By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
AN inter-state kidnap syndicate, allegedly comprising the son of a royal father, a native doctor, businessmen and political thugs, which specialized in kidnapping the rich and ripping off dollars and Naira from them, has been uncovered by security agents in Delta State.
The kidnap gang, which was connected in high places until it was exposed by the State Security Service, SSS, had, in the past few years, it was learnt, used money to buy its members out of trouble and prison custody. The gangsters used the hotel of a royal father in the state as a hideout and cover for their hideous operations.
Out of luck
Luck, however, ran out on the gang when security agents trapped an alleged member at a spot where he came to pick up ransom demanded by the syndicate from the relations of a victim at Petroleum Training Institute, PTI, Road, Effurun, near Warri.
He was arrested and, subsequently, led security agents to a hotel, owned by the royal father, which his son and other members of the gang were allegedly using as a hiding place and ‘detention camp’.
The arrest of the monarch’s son for alleged kidnapping caused a stir in Delta State, but strings were, it was learnt, already being pulled to “kill” the matter.
Found with the syndicate at the time of arrest were said to be two AK 47 rifles with 35 and 29 rounds of live 5.66 mm caliber ammunition.
Security agents alleged that the kidnappers imprisoned their victims, ranging from federal permanent secretaries to business tycoons and lawyers.
Sunday Vanguard investigations into the activities of the gang showed that it had a network of information around the country and that between November 8 – 14, 2009 , the gang sub-divided itself to kidnap at least nine persons from various locations in the country.
The operations reportedly took place in Kaduna, Niger, Kogi and Abuja while the victims were hidden in the hotel owned by the royal father in Delta.
For instance, the syndicate allegedly kidnapped Aminu Ya’u from Ibadan, Oyo State and demanded $130,000 dollars from his family. The sub-group reportedly went to Minna, the capital of Niger State, on November 8, 2009, kidnapped one Adamu Umar, mni, a permanent secretary, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Strategy, Minna, and brought him to the monarch’s hotel in Delta from where a ransom of N30 millon cash was made to his family with threats of killing him if their demand was not met, while it demanded N10 million cash from the families of Abubakar Tafa and Mbaume Ngodoo respectively.
They also reportedly kidnapped, on the same day, along Okene-Auchi Road, one Dr. Abdulgani Abubakar of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, Abuja, and placed a ransom of N20 million cash on his head with threats to eliminate him if their demand was ignored.
Mr. Jacob Ipadeola Adeniji, believed to be the owner of Abamise Sawmill, Ijaye, Iseyin Road, Ibadan, it was learnt, was also kidnapped same day by the gang and a ransom of US130,000 dollars demanded with threats to slaughter him if the family did not play ball.
On their way back to Delta State from the escapades in the northern and south western parts of the country, the gang, Sunday Vanguard gathered, stopped at Ekpoma, Edo State and kidnapped the chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Nathaniel Inegbedion, and two of his children, while the team that went to Ekiti State returned to base with the then Secretary to the State Government, SSG.
On arrival in Delta, the kidnap gang, according to security sources, took the victims to a different hotel before they were later shepherded to the hotel, owned by the monarch, where contacts were established with their various relatives, demanding for ransom.
One of the security sources said that a brother of one of the victims, identified as Aliyu, was asked to bring $100,000 to a hotel in Benin City, Edo State, on November 12, 2009, where one of the kidnappers was waiting, while the balance of $30,000 was to be handled by another gang member.
On November 14, 2009, one of the suspected kidnappers allegedly took Aminu Ya’u and two other victims in a Honda Accord saloon car to Agofure Motor Park, on the Petroleum Training Institute, PTI, Road, Warri, to collect the $30,000.
Three of the victims were released after the money was handed over to the suspect, but he was shot while trying to escape by security agents, who acted on a tip off.
From information gathered by Sunday Vanguard, some of the suspects went to collect 2$0,000 ransom from the family of one of the victims in Benin City, Edo State, not knowing that security men had laid trap for them. An alleged member of the gang, Charles, was arrested.
SSS, which had gotten some information, was said to have then lured some other members of the gang to Mobil Filling Station, Enerhen to collect ransom.
The suspected kidnappers, Sunday Vanguard gathered, were driving towards Deco Junction, Warri, when a combined team of the army and police, which had been placed on alert, saw them and opened fire.
One of the kingpins was hit, but he managed to call his girlfriend. He was picked up and stayed six months receiving treatment before he was arraigned.
The gang allegedly secured bail for him at the Federal High Court, Benin City, but SSS re-arrested him and flew him to Abuja and charged him and others to a magistrate court to get a remand order.
However, during one of the visits of the FCT chief judge to the prisons, he ordered that the suspects be transferred to Warri area since the matter is in Delta.
Escape from prisons
Seven suspected members of the gang were taken to Ogwashi-Uku Prisons, where they reportedly arranged to escape. Sunday Vanguard learnt that some prison officials declined to be part of the plan, but it was carried out after all, with a phony accident, while the suspects were being taken to court. Five of them escaped while only two were later charged to court in Warri.
The five who escaped from detention were said to have joined in more kidnap operations in Lokoja. It was their newest escapades that reportedly led to the capture of the monarch’s son, who, as learnt, assaulted a man that was kidnapped alongside his wife for allegedly daring him.
One of the other kidnappers, according to sources, gave a motor mechanic in Warri part of his loot to buy a bus for him, but, unfortunately for him (mechanic), he was named by the suspect and security agents swooped on his workshop to arrest him. The mechanic is, however, not a member of the gang from information gathered by Sunday Vanguard, but he is currently suffering with the gangsters.
Before the sword of Damocles fell on the gang, the members had collected $130,000 dollars from Aminu Ya’u and N1.5 million from Inegbedion, and released them.
The kidnappers lived a very affluent life just as it was learnt that one of them, who travelled out of the country at the wake of the siege on the gang by security agents, has just returned to the country.
They drove in expensive cars and women flocked around them because they spent money lavishly.