Even when we pleaded that we would love to speak to our parents, they refused” Uchendu stated.

Meanwhile , back in their Festac abode, members of their family knew no peace. Apprehension not only set in but it heightened at each given day without their children in-sight.  The kidnapers, as gathered, demanded first, for a ransom of N40 million which was bargained to N20 Million. But the family was said to have pleaded for N2 million to be paid, only for the kidnappers to hang up the phone even before the family could conclude.

RAY OF HOPE
Locked in the kidnapper’s den, one of the girls, 20-year-old Chidinma whose names literally means God is good, decided to act according to her name, an action that led to their eventual release. Taking over from her sister, Chidinma, a 100 level student of the University of Lagos, narrated, “ while there , I had a bag , a jotter and a biro inside my bag . Before they collected the bag from us, I had written on a piece of paper our plight and the need for whoever would read it to help us contact the police.

But the problem was that I did not know how or who to give. Few days after I scribbled down what we tagged save-a -soul note, they collected my bag from me while I hid the piece of paper.

Then an opportunity availed itself one day after one of the abductors who was asked to watch over us forgot a bucket in the room and stepped out. At that moment we decided to try our luck and fate smiled at us.

Before then, we used to hear voices from the next compound . So my sister climbed on top of the bucket from where she sighted someone from the next compound. She then started given signs for the person to come to our aid.

Just at that point, we remembered the note and with the help of an empty nylon of sachet water, we tucked the piece of paper inside it and opened the window from where we threw the piece of paper to the person.
Police invasion

Crime Guard gathered that on receiving the note, the good Samaritan quickly contacted the police who immediately swung into action and effected the arrest of two suspects while their leader whom they identified as Patrick, escaped. Asked what the scenario was like on the day of their rescue, Uchendu picked up from this point, “ we woke up as usual on that day and prayed to God. As we held our hands uncertain of what the day would bring, suddenly, we heard someone hurriedly opening the door of the room we were. We got scared because the door had never been opened like that.

Just then, one our abductors rushed in and said if the police came to ask who we were, that we should tell them we were his siblings. Just as he was explaining, some policemen came. Immediately we sighted them, we started shouting for help . That was how we were rescued and two of our abductors arrested”, stated 21-year-old Uchendu.

However, in what could be described as a sharp contrast to the ladies claim, the suspects Chinedu,   Chimezie, 29 and Sunday Ekwunife, 31 years  said the ladies were contacted on the phone by Patrick , their leader , who tricked them that he was taking both of them out on a date.

Hear him, “ Patrick is my oga. He owns the vehicle with which we went to pick the girls . I met him when I was hustling in Cotonue. One day he approached me and said he would want me to work with him because I am hard working. He said he was into importation of vehicles from abroad and would want me to work with him.

One day, he informed that he did a business with a man who never paid him . He further told me of his plan to get the man’s children and keep them pending when he would be paid.

So on that day, we went in Patrick’s Mercedes Benz 190 to Festac. Before then, Patrick had called the girls, saying he wanted to take them out.

They came out themselves and entered the car themselves. It was while in the car that he showed them a plastic gun , instructing them not to make noise that he was taking them to his house. On reaching the house, I never bargained with the family. Patrick only left us to be taking care of the ladies while he went to make calls . I did not know how much he asked the parents to pay and he never told me how much he would give me”

Asked if the girls were violated during their long stay, he shook his head, saying, “ we did not touch them. We were giving them food and water on a daily basis and even allowed them take their bath”.

His partner, Sunday, both of whom are from Anambra state , corroborated his account saying, “ Yes, Patrick did not force them. He called them on the phone . I met Patrick in Ondo state, where I was working.

We became friends after I realised he is an Ibo man. In the course of our discussion one day, I told him of my plans to travel out of the country and he said he would help me. So last month, he called to say he had a job for me, leading to my travelling down to Lagos.

He came to the park to pick me and took me to the house from where I showered. At about 4pm, he came and asked me to get dressed and follow him to his brother’s place whom he said was owing him but refused to pay.  So , we all went in his tinted Mercedes Benz 190 car, from where he contacted the girls on the phone.

I was inside the house when the police men surrounded the place . But fortunately for Patrick, he was not there when the police came and thus escaped.  I was fooled . I did not even know the name of the street when asked . I am just  a victim of circumstance”,   he stated.

Father of th girls, Mr Kanayo when contacted, denied ever seeting his eyes on either of the suspects , let alone having an unfinished business with them as claimed.

Said Mr Kanayo, “ For him to say he had a business with me in the United States of America is a lie from the pit of hell because I came back from USA twenty-eight years ago and I wonder how old he was then, going by the age of the so called Patrick at 40 year.

THE MOOD AT HOME
On the day they were abducted, they were coming from the dry cleaner’s . We never envisaged anything like had happened. Their absence dragged on from 9pm to 10pm and 11pm. That was when we felt something could have happened because it was unhabitual for them to come home late.

I immediately went to Festac police division to lodge a complain where I was told to hold on till twenty-four hours . It was the next day that their mother received a call from one of their phones, where a voice informed that they had kidnaped our children and demanded for a ransom of N40 million. It was later brought down to N20 million while we pleaded for N2million which they disagreed. So, for them to say their so- called leader claimed he had a business with me, is a mere lie”.

LAGOS UNCOMFORTABLE TO KIDNAPERS
Deputy Spokesman for the Lagos State Police Command, Mr Adesanya Jinadu, a deputy Superintendent of Police, while parading the suspects, Thursday, stated that the arrest was a clear demonstration of the command’s resolve to make the state uncomfortable to kidnappers, reinstating the Commissioner of Police, Mr Marvel Akpoyibo’s  warning that “ Lagos is a no- go area for kidnapers. If they kidnap and bring their victims here, we will fish them out and if they kidnap here and keep them here, they would also be fished out”. Jinadu added that the suspects would be charged to court, admonishing Lagosians to be their brothers keepers and also report to the police any information capable of flushing undesirable elements out of the state.

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