Egyptian Reda Elsayed Hassanein thought he was on his way to Nigeria to wrap up a lucrative business deal the day he boarded a flight from Cairo to Abuja. Even though he can hardly speak English, the conversation in the WhatsApp chat with his Nigerian businessman partner was clear enough and he had no doubt about the profitability of the proposed deal. He never had a premonition of the grim fate awaiting him as he boarded a Lagos-bound flight from the Nigerian capital. From Lagos, he boarded another flight to Benin, his final destination. Still he did not sense any danger.
The man who met him at the airport looked like a business executive and there was nothing out of the ordinary to arouse his suspicion. Not until he found himself in a bus with tinted glass, faced with nine grim-faced men, did it occur to the Egyptian that his whole journey was a piece of misadventure. From that day on October 6, 2018,Hassanein was kidnapped and would remain a hostage for the next five months until his lucky escape on March 6, 2019. During the five months that he was a captive, he passed through a traumatic experience that included a failed escape which earned him a cutlass wound on his head and the extortion of millions of dollars in ransom from his wife who was milked continuously by the kidnappers.
This is the broad outline of a kidnap story that came to light on March 6, when Reda Elsayed Hassanein finally escaped from his captors in Asaba. The 45-year-old subsequently led officers of the Delta State Police Command to the kidnappers’ den at Okpanam Road, behind NNPC, Asaba.
Two of his abductors, Odiaka Afamefofune, 45 and Charles Osayemwre, 43, have been arrested. Recovered from them were incriminating materials including the chain used to bind the victim and the clothes used as blindfold.
How he was lured from Cairo
The victim who could hardly speak English managed to narrate his ordeal to Saturday Sun. He said: “I am an Egytian. I speak only Arabic. I am a businessman dealing in building construction. It was one Mohammed Murtari that called me on phone that there is business in Nigeria. He told me house construction in Nigeria is lucrative. They used that to convince me. The person Mohammed Murtari called me in English but I don’t understand English much, I speak Arabic. We did our conversation through whatsapp in Arabic language. I was convinced enough to bring my money for the investment. I applied to Egypt Embassy and they sent me an invitation to Nigeria. I went to the Nigerian embassy in Cairo and renewed my visa. I boarded a flight from Egypt to Abuja and then took another flight to Lagos State. I moved from Lagos airport to Benin airport where I was received by one of the men who pretended to be a businessman. Then they kidnapped me. They were nine in number. They took me inside a bus with tinted glass to an unknown destination since October 6, 2018.
“They fed me rice and noodles. They forced me to call my wife who paid millions of dollars through my China account. My two legs and hands were chained. They used a cloth to blindfold me. I was chained to the burglary proof. I tried to escape through the window and raised alarm, but one of the men hit me on the head with a cutlass. Eventually, it was a neighbour who helped me to escape on March 6 around 6 pm.”
After contact with police officers, Hassanein was taken to Police Hospital, Asaba for treatment. The Egyptian added: “I was happy when Police arrested the two suspects, including the one who used cutlass to cut my head. I was able to identify them. The Nigeria Police has assisted me to call the Egypt Embassy and I have been able to talk to my brother in Egypt. I want the police to assist me to collect my millions of dollars from the kidnappers.”
Suspects in police net
One of the suspects, Odika Afamefofune, in his statements confirmed the Egyptian’s story.“It is true that the Egyptian was kidnapped by us and we kept him in my friend’s house. We lured him with false story about an investment opportunity. We had kept him in my friend’s custody since October 6, 2018. He once tried to escape through the window and I was forced to hit him on the head with a cutlass. Nine of us carried out the operation.”
He also confirmed that the gang had collected ransoms from the victim’s wife.
“We chained his two legs and hands and used clothes to blindfold him. And we tormented him to see if we could get more money from him.”
The Deputy Commissioner of Police, State Criminal Investigation Department, Mr Aminu al-Hassan assured that the police is on top of the situation.
“We have made a phone call to the Egypt Embassy. We have got responses from his family. They were happy to hear that he is alive,” he affirmed. Delta State Commissioner of Police, Mr Adeyinka Adeleke told Saturday Sun that detectives are still after the remaining members of the syndicate.