By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor
Seven days after her abduction, the Ogun State Police on Tuesday rescued the former Minister of State for Education, Sen. Iyabo Anisulowo. She had been abducted by armed men at Sawonjo in Yewa North Local Government Area of the state. The state Commissioner of Police, CP Abdulmajid Ali reveals to Saturday Vanguard details of the operation that led to her rescue. Excerpts:
“In the evening of April 27, 2016 at about 8 pm, I received a call from the Secretary to the State Government, that a top politician and former senator, Iyabo Anisulowo based in Ilaro, had been kidnapped. However, he stated that it was yet to be confirmed and promised to call back.
I quickly put a call through to my Area Commander in Ilaro. He said he heard the same thing but he was going there to confirm. Later on, the Area Commander called at about 11pm, that it had been confirmed, that the woman was kidnapped and they were looking for her vehicle.
“That same night, we organised a search party for her till the early morning of April 28, and no success. His Excellency, the Governor of Ogun State was contacted; he was also aware of it. Together with the SSG, Brigade Commander and the Area commander, we all converged at the Government House and proceeded to the farm. Her farm is not far from Igbogbila area, around Ilaro.
We met her workers on her farm, who told us that at about 7pm, some people accosted them after they had closed from the farm and were going home. One of them with AK 47, another one with a machete, forced them to stop. When they stopped, the armed men asked them to lie down, then stepped on them. They then hit the workers and drove away with the senator. I came back to the office, sat down with my security chiefs to plot our next move.
“We were waiting for the abductors to call us and tell us that they were the kidnappers and start negotiation. The first day, they refused to call; the second day, they called in the evening. When they called, they asked one of Mama’s boys who happened to work in the bank to be the only negotiator, that they would like to be talking to him alone. So, we had to get to the man called Mutiu Barkare. He is a bank manager and lives in Ibadan.
That same night, we had to go to him as the Governor ordered that we must get him to Abeokuta. The Commissioner of Police, Oyo State, Oyebade Leye, was contacted to provide security. That same night, we brought the bank manager to Abeokuta, put him in a hotel and so the bargaining started. It wasn’t an easy thing. They were calling. I had to relocate my office to the Area Commander’s office in Abeokuta, just to be closer to the Government House and other places.
“The Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase was contacted. He immediately sent Technical and Intelligence Unit from Abuja to join me. The Assistant Inspector General of Polcie, AIG, Balla Hassan, moved from Zone Two to Abeokuta permanently. It was a synergy that encompassed everybody. It showed how swiftly the police can respond to any situation. The IGP gave approval and the helicopter was brought in and so we started monitoring, plotting, bargaining and discussing with them.
Movement into the forests
“We moved into the forest within Ilaro to search. The vigilante service was called upon to move in as well. All those well known areas, uncompleted buildings, Igbogila areaa were searched. We were all searching and searching. And as we were searching, information we received confirmed that they were moving.
As we were closing in on them, they were moving. Later, we received information that they were in Okeho, Oyo State. I got in touch with the CP Oyo. He sent his team. CP Lagos sent his team. We all met in Okeho. In some places we went, some people were picked up for interrogation. Later, we learned that they had moved as we deployed so many patrol vans, while check points were set up.
Fulani herdsmen, Hausa community
“Fulani herdsmen were contacted as well as the Hausa community, because we didn’t even know which group had abducted her. But from the tone of the person that was negotiating with us, it did not sound like a Hausa or Yoruba man. Through intelligence later, we found out that they had moved to a forest in Jabatan, Kwara State, then we contacted CP Kwara.
Then we got information that they were moving towards Ogbomosho, but Ogbomosho was also blocked. We got another information that they were moving towards Offa, and we blocked the area and began stop-and-search in all the towns. We learned that they were moving but not with Mama, that mama had been kept somewhere within our area here.
Ransacking Ogun and Kwara axis
“We divided ourselves into groups: one in Kwara and another group in Ogun State and we kept on searching. Then, the man negotiating came up and said that they needed N200m. We made them realise that the person they had kidnapped happened to be a bad market, that Mama did not have N200m, and that if she had N200M, she would not be involved in farming, and that they should, please release her.
They said she was a politician. The next day, they reduced it to N150m, and said that if there was no N150m, there was no Mama, and that they were going to kill her. Later, he called again that he had seen us patrolling with helicopter, that we could never get them and that they were smarter. They added that they would come after the Commissioner of Police, they would come after the Governor, and they would do this, they would do that.
IGP’s intelligence team at work
“Meanwhile, the intelligence team sent by the IGP kept providing accurate intelligence because you know, IG has said we should do intelligence-based policing, that the intelligence should do the job first. So, we had to zero down to other cases we had before on kidnapping. We brought some past case files, went through tried ones to see the link between past kidnap cases and Mama’s kidnap. Luckily, one worked. We now zeroed down to that person.
Luckily again, we found out that there was a collaboration between both of them and that one that we zeroed closer to, lives in Ilorin. So, we went to strike but unfortunately, we missed him. The next thing we heard was that the main target escaped but we were able to get the girlfriend. In as much as we were negotiating, we were also doing underground work and searching for Mama. We now used our local vigilante men who were moving from house to house and searching.
“Then we said anyone that could give us useful information about the whereabouts of Mama would be rewarded with the sum of N5m. I came up with that idea and my colleagues said it was a good idea. And that day, people were calling, calling and they were taking advantage of it. Some called and said we should contact a native doctor; some said I should send them money. They bombarded me with phone calls and it paid off. Yesterday, last Tuesday, the Police at Ilorin, after missing the main target, we asked them to come back so that we could sit down again and fashion out the next move.
Kidnappers interrogate CP
“Suddenly, there was a call from one of the kidnappers. He asked if he was speaking with the Commissioner of Police? I said yes. He said ‘Why are you disturbing us? You are disturbing our business; You don’t want us to collect our money?’ He said ‘You have to pay us our money, because if you don’t pay us this money, you won’t see mama. You are using police to disturb our life, blocking all the roads and patrolling with helicopter; this is our business.
We have been in this business for a while.’ He said we were disturbing them, that if I didn’t pay them the money, they would kill mama, and the blood would be on us. We told him that the blood would be on their head if they killed mama. He said the Governor could pay the ransom or Mama could call her political associates to pay the money. I told him that it was not possible, because there was no loose money anymore due to the situation in the country right now. He said anything that happened we should take it like that, and that we would not hear from him again.
“We were a little apprehensive because you can’t trust some of these boys. We were not comfortable. We said, in as much as we had got some targets, lets pick those soft targets and then through them, we could get the main one we are looking for. So, I decided to look inwards; all the workers in the farm, all the workers that assisted her in planting, those that assisted her in cleaning, we invited them. We interrogated them, took their statements, went through their phones.
Then, they started being apprehensive as well. The next time the negotiator called, he said ‘all those people you arrested, they are innocent people. Why are you arresting them?’ We said ‘Ok, we are getting them. We are going to prove if they are innocent people’. Then, CP Lagos organised his own team. As he was monitoring that one, we were also doing patrol of our area again.
Aerial patrol to the rescue
“At about 2:30pm, we embarked on aerial patrol. This time, I told the pilot to get a bit low as if we were about to land. So, we flew very low, disturbing the area, and after all these things, we came back to the office to find out the next line of action. Then CP Lagos called and said he had picked the ring leader. Then another news came up that they had been forced to abandon Mama somewhere in Gbogbolahun area in Ogun State.
We sent the DPO to confirm and behold, it was true and she was found there. She was kept inside the forest for six days, an old woman of over 70 years. Luckily, she is a strong woman. She kept her faith that she was not going to die. She was brought here. We had to take her to the Governor of Ogun State for him to confirm and make sure she was the one. That was how we were able to burst this tough kidnap case.
Payment of ransom
“The only thing I want you to know is that paying ransom will not deter these people. The best thing is that people should desist from crime because the kind of police we have now are ever ready. We have all the equipment you can think of and the officers are young boys who are willing to work. In fact, I was so impressed when we went to Okeho. People didn’t know we had policemen on ground until the helicopter was about to land. Even some policemen were afraid when they saw people moving towards us in the forest and they asked if they were the kidnappers but I said ‘No, these are our officers.’”