BY IFEANYI OKOLIE & UJU MBANUSI
LAGOS — The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, CP, Umar Manko, yesterday, at the police command in Ikeja, announced the arrest of eight members of a notorious kidnap gang that abducted the mother of Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, last December.
Also arrested were four suspects said to be members of a robbery gang that specialized in attacking and killing policemen within the state.
The CP who gave the identities of the robbery suspects as Kazeem Adebola, Yunusa Lateef, Ibrahim Akanbi and Olawale Kosoko, said they were arrested with five AK47 rifles and 31 magazines all fully loaded neatly packed and concealed in a specially constructed compartment in a Honda Civic Coupe car with number plate FST 592 BC, after they attacked residents of Victoria Garden City, VGC, Lagos.
Parading the suspects, the state police boss said: ”On April 2, 2013, Lagos State Police Command arrested one Chiejine Onochie, 32, and Chukwuma Okoh, 31, in connection with the kidnap and killing of a 72-year-old woman, Regina Obi, after collecting N2 million ransom.
“The suspects, according to him, confessed that they gave out the information on the kidnap of the minister’s mother in Delta State.
“The special anti-robbery squad of the command was directed to go after the ring leader of the gang identified as Jideofor Ogbue, also known as Marvelous.
“Three SARS teams were then deployed to Delta, Edo and Rivers States. Eventually, Marvelous, 22, the ring leader was arrested in his hide-out in Port Harcourt and was used to arrest five other members of his gang, identified as Michael Ojeabulu, 23; Endurance Oke, 22; Ibrahim Abubakar, 28; Buhari Amajola, 27; Hassan Husseini, 29, in Delta, Enugu and Edo States.
“All suspects confessed to the kidnapping of the minister’s mother and the collection of N13 million ransom.
“They also confessed to many other kidnappings within the South-South and South-Eastern part of the country. But before their arrest, the suspects had concluded plans to kidnap the Commissioner of Commerce for Anambra State.”
How we kidnapped minister’s mother
Chiejine Onochie, a 32-year-old native of Ogwashi-Uku in Delta State, who claimed to be related to the Okonjos, in his interview with Vanguard narrated how he masterminded the kidnap of Okonjo-Iweala’s mum.
According to him, “my mother is a member of the Okonjo family and she is from the palace where I was working as a Palace Boy before I got a job at the Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku as a security guard.
“Some time in August 2012, I met one Chukwuma Okoh in a room next to my girlfriend’s at the polytechnic hostel and we became friends. He told me that he was a fresh graduate of accounting from Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, in Edo State.
Wanted to kidnap Ogwashi-Uku poly rector
“I liked his life style and we started hanging out together. After a couple of weeks, he started asking me questions about the rector of the polytechnic, Mrs. Edna Nneka Mogekwu. He asked about her security details and how she was moving about on the campus, I told him that the woman was very free and she did not move about with police or security men.
“Then he told me that he wanted her kidnapped and that was one reason why he was around the campus. I pleaded with him not to do it because the woman is my aunty and she was the one who gave me the job I was doing. I also explained to him that the woman was not so rich that he shouldn’t do her any harm.
“But he refused and insisted that he was going to kidnap her. So after some days, I called him and told him that I was from the Okonjo family and that I could deliver the mother of the Minister of Finance to them. He was shocked and I took him to the palace and showed him around before taking him to his bus stop where he boarded a bus back home.
“I decided to give them Mama Okonjo because I knew her daughter works for the government and if we succeeded in kidnapping her, the Federal Government would assist in paying the ransom. So, few days later, which was in December, he called me and said he wanted me and members of his gang to meet, so we could plan how to kidnap Mama.
Suspects were to disguise as corps members
“I went and told them that they would have to disguise as corps members in search of where to work. With that I told them that they could enter into the palace and probably see their target. We all agreed on that plan but on the day they were supposed to strike, there was a renovation going on in the compound and the whole place was rowdy, so they couldn’t kidnap her.
“On the Sunday of that week, that was December 10, 2012, they asked me to go to the palace and check how the place was. I did and told them that construction was still on but it was minimal. So after few hours I got a call from a member of my family, asking me to rush down to palace, that Mama had been kidnapped. When I got there the whole place was in disarray.
“They told me how it happened and I joined them in the search and no one suspected I had a hand in it. I called Chukwuma and asked how she was faring and he said she was okay and that they had made their demands for ransom. About five days later I got news from the palace that a ransom had been paid but the kidnappers refused to release Mama. I then called Chukwuma and asked what was happening and he said Marvelous who he said was the leader of the gang said the money they collected wasn’t enough and they needed more money. I told him that wasn’t our agreement that he should do all he could to get her released.
“In the evening of that day, Mama was released and I called Chukwuma and asked for my share of the ransom. He told me that Marvelous was angry with both of us for pressurising them to free Mama and vowed not to give us a dime. I was shocked. I tried reaching Marvelous but his line was switched off. I and Chukwuma were devastated and we accepted our fate.”