The story is now notorious, of Chukwudubem Onwuamadike, aka Evans, whom a section of the media has profanely glorified as a “multi-billionaire kidnapper”, thus, unwittingly edifying and ennobling kidnapping and such vile crimes.
Kidnapping is the abduction or unlawful transportation of a person, usually to hold the person against his or her will and consent. This may be done for ransom or in furtherance of another crime. It refers to the crime of seizing, confining, abducting, or carrying away a person by force or fraud, often to subject him or her to involuntary servitude in an attempt to demand a ransom. Most countries consider it a grave offence punishable by death or long prison sentence. In Nigeria, kidnapping is a felony. Section 364 of the Criminal Code Act that operates in the Southern part of Nigeria provides 10 years imprisonment, while Section 273 of the Penal Code, which operates in the North prescribes 10 years, plus fine.
Many Nigerians have argued that the extant anti-kidnapping laws in the country are not stringent enough to dissuade criminals from finding kidnapping a lucrative business of making quick money. They clamour for stricter penalties. This is why some states like Edo, Delta, Rivers and Oyo have passed the anti -kidnapping laws and imposed the death penalty for convicted kidnappers. Whether this has achieved its objective is another matter entirely. Kidnapping has been used since the dawn of mankind to gain advantage in a conflict, for political reasons, ransom, or to settle scores.
Mexico is the world capital of drug cartels and quite a good example for organised crime. Here, kidnapping is focused on tourists and members of groups in conflict. An average of 7, 576 people have been kidnapped in the past five years. Mexico is followed by India, where about 4, 921 persons have been kidnapped in the last five years. Surprisingly, Nigeria now ranks top in the world, where an average of 1, 529 persons are kidnapped annually. Pakistan (320 average per annum); Venezuela (245 average per annum); Lebanon (198 annually); Philippines (120 annually); Afghanistan (100 annually); Colombia and Iraq, also rank in this group.
We are all Evans, one way or another. Simply summarised, Evans had viciously kidnapped targeted and profiled wealthy members of the society, especially on the FESTAC, ASPAMDA axis. He would manacle and shackle them, hands and feet, in his inhuman detention dungeons spread across Lagos and some other states of the federation. He would then dictate to the trembling victims, how much money they must pay in pounds, euros and dollars, to secure their precious lives. He was in total control. Though barely literate, having dropped out in form three in secondary school, his educational inadequacy is hugely compensated for in his elephantine native intelligence. He would never negotiate with his captives’ relations and friends. That was too risky. He rather dictated, not negotiated, directly, with his squirmy victims under threats of death.
To aid his horrendously lucrative blood “business”, he had about 170 telephone lines. Two of his handsets were Thuraya and Vertu, costing N2.4 million and N2.6million, respectively. This princely sum of N5 milion for only two telephone handsets is enough to set up a thriving business for a Nigerian; or build a four-bedroom bungalow; or buy 35 commercial motorcycles to empower struggling unemployed graduates, whose only “crime” is that they went through pains and pangs to study in the university, while Evans was busy acquiring the latest global kidnap tactics and strategies. The good news is that the long arm of the law, though slow, has finally caught up with Evans. But, the bad news is that we are all certified kidnappers in the mould of Evans.
I will tell you why. Evans never kept his victims in lonely, desolate, eerie jungles where owls hoot ominously and monkeys do tricky “janglover” jumps on tree branches. When I was kidnapped for three weeks, I was kept in the jungles. But, I could hear church music, native drumming and singing, not far away. I could decipher the local language from the lyrics. Our kidnappers used cars and motorcycles to purchase food stuff and fuel. I was convinced that the locals very well knew what “profession” my kidnappers were into. They obviously condoned it or, perhaps, enjoyed the resultant blood money. God, I thank you eternally for saving my life. It was most horrific an experience. Death by installments! Fear of death; fear of fear! But, Evans unusually kept his captives inside busy neighbourhoods and estates. From the pictures and videos shown of his detention cells in new Igando town and Jakande Estate, Isolo, Lagos, Evans daringly operated right inside busy communities. Did neighbours not see suspicious movements over the years? Did they not do simple inquiry and due diligence, as to who their next door neighbours were; and what they did for a living? Did neighbours not observe unusual vehicular traffic, taking in and ejection of passengers, some skirmishes and then sudden dead silence? Were they not worried that their immediate neighbours did not come out openly in the day time to associate and interact with others? If they did, could they not simply interview such neighbours in a friendly manner, as to their names, what they did for a living; where they worked; their state of origin; profession, etc.
We become automatic complicit kidnappers when, out of negligence, indifference and sheer idiocy, we allow vicious, murderous kidnappers to live in our midst, and keep our brothers and sisters in dungeons next doors.
How many Nigerians actually know the true identities, places of origin and next of kin of their house-helps, drivers, intrusive electricians, plumbers, dry cleaners, and the very “security” men that “guard” their homes? They are mostly the unseen, lurking link to kidnappers. We are, therefore, all certified kidnappers in every sense of the word. After all, some greedy members of the legislature have kidnapped our common purse and our national patrimony. Some corrupt eggs within the judiciary have kidnapped our blindfolded Justitia, the Roman goddess of justice, by auctioning her to the highest bidders. The draconian, tyrannical and despotic executive has since kidnapped our individual and collective rights and liberties, good governance, rule of law, transparency and accountability. Instead, it has unleashed on the hapless citizenry many Evans, by billowing out acute hunger, nerve-racking poverty, abject penury, fear, despondency, haplessness, pains, pangs, blood and sorrow.
Some professionals have kidnapped our professional sense of decency and dedication to duty. Our parents, through bad examples, have kidnapped our cherished family values, endearing societal ethos and moral rectitude. Our churches and mosques have kidnapped our collective spiritual, celestial and even terrestrial values, turning sacred houses of God into bacchanalian bazaars of merchantilistic barters. Our traditional institutions have kidnapped our noble traditional ancestral values, by doling out chieftaincy titles to kidnappers, “Otokotos” (ritualists), drug pushers, armed robbers, prostitutes, advance fee fraudsters and notorious criminal elements. Titles awarded to such miscreants always end with “one”, never “two”: “Ogbigbi I”, “Osofia I”, “Otunba of the Universe”, “Maigworo of Gagudu”, etc. Our citadels of learning have since kidnapped our lofty educational and intellectual standards by awarding degrees to half baked graduands, who can pay the right fee; and by awarding honorary doctorate degrees and fellowships to celebrated misfits, whose only claim to importance is belonging to the top echelon of despicable money bags. Our children have kidnapped our once cherished parental values, by turning themselves into vicious cultists, common prostitutes, heartless kidnappers, dangerous armed robbers, incorrigible drug pushers, serial murderers, etc.
Now, you see why we are all certified kidnappers? Yes. Certificated Kidnappers of our cherished customs, traditions, cultures, history, values, ethics, morals, decency, godliness, integrity, honour and dignity. God, exorcise the kidnappers in us, amen.
The anti-graft “war” and pathetic historical revisionists at work
The leadership of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), at a programme recently organised by the National Association of Seadogs (the Pirates Confraternity), was said to have lambasted the Attorney General of the Federation, for allegedly not seriously fighting the anti-corruption war.
I had been invited, as a guest speaker to the programme, but unfortunately could not make it, due to prior professional engagements, which I duly communicated to the understanding organisers. I had desired to speak to PACAC members, eye ball to eye ball, as I did in June last year, and March, this year, when I spoke truth to authority at an anti-corruption seminar they invited me to.
Specifically, one professor Femi Odekunle, a member of PACAC, in unjustifiably castigating the AG, Abubakar Malami, SAN, as not being committed to the anti-corruption “war”, was said to have moaned, in lachrymal effusion, thus, in the Vanguard of June 22, 2017:
“Is the Attorney-General of the Federation, who is to lead the anti-corruption fight, going by the way things have been going in the past two years, as committed as others who could have done the job better?”
Odekunle was literally recommending the AG’s sack. It is quite shameful, painful and disheartening that Professor Olufemi Odekunle, who was himself implicated in a phantom coup with his master, General Oladipo Diya, in 1997, horrifically manacled and chained down like an animal, by Abacha’s goons, awaiting death, has continued to advertise “rofo-rofo” fight against corruption (an euphemism for crude, bestial, violation of cherished rights and liberties of Nigerian citizens).
At page 5, Vanguard, Thursday, 22nd June, 2017, Odekunle queried:
“Does the Presidency realise that routine crime prevention and methodology, instruments and processes are not adequate in fighting corruption in this country? That is, does the Presidency realise that fighting corruption must be a ‘rofo rofo’ fight? That it is not a question of due process, long process, fair hearing and all those that will give you technical justice instead of real justice?”
I do not usually discuss individuals by name, except where the story is not detachable from them, as in Odekunle’s particular case. I dwell on ideas; issues, challenges and solutions.
But, I am appalled that Professor Odekunle, a once pathetic victim of a crude process that we strenously protested against on the streets of Lagos and Abuja to save from the jaws of death, no longer believes in fair hearing and due process! What is in this Aso Villa – acquired power that changes intakes into monstrosities? Their grouse with the AGF is that the AGF, a decent man, is not, unlike PACAC members, employing crude, gestapo-like, inhuman and degrading methods to cow opposition, critical voices, try and convict them in the media ever before the real trial commences. The “problem” with the AGF is that he is too mature and knowledgeable in the Constitution and laws than their warped, vindictive and puerile stance.
Odekunle, for the records, was, on December 20, 1997, at 3.00am, woken up in his Abuja home, by the dreaded Abacha “Strike Force” and captured like a common criminal. He had been appointed Chairman, Advisory Committee (he must be an expert “Adviser”), to General Oladipo Diya, the then Chief of General Staff, on Socio-political and Economic Matters. He was beaten black and blue, like a stubborn goat that stupidly went frolicking into a busy market on a market day. These were his personal words. He was made to urinate and defecate in the full glare of gun-totting soldiers, with a short time line given to complete both. He literally froze in the cold harmattan wind. He was only released from cell 4 in Jos gulag, on July 15, 1998, at 10.30 pm. This is the same man who later supported the unholy midnight raid on judges by hooded DSS operatives, same hoods some of his captors had worn on that fateful day. They even wanted Odekunle to implicate himself. And this man no longer believes in due process, rule of law and respect for human rights. Oh, God, you are just too patient and tolerant of man’s inhumanity to man.
Last year, PACAC had trenchantly defended CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar, because it felt it was a done deal for Umar to convict Saraki. As soon as Umar rejected blaring sirens of power and freed Saraki, they turned against him. They initially supported N250 million grass-cutting Babachir Lawal, but later turned against him when he was suspended by PMB. What manner of characters are these? They simply blow hot and cold; they approbate and reprobate. No principles, targets, aims, objectives. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, a seasoned lawyer, has since done the right thing by appealing. But PACAC, which glorifies the handcuffing of suspects, media trial and brazen dictatorship, are weeping. The HAG has certainly done better than they. It is their blatant usurpation of the HAG’s powers under Section 174 of the Constitution, playing to the gallery, noise making, brute force, unguarded statements and narcism, that have irredeemably wrecked their so-called, still-born anti-corruption “fight”.
I challenge PACAC leadership disclose to Nigerians, how much money and what properties, the EFCC, DSS, ICPC, Police, DIA, etc., have so far recovered from the “looters” of our common treasury. I challenge them to display to the public, their filled assets declaration forms, if any, with the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). If they cannot carry out these simple anti-corruption indices, they should forever keep silent and save us the insults and ridicule of our collective sensibilities.