By Evelyn Usman & Uju Mbanusi
Ago Okota area of Lagos was in the news weekend, following the discovery of a kidnapper’s den, on Oyegbusi street, where a Briton who was kidnapped shortly after arriving the country from Amsterdam, was kept for five days before he was rescued.
The three-storey building located in the area known as new sight, towards Ago end of Okota, could be said to be sited at a vantage position for the kidnappers, as it enables them to have a clear view of the entire area, down to the popular Apple junction in Amuwo-Odofin.
Crime Alert gathered that the kidnappers whose exact number could not be ascertained, had been using the uncompleted building for long to hold their victims hostage until ransom was paid. Investigation carried out revealed that anytime they made a catch, they would drive in with their victims who are usually blindfolded.
On reaching the compound, they would lead their victims right to the third floor from where they would keep them in one of the rooms until ransom was paid. At the end of any successful operation, the kidnappers, as gathered, would leave for their respective places of abode, leaving a lone security man identified as Nonye, to look after their prey.
The 32-year-old security man who resides in Ikotun area of Lagos, as reliably gathered, was employed as a guard close to two years ago to checkmate usage of the uncompleted building by illegal occupants. But little did his employer (names withheld) know Nonye had a sinister motive up his sleeve.
Efforts to get response from other residents proved abortive as most of them kept sealed lips. However, a man who claims to own a farm land around the flooded area told Crime Alert that there is no way anyone would expect anything of such has been going on there because you hardly see them together in front of the building. Anytime a car drives in, there is this impression that the owner of the building has come to inspect it. Construction work stopped for a while and since then, nothing seemed to be happening.”
A local food vendor around the area said: “ My sister, I know nothing. My only advise is that Police should also carry out same raid around this canal area because all the time, you see them in big big cars driving in and out. Nobody knows what they area into.
How Briton was kidnapped
It was reliably gathered that on July 16, 2013, the kidnappers armed with locally made pistol stormed airport road, waiting for a prey. Just then, they reportedly sighted a black Sportage SUV approaching. On realizing that the occupant was a foreigner, the kidnappers heaved sighs of relief and in a commando- like manner, intercepted the vehicle around Mafoluku, releasing sporadic shots. In the process, the driver of the vehicle with an unknown identity reportedly sustained bullet wounds, while the foreigner later identified as Dickson Lee, was immediately blind folded and whisked to their den.
Sources told Crime Alert that although the Briton who was coming to Nigeria for the first time, following a job he recently secured in an oil company, had been informed of kidnappers excesses in the country, he was reportedly reassured that Lagos was not prone to kidnap cases as other states.
Lee, who was clad in a striped blue, white and yellow shirt on a blue jean was apparently unsure of what would become of him as he was thrown into the toilet of the four-bedroom flat with his hands and legs tied and his mouth sealed with cello-tape.
He was reportedly untied only when they wanted to feed him. Though he was not used to the type of food offered, he reluctantly ate part of the bread and processed can food, including fruit juice out of starvation. During his stay, the kidnappers reportedly contacted Lee’s relatives on one of the GSM network providers. Crime Alert reliably gathered that when the number they used in contacting Lee’s relatives was sent to the network providers by operatives of the Special Intelligence Bureau, SIB, and those of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, to facilitate their investigation, it was discovered that the number was registered with a fake address and details.
Undeterred by the kidnappers game, the operatives switched to plan ‘B’ by encouraging Lee’s relatives to play along. They reportedly demanded for a ransom of $100 million but later settled for N7.5 million, which they insisted must be deposited at a designated point somewhere in Okokomaiko area on or before July 21, or risk loosing Lee.
On the day of the payment of ransom, operatives who posed as Lee’s relatives arrived the designated point before the kidnappers. While some were in a vehicle believed to be that of Lee’s relatives, others cordoned off the area. At about 12.30pm, a motorcycle was reportedly sighted approaching the route shortly after the kidnappers had taken details of the vehicle which included its color and plate number. But as one of the occupants on the motorbike reached out his hand with the intention of collecting the ransom from the supposed Lee’s relatives, he was arrested by the policemen who posed as Lee’s relatives.
The motorcycle rider simply identified as Ugo , who was shot in the process, managed to escape while his alleged partner in crime, Chukwuemeka Benson, 27, was arrested. His confessional statement led the operatives to where Lee was kept and he was subsequently rescued unhurt.
Investigation carried out by Crime Alert in the area revealed that shortly before the arrival of the policemen, three persons, two of whom were reportedly at the balcony of the third floor which oversees the entire area, rushed out. One of them was identified as Nonye, the guard.
A man who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “ From the way they ran out of the building, you could sense all was not well . But nobody knew what the exact problem was. They did not drive out through the main entrance, they took inside the canal area . We thought initially that they could have sighted the owner of the building coming because he did not like seeing unknown faces in the compound. It was not until the policemen arrived that we concluded they could have been the reason for the sudden mad rush.”
Police alert to its responsibility
There is no gainsaying the fact that the kidnap of Lee along the Murtala Muhammed Airport would have sent fears down the spines of foreigners who intend coming into Lagos for one transaction or the other, over the seeming security lapses along the route. To checkmate this trend, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Umar Manko informed journalists that his command and policemen of the Airport command under whose jurisdiction is the airport road , were fine-tuning strategy to ensure adequate security measure along the route. “If anything happens in Lagos state , we have the major stake. I talk with the CP Airport on regular basis and we try to see how best we can map out strategies to ensure the route is safe both to foreigners and Nigerians,” Manko assured.