By Chioma Okezie-Okeh
Operatives of the Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) are on the trail of a former Chief Security Officer (CSO) of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Shehu Usman who was alleged to be the brain behind the recent several abductions of lecturers and workers in the university.
He was declared wanted after three suspected kidnappers who were nabbed by the IRT confessed that they were contracted by Shehu to destabilise the stable security network on the campus after he was sacked.
The suspects were identified as Abubakar Yakubu, Isaa Kabiru and Abubakar Aliyu, currently a security personnel in the university.
On their arrest, police sources told Saturday Sun that when cases of kidnapping for ransom became rampant in the university, the institution petitioned the Inspector General of Police who ordered IRT operatives to investigate.
Through intelligence gathered from past kidnap cases in the university, Yakubu’s name and involvement was discovered. He was tracked down and arrested in his family house. He led the police to arrest two others while Shehu remains at large.
During interrogation, Yakubu gave a list of several other cases including the kidnap of one Professor Ibrahim Bako from Maiduguri who is a lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine.
The current CSO of the school, Asiru Zango who reported the matter on behalf of the school, told the police that the kidnappers who were heavily armed took advantage of a bush path close to the staff quarters to escape.
According to Zango, at about 11pm on November 1 last year, the kidnappers found their way into the staff quarters. After their robbery operation, they picked a worker and his 14-year-old son. The next day they contacted the family and requested a N20 million ransom. They spent two weeks with the kidnappers before they were released.
Few days later, kidnappers stormed the school again and picked a lecturer from the College of Medicine with his senior wife and daughter. They also raided the house and took valuables. On their way out, they shot at the mobile policeman attached to the university and escaped.
They released the lecturer’s wife and daughter that same night. But the next day, they called and demanded N100 million to free the lecturer. He spent almost a month with them before he was released.
Recounting how he ended up in the kidnappers’ den, Dr Bako told the police that in the early hours of November 23, 2020, after his prayers, he heard a sound and peeped through the window. He noticed about five armed men and took his whistle. He made some calls and also blew his whistle to alert his family members and neighbours that there were intruders in the area.
Unfortunately, before the university security men could get to his apartment, the gunmen had broken into his house, held him at gun point while they ransacked the rooms in search of valuables. They grabbed him, his wife and daughter and wanted to move them with his car.
On citing policemen heading towards the house, they forced everyone to trek through the bush at the back of the staff quarters.
Dr Bako said when the kidnapper realised that the women could not walk fast, they released his wife and daughter and took him alone.
They trekked for about 30 minutes before their members came with about three motor bikes. They took him deeper into the forest and called his family members to bring N100 million as ransom.
They told him that the person that brought the job said that he could afford such an amount. He pleaded with them that he was just a lecturer and could not afford such an amount. He spent weeks there and was moved from one camp to another before his family members were able to raise about N3 million for the kidnappers. He claimed to have seen several kidnap victims who were waiting for their family members to get them released.
One week, one abduction
A native of Giwa area in Kaduna, 24-year-old Yakubu confessed to the police that he has lost count of the number of persons that were kidnapped by his gang since 2019.
“I am married with three children. I was able to attend primary school before my father asked me to join him and rear cattle. I saved money and bought a motorcycle because I do not want to remain in the bush for the rest of my life.
“I do help my father with feeding the cattle but I will later sneak out and make extra money as a commercial motorcyclist. I normally operate around ABU and its teaching hospital in Zaria.
I used to make close to N3000 daily. I was satisfied with the little I was making till I carried one Sanusi from the market to his house. It was during the ride that he told me that I was wasting my time riding a motorcycle.
“I decided to join them, and my motorcycle was used as a means of transportation. We started with one Pastor and Alhaji Mohammed at Sanga Local Government area. We monitored them for days before they were picked on the same day and taken to the Kidandan Forest. They spent four days and at the end of everything, I was given N30, 000.
“I was disappointed and Sanusi assured me that I was given such an amount because it was my first time. This was how I became a strong member and we were kidnapping at least one person on a weekly basis. I was still doing my okada riding business and it also helped us to know the location of some of my rich passengers.”
On the kidnap of ABU Zaria lecturers, Yakubu said that it was the former CSO of the university that brought the idea and provided all the information that was needed. “His name is Shehu Usman and he contacted me through one of our informants known as Bello. During the meeting Shehu told us to cause insecurity in the university because the current Vice Chancellor refused to recall him after he was sacked.
“He told us that the new security men that were employed to replace him were amateurs and when cases of kidnap in school increased, there would be protests and the VC would be forced to recall him.
“The first quarters raided by us belongs to one Dr Abdulmumuni and we picked his children since he was not at home. Shehu provided enough details on how we would enter the campus and successfully carry out our operations. The children spent 13 days before ransom was paid.
“Next was Alahaja Ramatu and her son. They were taken from their house inside the university quarters. We had successfully kidnapped at least four lecturers before I was arrested by the police at Biye village.”
On his part, Aliyu who was still working in the university before his arrest, claimed he decided to join forces with Shehu as a sign of loyalty. “I am from Bia village and I am married with four children. I was employed as a security man in the university and it was Shehu that helped to facilitate it.
“I was sad that the new VC decided to sack him over an insignificant issue. I was the one who distracted the other security men, so that the kidnappers could enter without raising alarm. I made sure that I was posted to patrol any area that they would visit and provide information that they needed to execute each operation. It is as soon as I get the alert that they had finished, then I would rush to the scene or alert the others.
“On the case of Dr Bako, I heard the whistle and pretended that I was deaf. I guess he later called the security office which was why the policemen got to the house while the kidnappers were leaving.
“I was able to make more money, as I was given about N550, 000 for my role in all the successful kidnap incidents in the university.”
The third suspect, Kabiru, insisted that he had never participated in any form of kidnapping but normally buy stolen cows from them.
“I am 35 years old and a successful businessman. I am aware that they are kidnappers because I have helped to supply food at their camp in the forest. I also buy stolen cows from them and pay them in cash. I had no choice but to help them because I could be kidnapped if I fail to work for them.”