By Chioma Okezie-Okeh
A suspected kidnapper, Mohammed Bello, has given a chilling account of how members of his gang abducted and slaughtered one Osondu Nwachukwu in cold blood. A successful businessman, before he met his death in the hand of the leader of the kidnappers, one Dogo, he used to own a pure water factory in Lafia, Nasarawa State.
According to Bello, he was picked from his home along Tudun Kauri, Makurdi Road Lafia, on the evening of September 30, 2019. But when his family couldn’t meet up with the ransom being demanded, he was allegedly beheaded and then butchered in pieces. In fact, his abductors were on their way to disposing of his lifeless body when they were accosted by some suspecting passersby. Out of fear, they abandoned it and fled into the dark night and escaped.
Since the deceased’s family did not know the abductors by names or faces, they only spoke with them over the phone during the grueling sessions of negotiation, the hope of ever finding them and bringing them to justice or bringing justice to them was slim. In fact, they had given up hope when, out of nowhere, operatives of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) on the trail of some suspected kidnappers making life difficult for the people of Nasarawa State stumbled upon an intelligence report that eventually led to a breakthrough.
Police arrest and interrogation
With the information at their disposal, they arrested Bello, a native of Agyeregu Tasha in Lafia LGA, Nasarawa, on March 11, 2021. Among other hidden pieces of information unearthed by their interrogation of him was the fact that apart from being actively involved in cattle rustling and kidnappings going on, for some years now, in the state, his gang was responsible also for the abduction and gruesome murder of Nwachukwu. He identified other gang members who participated as Maikano, Dogo, Hassan, and Jubril. They are all said to be on the run after they got wind of Bello’s arrest but police have vowed to catch them.
In the course of the interrogation, Bello revealed that one Igbo man in Lafia brought the job to them. But out of frustration and anger over the inability of the family to raise the kind of money they were expecting, they killed him to show that they were in no mood for joke. Afterward, they reportedly dumped his body in a bush at Bukan Koto along Makurdi Maraba-Ankunza Road, Lafia when they ran into some Fulani returning from evening prayers in the mosque. He also handed over to the police an AK-47 rifle which he admitted belonged to him.
The dead victim’s wife’s story
Contacted, Nnenna, the widow of the deceased, gave an account that shows that, contrary to the kidnappers twisted thinking, they did not have the kind of money they were demanding from the family. According to her, after the kidnap which in all in the family, including her, witnessed firsthand, she was contacted on September 30, 2019, by a harsh and unfriendly voice who told her to raise N20 million as ransom if she hoped to see her husband come back to her alive. But police insist that the amount demanded by the kidnappers was N40 million while Bello claimed that it was N5 million they eventually settled for.
“We are blessed with six children and my husband owns a sachet pure water factory,” Nnenna told Saturday Sun. “I usually join him to run the business when the kids are in school. I was at home on a Friday, September 30, 2019, when kidnappers stormed our house and abducted my husband. Later in the night, I received a call that I should bring N20 million if I want to see him alive. I pleaded with them to have mercy on us as it was Friday and banks had closed. They asked me how much I had and I told them N40, 000. They asked me to bring it which I did that night. We were waiting when I received a call from them that I should not bother as my husband is dead. I was told that the person that arranged his kidnapping is from the East but I am not suspecting anyone for now. All I know is that God will judge the person behind my husband’s kidnap and death.”
Suspect’s insight on the cause of victim’s murder
That judgement that she spoke about may come sooner than later, as Bello had given details that the police would use to track down the man although police sources said that the man is on the run. But they promised to get him. He revealed that the Igbo businessman had assured them that the deceased would pay at least N10 million ransom. “He told us that that the man owns a sachet pure water production business but he is very stingy. He assured us that the man would pay because he is very rich. He gave us all the details about his movement. He said the best place to pick him up is his house. We went with three motorbikes at about 8.30 pm and hanged around his compound. Meanwhile, one of us waited for him at the factory area and followed him home. He was the one who alerted us that they were on their way to his house.
“As soon as he drove into his compound around 9 pm, we followed him and overpowered him. We searched his house for valuables and dragged him along with us after we had finished the search. We carried him on one of our bikes and threatened to kill him if he dared raise an alarm. When we got to a spot, we stopped and trekked for hours into Bukan Koto forest in Lafia.
“Inside that forest are plenty Fulani farmers living there with their wives and children. Dogo has a small hut that we used to keep our victims. We called his wife to bring N5 million but she said that it was weekend. She explained that such an amount of money can only be found in the bank. While staying with him at our hideout, the Igbo man who gave us the job called and we told him the situation of things. He said that the man’s wife was lying and not serious about saving her husband’s life. Unfortunately, the man overheard our conversation and was able to identify the person that gave us the job.
“The man told us to kill him after collecting the money. We were ready to spare him but his wife was not making any serious efforts. So Dogo got angry and said that he was no longer interested in the job. The man begged him but Dogo was too angry and before we could hold him, he used his machete to cut off the man’s head. Since he was already dead, Dogo butchered him in pieces and packed his body into a sack. I and two others were given the task of disposing of the body in the nearby river. Earlier, we had reasoned that if we tried to dig the ground and bury him, people might notice. So we used a wheelbarrow and carried the butchered body at about 7pm on a Sunday. But on our way, we were stopped by some Fulani men who were returning from the evening prayers at the mosque. They wanted to know what we were carrying and when they asked us to open the bag, we left it and ran away. I believe that they were the ones who reported the matter to the police.”
Enlistment, use of hard drugs and solution to kidnapping
On how he got enlisted into the business, Bello claimed that it was his brother-in-law, Dogo, and, from the look of things, the overall leader of the gang, that introduced him to it and also into the business of cattle rustling. According to him, he did so when he discovered that he was finding it difficult to feed his two wives and eight children.
His narrative: “I am 37-years-old, from Nasarawa State. All my life, I was taught how to rear cattle. My father is Jarawa by tribe and my mother, Fulani. My father met my mother whose family members are all cattle-rearers and he mixed with them very well. So, we were born and raised as Fulani. The young ones normally go out to look for other sources of making quick money through cattle-rustling and kidnapping. Things were hard for me as a farmer and I have eight children to feed. It was my brother-in-law, Dogo, who encouraged me to join them. He was the one that took me for the first job. He heard that things were hard for us and decided to show me the way.”
But his next statement shows that they operate under the influence of hard drugs and alcohol. That’s why they are able to kill and maim without qualms, without human feeling, he said. “I do take Tramadol and marijuana every day and these drugs are expensive. We now have 25mil of tramadol which is stronger. Everyone takes it and we give it to the person that we kidnapped so that they can have the strength to trek for hours in the bush. Normally after every successful kidnap operation, we would remove money for the hard drug. Dogo would use it to buy plenty drugs for us that will last for at least two weeks before we do another job.”
Still on the death of Nwachukwu, he claimed that it was the first kidnap operation he would participate in, and in which someone would lose his life. Even so, he insists that the highest amount of money he had made in his criminal career is not from kidnapping but from cattle rustling. “The highest that I have made is N1.3 million and that was gotten through cattle rustling. We stole about 1400 cattle and sold them.”
Asked to suggest how to bring an end to the criminal enterprise of kidnapping in Nigeria, he said the best way is for security operatives to arrest and kill off all the leaders of kidnap gangs still hiding in the forests. “This is because they are recruiting boys regularly to replace the ones that were killed or arrested.”