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December 15, 2021

Evans’ second-in-command, Ezeala, died when he was to reveal their armoury — Police

Evans' second-in-command, Ezeala, died when he was to show us their armoury — Police

Evans, notorious kidnapper

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, ABUJA

The Nigeria Police Force, on Wednesday, narrated before the Independent Investigative Panel sitting in Abuja, how one Eric Ezeala, identified as the second-in-command to alleged billionaire kidnap kingpin, Chukwudimeme Onwuamadike alias Evans, died in detention.

He died, according to police, when he was to take them to the kidnap gang’s armoury.

Testifying before the Justice Suleiman Galadima-led panel, Assistant Superintendent Izuka Eguzokibe, disclosed that Ezeala was in 2017 arrested by officers of the Intelligence Response Team, IRT, following a confession by Evans.

He told the panel that Evans named Ezeala as not only his accomplice in his notorious business of kidnapping, but his right hand man and second in command. 

Eguzokibe said Evans, to substantiate his claim, gave out Ezeala’s phone number, which was forwarded to the Technical Intelligence Unit (TIU) Force headquarters.

According to the witness, the first time the phone number was tracked, it indicated that Ezeala was hiding somewhere in Osun State.

Arrest

He told the panel that when investigators arrived at the identified hideout, the suspect managed to evade arrest.

ASP Eguzokibe said the second time the phone number was tracked, it led his team to Ehime Mbano in Imo state, where Ezeala was eventually arrested at about 5p.m. on July 17, 2017.

He said the suspect was, upon his arrest, taken to the Imo State Police Command, where he confessed that he was Evans’ accomplice.

“The suspect was thereafter transferred to Abuja where Evans was kept at that time. 

“When we got to Abuja, both Evans and Eric Ezeala acknowledged each other as partners in the kidnapping business.

“He (Ezeala) was then detained in the IRT cell,” the witness added.

Death

The witness told the panel that in the course of investigations, Ezeala fell sick twice and was hospitalized.

He said the suspect later died at the Ikeja General Hospital, while receiving treatment for the second time. 

ASP Eguzokibe further told the panel that Ezeala’s wife had, in the course of the investigation, claimed that she was not aware of the kind of business or activities her husband was involved in as he was hardly around.

“She claimed that she had always suspected his activities and had accordingly reported her suspicions about him to his family members,” he said.

The witness added that Ezeala had before his death, after he was taken to Lagos, showed the IRT where his gang usually kept their kidnapped victims.

He said it was when Ezeala was to take the investigating team to where the gang stored the arms and ammunition they use for their operations, that Ezeala fell sick for the second time and was taken to the Ikeja General Hospital, where he eventually died.

“We felt very pained with the death of Eric Ezeala because we could not get all the information we needed about their activities and armoury in his possession,” the witness stated.

Family’s absence stall autopsy

Asked if an autopsy was conducted on the deceased to ascertain the cause of his death, the witness told the panel that his wife and family members refused to show up for the process.

“There was no way the Police was going to conduct the autopsy without the consent and presence of the family,” he added.

Under cross-examination, counsel to Ezeala’s family, Nonye Okpor, asked the witness if he was aware that Hilda Ezeala, mother to the deceased, visited Abuja on two occasions but was denied access to her son.

The witness said he was not aware of such information.

Likewise, while submitting copies of Ezeala’s statement, statements by his wife, extract from crime diary and a signal from the IRT Commander, a member of the panel, Mr. John Aikpokpo-Martin, asked the witness to confirm if arrest of the deceased was documented.

ASP Eguzokibe responded in the affirmative, adding that signal was sent to Commander IRT who authorised the arrest.

“It may interest you to know, ASP Eguzokibe that before today, there was no record of arrest and detention of the deceased,” Aikpokpo-Martins countered him.

Meantime, the panel, which is investigating human rights violations by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, and other Units of the Nigeria Police Force, adjourned to issue its final report on a petition family of the deceased lodged before it.

Vanguard News Nigeria