By NGOZI UWUJARE
A gang of Fulani kidnappers who camouflaged their real major activity by masquerading as herdsmen has been busted in Niger State by the IGP Tactical Squad, a special interdiction unit set up by the Inspector General of Police, to combat the menace of kidnapping perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen, who also rustle cattle in Niger State and other nearby states in the northern part of the country.
Their cup of iniquity spilled when 10 of them were arrested by operatives of the IGP Tactical Squad, led by Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mr. Yusuf Kolo, who is also the Director of Operations at the headquarters of the Federal Special Armed Robbery Squad (Federal SARS), Abuja. The breakthrough was achieved with the collaboration of detectives from the Niger State Police Command.
Sunday Sun gathered that the Fulani kidnappers had since 2015 made travelers on the Abaji expressway and Mairiga road literally hold their hearts in their hands while travelling through these roads.
In addition to kidnapping, they engaged in robbery, dispossessing the hapless victims of both cash and other valuables. After the operations, they would simply disappear into the bush and resume tending to their cattle, an activity that provided perfect cover for the criminal acts.
As Kolo revealed in an interview at the headquarters of the squad, the Fulani kidnappers-cum-robbers and cattle rustlers had killed over 20 victims who tried to resist them. In the process they collected millions in ransom from the families of the victims, before releasing them. But true to the old saying, ‘many days for the thief, one day for the owner of the house,’ their cookie crumbled when they were arrested by Kolo’s men during a joint operation with detectives of the Niger State Police Command.
The suspects arrested include Mohammed Junaidu, 30, Mohammed Sanni, 26, Bala Adamu, 23, Idris Ibrahim, 22 and 27-year-old Kabiru Ibrahim.
“They came from various states like Zamfara State, Kaduna State, Kastina State and Niger state. They specialized in kidnapping victims for huge ransoms. They even shot a policeman and members of a vigilance group, who attempted to arrest them,” Kolo explained.
Citing one instance, he said that they kidnapped two victims from Bolo-Bolo village in Niger State and demanded a N3million ransom from the victim’s family, while holding him hostage in the forest in Mairiga village. Through diligent detective efforts, the police trailed them to their hideout and laid an ambush for them. In the ensuing exchange of gunfire, some of the suspects escaped with bullet wounds. But the others were rounded up.
The police team recovered some AK47 rifles, magazines and 17 rounds of ammunition previously stolen from the police.
In a related development, Kolo said that the IGP Tactical Squad rounded up a notorious gang of cattle rustlers operating in Niger State, Abuja FCT and and Katsina State.
Those arrested include Kabiru Lawal, 28, Yunusa Adamu, 27, Ibrahim Rabiu, 33, Lawal Audu, 27, and Alhaji Umar Faruku, who is 37 years old.
Kolo disclosed that Lawal and Faruk who are drivers provided mobility for members of the gang to carry out their criminal operations.
He said that policemen from Railway Police Division, Makunle, Niger State busted the gang. He added that three of the suspects, Sanni, Bature and Hammed, were still at large. But Kolo assured that they would soon be arrested as the police had spread a dragnet, to bring them into custody, preparatory to their arraignment for kidnapping and armed robbery.
At the squad’s headquarters, where he is being held for interrogation, Faruk who had been living a dual life just like Jekyll and Dr. Hyde, told Sunday Sun: “I have a mosque, where I always lead prayer. I belong to a gang of armed robbers, who also rear cattle along Abaji and Gwagwalada expressways. My major role is to carry the gang for robbery and then take them back. After the robbery I would go back to the mosque to lead prayer.
“We share the money among ourselves. We took the AK47 rifle of a policeman and the magazine, and used it to rob our victims,” Faruk said.
Another suspect Mohammed Sanni added, “We specialized in kidnapping victims. We don’t like to kidnap female victims. We have kidnapped several victims in Niger State and other states. We collected ransom of millions of naira before we released the victims.
“We are cattle rearers. We enjoy kidnapping people, to get fast money. After each operation, we simply go back to the bush, and continue our cattle-rearing activity. This was how we were operating until police arrested us.”
“Very soon, the suspects would be charged to court,” Kolo assured.