BY VINCENT UJUMADU, Awka
FOUR persons ab-ducted by a group of kidnappers led by an alleged overseer of a church in Anambra State, Ifeanyi Nwaezeagu were yesterday rescued by a combined team of the Department of State Security, DSS, and soldiers from the 302 Artillery Regiment and 14 field Engineers, Onitsha.
The kidnap kingpin, who claimed to be a prophet and founder of Unchangeable God Miracle Church, Awkuzu in Oyi local government area of the state, is still on the run. Seven suspected members of his gang, two females and five men, were, however apprehended by security operatives during the raid at the church at Awkuzu.
Those rescued by security operatives include 33-year old Solomon Nwanna Okonkwo from Obosi in Idemili South local government area, 50 years old Monday Osagie from Edo State, Udenna Ikedigwe from Unukwu Anam in Anambra West local government area and Amechi Oraekie from Awkuzu in Oyi local government area whose kidnap was allegedly masterminded by some members his family.
The four victims were kidnapped between Friday last week and Tuesday and taken to the shrine which happened to be the detention camp of the self acclaimed prophet.
Items recovered from them were four motorcycles, one generating set, one Dane gun and international passports of the victims, as well as other undisclosed materials.
A Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) belonging to the prophet, which was abandoned near the shrine, was also recovered by the security operatives.
It was gathered that before the victims were rescued, the suspects had demanded from the relations of the victims ransoms ranging from N10 million to N50 million. For instance, N20 million was initially demanded from the relations of Solomon Okonkwo, but the kidnappers later came down to N10 million, while the relations of Monday Osagie from Edo State were asked to pay N50 million.
Similarly, the family of Udenna Ikedigwe was asked to pay N10 million, while some members of the family of Amechi Oraekie were said to have already paid the suspects N2.5 million to eliminate him due to family squabble over property inheritance.
Anambra State director of SSS, Mr. Alexander Okeiyi, said in Awka yesterday that preliminary investigation showed that the gang was responsible for the kidnap of Rev. James Goziem Achugbu of Saint Paul’s Anglican Church, Umunachi in Dunukofia local government area of the state on February 2, 2013.
According to him, efforts were in top gear to ensure that other suspects who fled the scene before the operation were arrested.