- Accra police launches probe
By Musa Jibril and Chioma Igbokwe
A breakthrough by detectives has brought a fresh twist to the unfurling saga of captured Nigeria’s billionaire kidnapper, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, alias Evans.
Recent discoveries indicated the infamous kidnapper is as much connected to Ghana as he is to Nigeria in his nefarious activities, throwing up a shocking portrait of a transnational criminal.
Latest findings of investigations into the robbery/kidnap kingpin’s crime-ridden life suggest that Evans and his entire family hold dual citizenship of both Nigeria and Ghana, which he made his second home and to which, he normally escaped to hide from the arms of the law, whenever the heat was turned on after his many dare-devil operations.
Searchlight on the crime baron by detectives unearthed four Ghanaian passports belonging to him, his wife and two of their children.
Sleuths waddling through documents found during a search that the man identified by a Nigerian passport (No.A0500083) as Onwuamadike Chukwudumeme Somto, 37, is the same person as Asare Nelson, 39, according to Ghanaian passport (No.G0456327).
His wife, known as Uchenna Precious Onwuamadike to Nigerians, is Precious Asare by her Ghanaian passport.
The Accra Passport Office of Ghana Immigration Service issued the couple’s Ghanaian passports and those of their two children, Sussan and Emmanuel Asare.
How they acquired Ghana passports
The big question is: How did the family procure the foreign passports?
Saturday Sun learnt that although the issuance of Ghanaian passport is also porous and susceptible to corruption and touting like Nigeria’s, the strict enforcement of criminal justice system in the West African country discourages many Ghanaians and Immigration officials from indulging in the practice.
This, however, does not stop some from taking the risk.
On a typical day, the passport office located at Ridge, a stone throw from Ghana Parliament and near Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), is a beehive, brimming with passport applicants and others wishing to have the traveling documents renewed or reissued. Mingling with this crowd, of course, are also touts.
The newspaper gathered that a regular Ghanaian passport officially costs GHc50, while those who wish to expedite the process pay GHc100.
But, there are under dealings, which make it easy for a non-Ghanaian to obtain one, as long as he is prepared to pay the exorbitant unofficial fee, a source told Saturday Sun.
Said he: “You pay Goro boys GHc1000 and you get it in a week.” Goro boys refer to the swarm of touts who hang outside the passport office.
The source explains that ordinarily: “You have to go to the passport office for your biometrics, because your picture has to be captured via camera, not scanned passport. But there is nothing to fear, as the go-between would have greased the palms of those in charge.”
Evans probably acquired the passport for himself and his family this dubious way. Paying GHc1000 (about N85, 000 by the current exchange rate) per passport would be no big deal for a man like the notorious criminal, who rakes in $1m from a single kidnap operation.
The smart crook that he is, Evans, in choosing nomenclatures avoided the generic day names––such as Kofi, Kojo, Kwabena Kwesi or Kwame, which are common to some nationals of Cote D’Ivoire and Togo and could deny the family the much prized Caanadian visa that he sought. Instead, he opted for Asare, an Akan name common to Southwestern part of Ghana, which, therefore, could raise no suspicion as to the genuineness of his family’s Ghanaian roots. With the name he could pass for an Ashanti, Akyem or a Fante.
Mrs. Evans’ basket of lies
The next big question borders on the role of his wife.
Mrs. Evans has fervently denied having any knowledge of her husband’s nefarious activities. The 31-year-old earlier in a telephone conversation with a Nigerian newspaper denied having any inkling of her husband’s kidnapping business, insisting that Evans dealt in spare parts and haulage business and that the reason for their relocation to Ghana was for their children to have good education.
But, her assertions fell flat in the face of fresh and emerging facts, giving the public a portrait of her as a consummate liar, after her cameo weepy appearance on social media with her children.
It also confirmed both husband and wife as a “Bony and Clyde” couple.
For instance, her passport and those of her two children were issued in 2010, three years before her husband got his. For a woman who claimed to be oblivious of her husband’s activities, she had no qualms swapping her Nigerian identity for Precious Asare, travelling with the Ghanaian passport in preparation to migrate to Canada with a purported Ghanaian identity.
In retrospect, observers note, the family’s choice of Ghana as sanctuary made sense and easily connects the dots, as it offers greater possibility of easily transiting to other countries and avoiding any of Nigeria’s ports, where the head could essily be apprehended.
Recall that after a 2013 kidnap operation in Benin City, that turned the heat against him, Evans ceased flying through Nigerian airports. All his subsequent trips by flight were made using his Ghanaian passports and through Ghana’s airport.
Also, adopting Ghana as second home eases the possibility of securing visa to Canada, which appears to be their choice destination. Canada’s High Commission in Accra issues visa for a host of West African countries including Nigeria. Considering that they eventually got the Canadian visas, it is easy to conclude that they would have emigrated to the North American country, a security source said.
The next chapter
Probing Evans is like unfurling an onion bulb. The layers of leaves keep revealing more layers. Bits and pieces of fresh facts and clues emerge everyday as the police continue to follow the spoor and dig deeper to unravel the numerous mysteries of the decade-long criminal career of Evans. So far, it is a case of “the more you look, the more you see.” If he continues to sing like the canary, the public can keep their fingers crossed for the next episode in the unveiling soap opera. They should also, of course, expect the unexpected.
Evans gang member reveals: How we travel out of Nigeria with multiple passports
- I have 3 valid Nigerian passports issued by NIS
By CHIOMA IGBOKWE
Felix Chukwuma Kanu, one of the gang members of notorious billionaire kidnapper Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, a.k.a.Evans, has given an insight into how they managed to travel in and out of the country undetected on many occasions.
Felix is one of the suspected kidnappers recently arrested and paraded along with Evans by the police. During the several years of manhunt for Evans, detectives revealed that Evans and some of his gang members usually travel out of the country after every successful operation.
Confirming detectives’ findings, Felix was found with several passports, three of which are valid Nigerian International passports with different names, which he had used to travel in and out of the country undetected. When one of the passport numbers was crosschecked with the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, it was discovered that the passport which was issued in Abeokuta, Ogun state, actually belongs to one Lukmon Fatimah.
Although police refers to him as the current right hand man of Evans, Kanu who is an indigene of Amaekpo in Ohafia, Abia State claims he is only an errand boy to Evans whom he met during a business transaction at Ajao Estate, Lagos.
In his confession at the police station, Kanu said: “I have spent several years in Malaysia with the hope to make ends meet. The fact is that it is not easy to survive in a foreign land and since I cannot sell my kidney, I decided go into drugs and yahoo yahoo. That is how boys are surviving over there. Unfortunately, I was caught and deported to Nigeria in 2014.
“I had to start life again; I went into sale of cars. It was in the process that I met Evans. He bought one of my cars and we got talking. I asked him how he was making his money and he told me the truth. This was how I became his errand boy, we only saw him whenever he wanted. All other communication was through phone call. He will call and direct you where to pick and drop anything of his choice for him.
“I knew he was a kidnapper but I tried my best to stay away from anything that concerns his main job. And after each assignment, he will give me about N100, 000. The highest money he has given me was N300, 000 which I collected after helping him to monitor one of his victims.”
On the use of multiple passports, Felix said the information in his original passport was already marked as bad the day he was deported. “I can no longer travel with my original passport because they will arrest me at the entry or exit point. All I did was to arrange with a friend to secure one for me. I also have agents at the exit point that will ensure that I do not pass through the normal protocol. Since there is no need to see one’s face, the system will only record that the owner travelled. This very passport is not for Nigeria immigration point, it’s for the country that I intend to travel to.
“I can easily enter Malaysia with this new passport. They do not have Nigeria’s database, so as long as I am able to cross our own border, they will assume that it is real. I wanted to start afresh with this new name and passport.
“Since I started working for Evans, I knew that the end was near when I read in the newspaper that a special taskforce was on ground to arrest Evans. Besides, Evans advised us to get multiple passports because our real names could be on immigration computer as wanted criminals. If not that they caught us, I was preparing to travel to South Africa when that pharmacist ran away. Evans advised us all to run as far as we can. In fact, one of my passports is still with my agent who promised to help me secure a South African Visa. I was waiting to pick it up when I was tracked and arrested by the police,” he said.
He further alleged that every member of their gang had secured different passports in preparation to flee the country when they were arrested. “I am not a notorious kidnapper as they are alleging neither have I seen any gun but I can assure you that I am an expert in computer business.”
When asked to name the persons who helped him to procure the passports, Felix said, “I don’t know their names and since it’s an illegal business, everyone is protecting himself. It is very easy, just travel to any of the states and try to process international passport. It’s very easy.”
Immigration Service reacts
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the NIS, Assistant Comptroller of Immigration (ACI) James Sunday requested to see the passports before he could react. He promised to get back to the reporter and after several reminders, he failed to do so.
However a senior Immigration officer who spoke with Saturday Sun said that if the officers do their job properly, it will be difficult for one person to have two international passports with different names.
“We have had several cases like that because of some applicants who are in a hurry to pick their passports. The correct procedure for a new applicant is to wait for at least two days to enable the Immigration officer verify his claim.
I won’t be surprised if the passport in question is fake. In the era of E-passport, it is easier to detect fake passports. That is why those criminals have devised other means to cross the border with multiple identities. As long as no officer at the airport assists him, such a person will be detected at the point of exit or entry.
“We have been arresting them and this case will definitely not be different. Most of them get stuck when it’s time to renew their passport. This is why they keep changing names and going to different passport offices to acquire a new international passport.”
On how they manage to secure multiple valid passports, the officer said that what the bad eggs among them normally do is to pick an already existing number which can easily be got from their data bank. “He will imprint the number and the name of the applicant. Anyone with such a passport is quite aware that there is a sort of manipulation. For those who are not aware, the agents go as far as inviting the applicant into the finger print room, and at the end, his or her finger print will be erased. There is no shortcut in processing international passport”, the official further explained.