The mystery of the rampant kidnapping of reverend fathers in the South East states of Imo, Ebonyi, Anambra and Enugu was recently unravelled by SARS operatives in Enugu State when they arrested the trio of 25-year-old Adamu Mohammed (a.k.a. Suleiman), Musa Ibrahim, 28 and Dauda Alhaji, 31. The three suspects, who hail from Taraba, Katsina and Nasarawa states respectively confessed to having kidnapped over 10 reverend fathers from various churches in the four states and had collected millions of naira in ransom from victims’ relatives before they were smoked out and arrested in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.
Declared wanted by Enugu State Police Command early in 2019, they were tracked to their hideout on January 16, 2020, as SARS operatives, led by Superintendent of Police, Pius Ugozeela rescued their latest victims who were held hostage for five days. Eventually, they were arrested on January 22 from various locations in Abakaliki.
The kidnappers had been busy in the last few weeks before their arrest. The gang was allegedly behind the kidnap of PDP Woman Leader of Igbo-Etiti LGA of Enugu State with her son and driver along Enugu-Ugwuogo-Opi-Nsukka road on December 21, 2019. They were also responsible for the January 14, 2020 abduction of Ejike Vitus Ugwanyi at Obollo Afor, four days after grabbing Rev. Francis Cyprian Ugwuanyi, the parish priest of St. Paul Catholic Church Ogbosu Umulokpa in Uzo-Uwani at Ulo village Ezeagu on January 10. The same gang abducted John Okoli with his mother and two sisters at the boundary between Umumba Ezeagu LGA, Enugu State and Ebelebe village in Anambra State.
According to Enugu State Commissioner of Police, Ahmad Abdul Rahman, one Ak-47 rifle with eleven rounds of live ammunition and three locally made guns with eighteen live cartridge were recovered during the raid at their hideout. At least six hostages were set free from the camp.
Victims and villains
One of the rescued victims, a reverend father (name withheld) told Saturday Sun he was abducted from his parish in Enugu State: “I was in my house when they came in and kidnapped me. They took me to their hideout and tied me up. I was held hostage for five days while they were waiting for the ransom. Luckily for me, detectives came and rescued me.”
He continued: “At the time I got there I met some other reverend fathers from various parishes. Those parishes that did not want their reverend fathers to be killed quickly paid the ransom and they were released to them”.
According to him, his kidnappers spoke Fulani and Hausa.
Saturday Sun visited Rev Fr Cyprian at his parish, St. Paul Catholic Church in Uzo-Uwani LGA of Enugu State, where he recounted his ordeal in the hands of the three kidnappers. “We want to thank God that the three suspected kidnappers have been arrested,” he said. “May God forgive them and may justice be allowed to be done.”
Adamu Mohammed, the ring leader, an indigene of Taraba State, confessed that they were part of a 10-man gang that specialized in the kidnapping of reverend fathers “because we believe they can easily get money from the church to pay their ransom.”
He added: “We have our informant who always gave us information on how to kidnap them. We have kidnapped over 10 reverend fathers. We didn’t kill anyone of them. We merely collected millions of naira from members of their parishes.”
Their criminal activities, according to him, were concentrated in Imo, Anambra and Enugu states.
“But we kept our victims in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State,” he said. “We only kidnapped a reverend father and a pastor in Ebonyi State.”
Mohammed claimed they had at some point collected ransom as low as N500, 000 from victims’ relatives. “We kidnapped most of the reverend fathers in their house or the church premises,” he confirmed.
The second suspect, Musa from Katsina State confessed that they also kidnapped female victims and usually raped those who could not pay their ransom.
Commissioners of Police AbdulRahman avowed that the suspects would soon be charged to court.