….I ESCAPED ON THE NIGHT THEY WERE TO KILL ME
Chief Donatus (as he preferred to be identified in this heart-rending story for security reasons), is an ardent Christian who believes that God’s will must manifest, no matter the situation. A wealthy owner of one of the most flourishing pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria with outlets in major cities of the world, he was forced to pass through the eye of a needle after being abducted near his office on the celebrated lover’s day of February 14, 2017.
At the end of the 90-day gruelling and shocking experience in the hands of his kidnappers led by the arrested notorious kidnap kingpin, Chukwudubem Omwuamadike a.k.a Evans, he miraculously escaped from their hideout. In this exclusive interview, the first since his freedom, with Emma Nnadozie and Joseph Undu, he gave a vivid account of the hair-raising ugly encounter.
Chief Donatus would not want his pictures published as police have not offered him any protection and he is still afraid of the Evans gang
On the 14th February, 2017, at about 7:30pm, while I was going home from my office at Ilupeju, I suddenly saw an SUV opposite me. I wanted to reverse but somebody in the front came down with a long gun and dragged me out from my car. He pushed me inside the SUV. Immediately they moved away from the street, they transferred me to the back of the SUV and covered me with a car mat while one of them sat on top of me.
They drove me to an unknown place but before we got there, the one at the back with me now put iron (chain) on my hands. There were about five of them in the SUV. I was carried away and didn’t know what to say. I was afraid for my life and was thinking whether they were assassins or kidnappers because I have some cases in the court. So, I thought maybe those people are the ones after me.
Trip to hideout
When we got there, they asked me to come down but remain faced down, which I did. The house was a bungalow with a parlour and their generator was on. They asked me; are you Chief Donatus, I said yes, what’s your wife’s name? I told them. They now told me that they were not going to harm me, that what they wanted was their own share and that I should corporate. After that, they brought out one AK-47 and a pistol with live ammunitions and showed me that this is not a child’s play.
They now brought out a locally made iron like chain and put on my legs, blindfolded me, then pushed me into one dark room. It was a self-contained room with bathroom and toilet inside. There was a standing fan, one high rise foam with bed spread and curtains on the widow but throughout my stay there, it was not opened even for one day. I was there till the following day. There was no food for me through out that night, but in the morning, they brought Indomie for me after brushing. I took my bath and ate. They asked me not to look at them any time I wanted to bath so when the time comes; I raised the blindfold up a bit, making sure that they did not see me.
Familiar voice echoes
After about two days, I heard a voice that sounds like my pharmacist, Emeke and it was while I was eating, normally while eating, I used to raise the blindfold up small to enable me to see. He asked them where they kept me. As he was talking, ours eyes met and he shuddered. He now withdrew, but before he left, he asked them whether they have contacted my brothers and they said no.
I was hearing everything they were discussing. They even asked how they could get to my wife but he told them that my wife doesn’t usually come to the office. What I noticed was that, in the first one week, they were not harsh but that changed all of a sudden.
I used to brush every morning but it became once in a week. I noticed that, any time they wanted me to bathe, they would come to my room early morning with one small bucket of water and asked me to get up and take my bath. Then after that, everywhere would be so quiet as if nobody lived in that compound. So, in the night before they put on their generator, it used to be around 8:30pm so that the neighbourhood would now think that they have come back from their home while they were inside the house all through without any music and no television.
I noticed also that, whenever their boss called them, they would put on one small radio so that neighbours would not hear whatever they were discussing. After five days there, I started getting weak and I asked them how much I have to pay. Their manager now called their chairman and they discussed.
Their chairman, as they called him, was not discussing with anybody except the manager, they were three. The manager now came to me and said his boss said my bill was two million dollars. I asked where I would get that kind of money. We don’t usually keep money at home; we do borrow from banks to do business. After much pleading, he reduced it to one million dollar. But after two days, he said, he has gotten more information about me and it’s no more dollars again, it’s one million Euros. At exactly two weeks of my hostage, they contacted my brother through the phone number I gave them. When he called my brother, he asked his manager to connect me, I think it was a conference call because he was hearing the conversation but whenever he wanted to talk to me, he would put it on pause and would tell me what to tell my family.
Initially, I was telling my brother that, they said it was one million Euros but he said, “No, that I’m a mad person, that I should tell my brother that I have agreed with them that it is one million Euros” and I did so. My brothers were crying because where would they get such an amount of money. There were times they would be beating me so that my brothers would hear and know that I was suffering. That iron was on my leg throughout my stay in the place except when I was going to bath.
They used to serve me indomie twice a day or some times, Semovita with one meat. They used to cook in the house. There was a lady that used to come and cook for them. The lady used to come with a small girl. My brother called and said that there was no money but they managed to gather fifty million and he said my brothers were all mad, that if they did not complete the money, he was prepared to keep me for the next one year and that they were not paying rent and that they were the owners of the house.
For one month, I was there because gathering that money was not easy. I did not know whether I was the only victim there or not because throughout my 90 days incarceration, I was only in that one room. He vowed to collect the ransom complete. My brothers went to collect a lot of money from our relatives. I know when it was one hundred million, but he still insisted.
I knew there was a time the exchange dropped, so, he now asked them not to change the money. When he said one million Euros, the Euro was about five hundred and thirty naira per Euro. So, when the rate was dropping, he asked them not to change, that it was now naira they wanted because he thought naira was gaining value, which would have been five hundred million. When my brother now told them that he was not able to get one hundred million, they said he was talking rubbish. It was Tuesday before Easter; my brothers were doing everything to get me out to celebrate Easter with them. He now called my brother and said he should bring whatsoever they had; my brother now told them what he had.
He told my elder brother that he was going to be the one that would deliver the money and that he would shoot his two legs if he tried to joke with them. They were all quarrelling. The manger now took the phone from me and started insulting my brother that, he was very stupid, and very wicked, that he wanted me to die so that he could go and inherit my property. On Thursday, before Easter, I asked the manager about their chairman. I used to chat with them, and I was trying to be friendly with them. Then the manager told me that the chairman travelled to America. He came back the next Sunday after Easter. I now asked; can I talk to my brothers? Because it was like I have already been cut off from the real world.
Effect of Vanguard publication
So, the first publication about my abduction in Vanguard newspapers was on Saturday, then, the chairman (Evans) called his manager and was speaking with anger saying that my brother wanted to kill me. After the call, his manager now came to me to say that, “your brother doesn’t want you alive. He went to do a newspaper publication while he has been begging that he doesn’t have money. Now, where did he get the money to do the publication?” On Sunday, the chairman called to say that I should thank my God, that if they had published that story in Vanguard before now, there was no way he wouldn’t have collected one billion naira from me. Then on Tuesday, the story was everywhere on Facebook. The chairman now called the manager again complaining bitterly about the publication on Facebook. But again, I pleaded with them that my brother didn’t have Facebook account just like me. He doesn’t have time for all these things, maybe it could be women that did that. They were very angry about that newspaper publication. After that, there was no communication from the chairman even my brothers again.
Calls for change of negotiator
Exactly one month after Easter, he now called again that he didn’t want to discuss anything with my brothers again, that I should call another person. I now called my cousin and the manager asked me to tell chairman whenever he called that, my brother wanted to kill me so he should hands off this case. One day after that discussion with the chairman, I heard Emeka, my pharmacist discussing with them. Normally, he did come there every day. Sometimes, he stayed till late night. And I was overhearing his voice. At a point I thought, he was no longer living with his wife because he stayed late there.
Decision to kill me
I heard Emeka discussing with manager but what drew my attention was when the manager said “….ehh…for that reason, we don’t have choice than to kill him, we would kill him. We don’t have alternative than to kill him. I overheard Emeka calling my staff from there. He was complaining that I was very wicked, that this was what I have done to some persons. He was complaining that one of my pharmacists was not cooperating. When I now heard that they would kill me, I now encouraged myself that, maybe it’s not me.
There was a day Emeka came again and said, “If you want to kill him, kill him, in fact, kill him” until that week that I escaped from them on Wednesday, Emeka came again and asked them whether they have killed me. They said no…that it is going to be on Friday night. I said to God, that it has been said that nobody knows when he is going to die but it is like I know when I’m going to die. Even the first day that they made up their mind to kill me, the manager now called the one that travelled to come back so I thought it was going to be that night. I was counting the days because I did not know when my end would come. I didn’t even know that this was even almost two months after collecting ransom from my brothers. I didn’t know that they collected it. I was told this when I came out. When their Chairman travelled, I thought he travelled to America like his people said or South Africa maybe; he went to save the money. Throughout that Wednesday, I wasn’t myself even when they brought the Indomie, I couldn’t eat.
Mysterious escape from the dark room
It was on Friday night that my miracle happened. Way back, for the 90 days period of my captivity, I was trying to remove that iron from my leg without success, but that night around 2:00 am to 3:00 am, something asked me to get up and I got up and prayed. After that, the voice said to me that I should try opening that padlock which I did. I squeezed small size of the bed spread and passed it through the padlock and pulled it with little effort once, and the padlock opened. I said to myself, God, if I go and these people catch me, I will die, and if I remain here till daybreak, I would also die. So, the best thing is that, let me go and try it. It was God that opened this padlock, because I know that it wasn’t my personal power. That God will lead me out. Before then, I had begged them to be leaving the door linking my room to the parlour open so that I will be getting fresh air from there. Luckily, there was light that night and there was curtain and linen, so I made sure that the inside of my room was darker than the palour so that, even if they opened the curtain and look inside, they would not see me. There were two of them sleeping at the palour and because there was light that night, I couldn’t step on anyone of them. I said to my God, I will go; I will go. I left for the palour, from there to the kitchen.
There, I saw another burglary at the kitchen door and I concluded that I could not open it and had to go back through the palour to my dark room again while those people were still sleeping. I carried the iron and put it back on my legs but didn’t lock it again. One mind said I should go again, I should go and try, I got up again went through the palour yet, they did not notice, then I closed the back door. Luckily, the wooden door that leads outside was not locked while the burglary was locked at the middle. The upper bolt and the down ones were just held down. When I pushed the upper bolt and the down one, the burglary opened and I now went outside their compound. I saw their gate, I turned the other side and I saw something like ladder resting on the fence. Their fence had broken bottles on top of it but at that point where the ladder was, the broken bottles were not there. That was where I climbed the fence, stepped my foot and jumped to the other compound.
While inside that compound, I knocked at the door of a flat, one man and a woman came out. I told them that, I was a kidnap victim being kept in the other compound; I just managed to escape now, please help me. The man said, “Mr. Man get away from this compound before I call the police or vigilante for you” and I responded, please call the police. The man and his wife went back to sleep leaving me there alone. All of a sudden, everywhere became quiet again. One mind told me that I should go somewhere and hide till day break which I did.
Not up to ten minutes that I left to hide, my abductors now opened their gate looking for me everywhere with their motorcycles. I was in my hideout praying to God to save my life. I was there till day break. I was looking like a mad person. For three months, I had not shaved, everywhere was white, and I was only putting up a dirty boxer that I had worn for the past 90 days without washing. When those couple woke up and saw me, they were surprised and as he wanted to raise alarm, I said no, these people there don’t let them know I am here. I said to him, “please sir; can you just put me inside your booth and drive me away from here?” He said no …he was not going to do that, that I should wait here. He now said he was going to call the chairman of the estate. After about 45 minutes, they came back.
Rescue at last
One young boy that should be above 20 years came with something like a plastic conduit wiring and started chasing me away that, I should go out of the compound and he continued calling me a thief. There was this uniformed security personnel there, he hit me on the leg and I fell down. I was injured while jumping down from the fence. I now walked out of the compound to one school very close to my abductor’s gate. I was there as people gathered. I told them that, if these people come and see me here, they would kill me, this is how much I have offered them, that I’m not a thief but they insisted that I should wait until the estate chairman came. I asked what if they come with gun and all of you will run away and they will kill me.
Luckily, one young guy came and listened to me and asked if I could give him my wife’s number? I gave it to him, he called and the number did not go through. I then gave him my cousin’s number and he got him on phone. So, my cousin told him my story and he was now convinced. From there, we took a bike to the express from where we entered a bus. While inside the bus, people were just staring at me. What they used to blind fold me was a singlet, for ninety days, there was nothing like seeing the sun, so my body turned white. When we got to Idimu police division, we did not spend up to 20 minutes when my brother came.
They now contacted Ilupeju police division where they first made the report. From there, we went to command headquarters where we wasted a lot of time before going to Anti-Kidnapping unit at Surulere. After that, we went to Igando. While going there, I could not recognize the road but the young man that took me out of that place led us to the place. So, when we got to the estate, I was able to recognize the school where they asked me to sit down which was not too far from the place where I was kept for 90 days. I recognized the house by the coconut tree there and I told the security operatives, that this was the house. When we came to the gate, it was locked with a padlock and they have all run away. They had to break it and go inside where their cars, motorcycles and all their properties left behind were there. The security operatives went inside and collected all the weapons they left behind.
When I heard that they were going to kill me, I said is this how my life was going to end? I was calling my wife, my son and my daughter in my mind, thinking that was the end. Emeka joined me in 2013; he joined me as a sales representative but later became a superintendent. I used to give him goods to sell and return the money. After sometime he stopped retuning the money and I asked them not to give him goods again. I never expected to hear his voice there. Before then, something happened. They started telling me things that I did, it’s like they had a lot of information about me. I was told that I gave 40 Toyota Corolla cars to my staff and I said yes, I had 40 marketers and I gave them cars. Everything including my warehouses, they knew. One Sunday in April, I heard Emeka telling them they should go and start working, and that they shouldn’t talk about money which I suspected they were transferring goods from my stores to where they would take them out of Lagos. I heard him requesting for form M which could help him out in case of police.
Now that they have arrested their king pin, Evans, I plead with the police that did this good job to ensure that justice was done in this case. It is obvious that many of his gang members are still on the loose. They should all be rounded up because although I have been freed, I am still not only traumatized but also afraid of my life. It is unfortunate that since I came out of this ugly experience, the police did not deem fit to provide security for me. I have since relocated with members of my family to an unknown place. It is worse even now that I have no means of livelihood. I have been wrecked after borrowing money from banks to pay the ransom. What we are trying to do now is to start paying debt to the banks.
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.