BY EVELYN USMAN
LAGOS — The Lagos State Police Command has smashed a kidnap syndicate comprising nine Nigerians based in Ghana. They are said to have been responsible for the kidnap of the Ejigbo Local Council Development Area boss, Mr Kehinde Bamigbetan, two months ago and a Federal High Court Judge.
In the process, seven suspected members of the syndicate were killed during a gun battle, yesterday.
Two suspected members of the gang were also arrested at their hideout in Agbara area of Ogun State, while an Indian national identified as Vivex Changrani, said to have been kidnapped Sunday, was rescued.
Recovered at the end of the gun battle said to have lasted 30 minutes, were four AK 47 riffles, two of which had police identification mark, 28 AK 47 magazines fully loaded, more than 1,000 rounds of AK- 47 live ammunition, army uniforms and two vehicles — a Honda CRV SUV with number plate ABC 106 AE and a Nissan Pathfinder SUV with number plate AGL 730 AZ.
How the syndicate was smashed
Briefing newsmen on how the syndicate met its waterloo, the command’s boss, Mr Umar Manko, said: “Remember when the LCDA chairman was kidnapped, I promised Lagosians we were going to arrest the kidnappers.
“We got information that these kidnappers were based in Ghana and all efforts to arrest them in Ghana failed because that country had her procedure and they insisted we could not just go there to make any arrest.
“We went to Ghana with a team of International Policemen, INTERPOL, but after 31 days without a headway, our policemen returned to Nigeria.
“Based on painstaking follow-up and surveillance in tracking these kidnappers, men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad discovered their hideout in Agbara two weeks ago.
“The Commander SARS, Mr Abba Kyari, led a team of crack detectives to a suburb in Agbara where the kidnappers had their camp.
“After 72 hours of waiting in ambush, the men cordoned off, then stormed the house where all the kidnappers gathered by 3 am, yesterday.”
The kidnappers’ modus operandi, as gathered, included dressing in full military uniform, pretending to be military personnel. They would thereafter, kidnap their victims, pretending to be taking them to a military base , only to take them to their hideout, from where they would start negotiating for ransom.
In some cases where they usually experience gridlock, some of them would reportedly jump down from their operational vehicle to clear the way, pretending to be conveying a military officer.
After each successful kidnap, they would reportedly share their loot before leaving for Ghana. Preliminary investigation, according to Police sources, revealed that the kidnappers usually give their loot to a Bureau de-change operator after each successful deal who thereafter takes it to them in Ghana.
$100,000 paid as ransom for Bamigbetan’s release
It was gathered that a total of $100,000 was collected by the gang as ransom for the release of the Ejigbo LCDA boss.
Leader of the syndicate whose identity was given as Jonah Benjamin Osinachi, was said to have collected $50,000 while the other members shared $50,000.
One of the suspects who gave his name as Uchenna Nwanyu (25), admitted working for leader of the syndicate.
According to him, “Jonah whom we usually called China (pointing to his boss’ corpse) sent for me from Ghana. I came with his wife and children and lodged in a hotel. I went to his place (Agbara) on Sunday because he said he was expecting his goods. I was there when they were about going for an operation. They all tied charms on their wastes, danced round a liquid substance which they later poured on their heads before leaving the house, wearing their army uniforms with guns.
They later came back with a white man whom they pushed inside a room and ordered me to stay with him. They, thereafter, said they would call the man’s relatives the next day (yesterday) for ransom.
The rescue operation
“I was in the room with the man when I heard gunshots. I even helped the man by telling him to lie on the floor so as not to be hit by stray bullets. I later heard footsteps as they all tried to escape. When the gunshots died down, I went out, only to see the policemen. I was even the one that showed them where the kidnapped man was.
“I knew my boss was a kidnapper but I could not do anything about that because he was the source of my livelihood. I also worked for him in Ghana. I am in charge of his building which is under construction in Ghana and his restaurant.”
The second suspect, Ogbonna Emenike, who disclosed that he was only released from prison last Monday over a case of robbery, said he was lured into the gang because of hunger. Although he denied taking part in the abduction, Uchenna said he was one of those who came in with the kidnapped Indian in the early hours of Monday.