By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor
The daylight abduction of Pa Basil Agha, 69, in his home town,Umuofor in Ogberuru Local government Area of Imo state in October last year which left the family and community traumatized , has finally come to an end. The police, in collaboration with an intelligence agency, have succeeded in arresting the prime suspect in the kidnap case who led them to where the father of six was buried in a shallow grave beside a shrine after he was clubbed to death by his abductors. Agonisingly, his remains were found with shreds of his cloths intact while the piece of cloth used in covering his eyes was still tightly worn round his skull signifying that the helpless man was blindfolded before he was clubbed to death and buried with it. Furthermore, a gaping wound where he was hit was conspicuously seen while his jaws and lower neck which must have been twisted were also identified.
The day of abduction
Recall that Pa Agha, who was into oil and gas in Lagos met his unfortunate fate after he travelled to his hometown on October 28, 2016 to prepare for a thanksgiving to God for having assisted him train his children into adulthood. Members of the family were eagerly looking forward to the occasion where his children had planned to surprise their parents for having sacrificed so much to bring them into adulthood. Unfortunately, their joy was cut short as their breadwinner was kidnapped just as he entered their village. Initially, the family went round all police stations after his abduction based on claims by the kidnappers that they were from State Criminal Investigations Department, SCID, Owerri before whisking him away. However, after futile efforts to locate the station where they claimed to have come from, they shockingly learnt that it was a case of kidnap after the kidnappers called to demand ransom of N10m.
Dejected but poised to rescue their dear father who had invested so much to make them survive, members of the family negotiated with the abductors for a less amount and later succeeded in reducing it to N2.5m which they happily paid on November 10th, 2016. The abductors further demanded N100, 000.00 as transport fare to enable their father get back home after his release and it was paid. But, they kept on holding the man. At different stages, both the local police, operatives from Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Adeniji –Adele, Lagos and the anti-kidnap squad of the Inspector-General of Police led by Aba Kyari, were drafted into the case. But all efforts to locate the man’s whereabouts or arrest the culprits were unsuccessful while his family continued to live in agony hoping that one day, their dear father will regain his freedom and join them.
Abba Kyra’s squad ended up unearthing facts about a notorious kidnap kingpin and an armed robber who have been terrorizing Owerri, Aba, Umuahia and environs for long. The kingpin who was said to have evaded arrests several times allegedly hails from Eziukwu-Ihioma in Orlu, Imo state which happens to be the maternal home of the abducted Pa Basil Agha. Police sources revealed that when the police team invaded the house of the suspect, he disappeared mysteriously from their firm grip. They, however, succeeded in arresting his wife and taking vital documents including family album from his house. Unfortunately, after detaining the wife for some time, the team released her on the condition that her husband must be fished out. Since then, the suspect did not show up and the kidnappers did not contact the family again. This was in spite of the fact that the suspect kept on sneaking into his family house several times only to disappear without trace while many people were still being robbed and kidnapped in the area and environs.
However, the case witnessed a dramatic turn around after the embattled family, engaged the services of an intelligence agency as a last resort to locate their father, dead or alive. That was early July this year. The security outfit called Third Intelligence Agency which had discreetly played active part in rounding up many notorious criminals in the country including the kidnap kingpin, Evans, in partnership with the police, quickly swung into action and ended up unearthing startling revelations which assisted IGP’s kidnap squad in arresting another prime suspect identified simply as Ikenna Solomon. The investigators who sought for strict anonymity gave a vivid account of the intrigues and drama that played out in the search for the victim and as well as the location where he was buried in a shallow grave.
Revelations about the gang
According to the security outfit; “the job was not easy because the whole evidence was destroyed by the agencies that worked on it previously. So, when we came in, there was nothing on ground and we just had to start all over. Using intelligence reports, we were able to trace the village in Orlu, Imo state where the incident happened. We traced the home of the suspected notorious kidnapper alleged to be Onyebuchi in Ihioma-Orlu. We also found out that he comes in once in a while in disguise. The last time he came, he disguised himself in Arabic attire and left within an hour or thereabout. We tried to locate his friends and associates and ended up getting information about another suspected kingpin called Ikenna Solomon, who has been masquerading as a spiritualist in the village. He owns a church right behind his father’s compound where he acts as the chief priest. He is reputed to have a strong spiritual power that makes him disappear and appear at will. In fact, it gave him a lot of confidence and that was why he was operating freely. We also got to know that the main criminal we set out to look for, Onyebuchi, was a friend to Ikenna and it was Ikenna that collected the ransom paid by the family of Pa Agha. A female source intimated us that both Ikenna and another of his notorious brother called Sabbath, were sited at the area where the ransom was paid that particular day.
How ransom was collected
“What really happened was that after collecting the ransom of N2.5, abductors of Pa Agha called his family to send N100, 000.00 for their father to use in transporting himself back home. In fact, while they were negotiating, they availed the family the opportunity of speaking with their father and that heightened their anxiety and they wasted no time in agreeing to the terms by his abductors. During the negotiation, one of them boasted that if they failed to comply, they would kill the man which they eventually did. The suspect who was arrested confessed that Pa Agha was killed after one of them discovered that the man recognised him adding that it was Onyebuchi who used a hard object to hit the victim on the head after which they buried him close to their shrine with the blindfold still tightly wrapped around his head. The suspect further disclosed that they collected the first ransom in Anambra state while the second one was collected at a notorious spot around their village in Ihioma, Imo state called ‘No Man’s Land.’
“A female informant narrated another gory story about the gang to us. She said that they have been attacking one particular woman and her family for long by snatching her new born babies and using them for rituals. We learnt that they came the first time, attacked her and succeeded in taking a baby she just delivered away. The ugly incident happened twice to the same woman but she was unable to take action because the gang threatened to wipe out all the members of her family if she reported the matter to anybody. A year later, they reportedly came to attack her again but this time, they opted for one of her grown up daughters but they failed after their victim raised alarm. It was also disclosed that each time they came, the woman was able to identify Ikenna and his brother as her attackers but she could not say where they live. She also revealed that Ikenna, his brother and Onyebuchi belonged to the deadly gang.
“After hearing these shocking stories, we were able to get Ikenna’s phone number and true identity through his photograph. We discovered that any time he came to the village, he would not stay for more than thirty minutes before disappearing to a secret place around another community called Akata in the same Imo state. At times, he would go to Port-Harcourt or Lagos and he continued floating like that. The local police command, according to information gathered, has been looking for him for over a year for armed robbery without success. There was an instance they nearly succeeded in arresting him in his house at Akata but how he disappeared still remains a mystery to the policemen who carried out that operation. They ended up arresting three of his gang members within the same area and the suspects took them to three of their shrines. Police destroyed the shrines. This incident happened in 2014.
“There was another time we nearly arrested him in Owerri after we got information that Pa Agha’s identity card was picked up near Akata village. The woman who found it took the card to the vigilante group and they handed it over to the police who combed all the thick bushes in the area without success. So, when we received information that Ikenna was heading towards Akata, where his church of Sabbath was situated, we went all out for him. The church which is in front of their family house, also serves as a shrine where they sell children to ready buyers, especially those in need of children.
“We tried to find out about Ikenna’s background and we learnt that he had been a bad boy for long. He sold all their family land and got involved in a lot of problems and nobody could talk to him. Spiritually, he was equipped with powers and it gave him a lot of confidence that nothing could ever happen to him. Ikenna also confessed how powerful he was, that he could disappear and that he even helped people to possess that power of disappearance at will. In that church, they also accommodate teenagers with unwanted pregnancies and the moment they delivered, their babies would be sold off to ready buyers who thronged the church either as worshippers or counsellors.
“When we moved to arrest him after gathering all these information, he narrowly escaped and disappeared to Port-Harcourt. The second time at Owerri, the police there did not cooperate with us. Each time we failed, we attributed it to his so-called spiritual powers until the last day.
However, on the day we arrested him, we gathered that he was to attend a feast being organised by his church in the village. We monitored him closely until the church service ended by 9.30pm. Before we got to the village, we were seriously warned to be very careful because it was a very dangerous terrain. So, we were on our toes and well prepared when he eventually strolled into his car after the service and we went for him. The first thing we did was to handcuff him so that he could not disappear. When we accosted him, he was shocked and before he could react, he was caged.
After his arrest, he initially did not want to open up but when we put in more pressure, he spilled the beans. He confessed that they kidnapped Pa Agha but after his family paid ransom, Onyebuchi whom he called Benneth, said the man recognised him and that was why they killed him with a hard object. He led us to the shallow grave where he was buried and covered with mat. Ironically, after we dug out the remains of the victim, we were shocked to see that the cloth used in blindfolding him was still tied loosely to his skull.
“The arrested suspect also narrated to us how they were able to take Pa Agha out of the village to their hideout without security suspecting them. According to him, they usually gave their victims some concoctions which would weaken them so that while on transit, they would not be able to talk. And whenever they got to police checkpoints, they would tell the security personnel that that they were taking the victim to a prayer house because he was sick and could not talk.”
Meanwhile, Crime Guard learned that both the police and the intelligence agency are working round the clock to arrest other fleeing members of the gang.