- Tales of new tricks by kidnappers who disguise as security personnel to get their victims
GILBERT EKEZIE and VIVIAN ONYEBUKWA
Kidnapping and armed robbery in the name of providing security either by the police or soldiers, for hapless Nigerians, has become rampant these days. Various incidents in which unsuspecting citizens fell victims in the hands of those who were supposed to protect them but which eventually turned out to be sheer deadly deception, attest to this fact..
In order to succeed in their nefarious activities, those involved operate with real or fake uniforms of the constitutionally empowered security operatives. Take, for instance, the case of Mr. Christopher Nwachukwu, an official of the Ministry of Health in Abia State. He narrated to Saturday Sun the worrying tale of how he was kidnapped by seven men in police uniform who he assumed to be on official duty of stop-and-search, at a checkpoint at Arongwa junction, near Aba. But at the end of the day, he spent eleven days in kidnappers’ den before he could regain his freedom.
A man’s scary experience
According to his story, he was returning in his Jeep, from Aba to his hometown, Isiala Ngwa, when, at about 7.30pm, on December 12, 2017, he ran into some checkpoints supposedly manned by some men in police uniform. Actually, there were three checkpoints. But after he had gone through the first and second checkpoints without much hassles, the men who mounted a roadblock at the third checkpoint, Arongwa junction, stopped him.
From his observation, the suspects who were fully armed with AK-47 automatic assault rifles, wore police uniform emblazoned with the Federal Investigation Bureau (FIB). “As I got to the place, they told me to pull over for a check. But surprisingly, as I made to park, they rushed into my vehicle, grabbed me and started beating me. Confused, I wanted to escape. That move even infuriated them the more. They hit me on the head with the butts of their guns and overpowered me. Thereafter, they pushed me inside my car and drove me to a corner. This was after they had broken my head and I fainted.”
Nwachukwu explained that he was at that spot with the kidnappers till about 4:30 am of the following day, December 13, before they took him away to an unknown destination while still in coma. “After three days, the first person that went inside my vehicle to grab me, had some misunderstanding with others, and they promptly shot him dead in a chilling cold-blooded murder. Thereafter, their leader who they call KAPOL told me that they were sent to kill me. But he added they would not. After staying with them in their camp for five days, they asked me to give them N25 million as ransom. When I said I didn’t have such amount anywhere in the world, they asked me to contact my relations to send the money, which I did. But unfortunately, such amount was not readily available. They later came down to N5 million but I told them that I had no such money. On my eighth day in captivity, a man appeared in a dream and commanded them to release me. I thought it was only a dream that might not come true. But I was surprised, when, on the 11th day, they released me and I saw myself on the road at Etche in Rivers State without paying any ransom. But the kidnappers took away with them my vehicle and all the money in it.”
Nwachukwu added as an afterthought that he could not believe that the men were kidnappers because they are always at that checkpoint “If anyone had told me that such people who are expected to protect lives and property of the people would turn into kidnappers and robbers, I would not believe. Nobody in Nigeria is safe anymore if criminals could perpetrate such evil, wearing police uniform.”
From a ‘suspect’ to kidnapped victim
In a related incident, Mrs. Priscilla Amadi, a teacher in one of the primary schools at Isu in Nwangele Local Government Area of Imo State was kidnapped, along with her three-year-old daughter at Owerrinta junction, at another checkpoint manned by what they thought were genuine policemen, on the Owerri-Aba Road. According to her, they were on their way to visit her husband at Aba.
Owing to the nature of her job, she explained to Saturday Sun that she resides in the village with her children, but visits her husband on weekends and during public holidays. But on this fateful day, she was on her way when a team of security operatives wearing police uniform stopped the vehicle she boarded alongside other passengers.
She explained that as soon as the driver pulled over by the side of the road as demanded by supposed security operatives, and one of them sighted her, by looking inside the vehicle, he asked her to step down. “After looking over all the passengers in the vehicle, they asked me to get down,” she said. “I was surprised and became afraid. Out of fear, I alighted and they asked the driver to move on with the rest of the passengers, leaving me and my child behind.”
Amadi explained that when the driver and other passengers tried to find out why they held her, the operatives claimed that she was a suspect. “I had to take my little child out of the car, anxious to know the crime I committed. But, the next thing they did was to take others and I across the road and marched us into the bush and kept us there. I pleaded with them to take us to their station but they kept quiet. It was when I saw other people they were holding hostage that I realized that they were kidnappers, not policemen. Gripped by fear, I started fidgeting. I was not surprised therefore when later they asked me to pay a ransom of N5 million.”
At the end of the day, she spent three days inside the bush with her daughter, while waiting for the ransom to be paid by her family. But as God would have it neither her nor her daughter was sexually molested. “I begged them that I did not have that kind of money, and they asked me to start calling my relations and friends to send money to me, which I did,” Mrs. Amadi recalled. “On the third day, my relations raised the sum of N200, 000. They took it and released us after realizing that that was the much we could afford and that there was nothing more coming forth from our side.”
On how they were able to collect the money, she recalled that the kidnappers collected her ATM card from her and used it to withdraw the money from her account as it came in. “It was after they discovered that I could not raise more money that they allowed us to go. I had a very horrible experience. They barely fed us because of the little child that was with me. My husband and other relations were afraid that they might kill us since I didn’t have much money on me. I thought kidnappers only abduct rich people, now they just look at someone and think that the person might be rich. This new style of kidnapping is dangerous because anyone can fall a victim.”
Saved by N50, 000 extorted ‘gift’
Another victim, Pastor Anayo Ogbo, narrated a similar encounter with some security personnel at a checkpoint around Ninth Mile area of Enugu State while traveling to his hometown from Lagos to Enugu sometime in October 2017. He told Saturday Sun that on that fateful day, the men who were in police uniform stopped him at the checkpoint. But he was shocked to discover that after they had checked and found all his documents ok, they still asked him to pay N50, 000 before he could be allowed to go.
According to him, he told them that he could not afford such amount while wondering and protesting openly that he did not commit any offence as to warrant such demand. “When I saw that they have delayed me for so long, I offered to give them N20, 000, but they refused,” he said. “In the process, I observed that they were having a tete-a-tete among themselves to shoot me if I refused to pay the money. Fortunately, one of them whispered to me to drop the money and leave the place without delay, else, they would shoot me.”
Ogbo said, on hearing that he became jittery, knowing full well that his life was in danger, since he was alone. “Thereafter, I gave them the N50, 000 and they immediately asked me to disappear from the scene. That was how I escaped from them.”
Minding your business with the Abuja incident
It would be recalled that two armed robbers attacked a resident, identified as Isa Ozo, at a police checkpoint at Masalasi Junction, Zone 4, in the Wuse area of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, recently, while he was returning from work at the Central Area of the city at about 8pm. They carted away his money and other valuables.
Ozo who shared his experience, said three policemen were present at the scene of the robbery, but could not do anything to save him. He alleged that after the robbery, he accosted one of the policemen, asking why they did not help him, but was asked to “mind his business.’
“My phone was snatched at gunpoint right before the three policemen manning the checkpoint,” he said. “I closed from work at Central Area and came out to get a cab. After being there for a while without getting a cab, I decided to move closer to the police checkpoint to wait for a cab since many were passing by at that point. Two guys came close to me. I thought they were waiting for a cab too, but I was wrong. They were about to carry out their criminal activity. One of them held a gun to my stomach, and the other held a knife to my neck and told me to submit all I had quietly. I dropped my phone. They searched my pocket and took my cash. They immediately ran under the bridge close by. I was close to the three policemen.”
Ozo wondered why the policemen didn’t see those who robbed him. “I decided to approach the policemen after the robbers had fled. But I was shocked when I asked the policemen if they didn’t see what happened to me right in front of them; and one of them blurted out angrily, ‘Why you dey ask us? Face your road, abeg’. I was not even bothered about the robbers as much as I was with the I-don’t-care attitude of those who are meant to protect our lives and property.”