By NGOZI UWUJARE
Some hitherto unrevealed facts have emerged on how the American returnee, Prince Eloniyo Dennis Abuda, President of Fugar America Foundation, who was on his way to catch a flight back to United States, on Saturday, January 30, 2021, was abducted by kidnappers and later killed in a gruesome manner.
He was not the only one in his company that was kidnapped. Others include: Chief David Oghieakhe said to be his relative; Mr. Richard Bologi, the Toyota Sienna car driver hired to take him and others to Lagos; Mrs. Comfort Momoh who many newspaper reports claimed to be Abuda’s wife. The kidnappers were said to have demanded N40 million from the relatives of the victims, N10 million for each.
A video post and trailing reactions
Some of the accounts appear fuzzy and contradictory though. An instagram blog, Gossipmillnaija, posted a video in which it showed a man believed to be Abuda allegedly spraying dollars on some local entertainers, at an event said to have taken place in his village some days earlier. Saturday Sun could not confirm the authenticity of this video.
But reactions that trailed the post showed that some Nigerians believe that he was killed by his own people because of jealousy although police detectives interrogating suspects said to have been rounded up during a massive security sweep, last week, of forests around the axis where he was abducted are yet to come up with any information that confirms such suspicion.
Saturday Sun witnessed a security operation in which the Edo State Commissioner of Police, Philip Aliyu Ogbadu led a police team to raid, in the wake of the abduction and murder, kidnappers’ hideouts located on the Benin/Sapele Expressway and Benin/Auchi Expressway. That was before the South West states including Ekiti, Ondo and Osun announced on Sunday, February 7, the deployment of Western Nigeria Security Network, Amotekun Corps, in their forests and boundaries to check killer herdsmen.
Ogbadu said: “When we raided these hideouts, we arrested some gang of armed robbers and kidnappers They confessed that they had kidnapped over 15 victims and collected millions of naira as ransom from them.” Police sources allege that they killed some victims who refused to pay their own ransom. The dead victims of the attack include a member of the local vigilance group and one of the passengers on a commercial bus that was used to barricade the road by the gunmen. It was gathered that they emerged from the bush and forced the commercial bus to stop at gunpoint and then whisked away passengers from it into the bush.
Findings show that some of the kidnappers, Ogbadu said, came from Kaduna, Gombe, Lagos, Kwara, Niger and Delta states. They met during their various operations before they formed a gang which enabled them to terrorize Edo State They operated along Benin/Agbor Expressway, Benin/Auchi Expressway and Benin/Akure Expressway for almost three years. “We recovered some sophisticated weapons from them,” he said. “They include: AK-47 rifles, pump action rifles, 100 live cartridges and locally made pistols.
“On February 3, 2021, we carried out another operation at Ugo Community, Orhiomwon Local Government of Edo State where three vigilance members were killed and we recovered their corpses in the forest. We were able to arrest another gang of armed robbers and kidnappers and they are in our custody for further investigation.”
“Tread carefully. Always keep yourself on a low,” one of the reactions counseled on the trending video about Prince Abuda allegedly spraying some dollars on entertainers. “Not everyone wishes you well.” “You need to be on the low because you don’t know who is happy with you,” a viewer concurred. “This was where the kidnappers came from.” “This is the reason many people living in Diaspora no longer care about closer relationship with people they left behind because you don’t know who to trust,” another viewer pouted. “Funny how people hate other people with good heart,” a post weighed in. “This life ehn. No matter how good you are, people that are jealous and envious of you are always by a corner,” the next post warned. “If only he knew, he wouldn’t have sprayed money. Bad belle people everywhere.”
Eyewitness accounts of his abduction and death
But other pieces of information that have emerged from the tragedy are not speculative. One of them is the account given by Bologi, the driver of the Toyota Sienna with registration number, LAGOS, SMK 606 GQ, who was conveying them to Lagos before they ran into the abductors. In an exclusive account, he told Saturday Sun that gunmen that later turned out to be kidnappers had laid siege to the road and kidnapped a sizeable number of persons travelling on the route. And the incident happened while they were descending the hill to the community. Two persons were killed while over 20 others were abducted at gunpoint by the men at Obagie community on the Benin-Ekpoma-Auchi Road in the Uhunmwonde Local Government Area of the state.
“The kidnappers just burst out onto the road and started shooting and I was forced to stop,” he said. “They carried all of us and marched us into the forest with the occupants of another car. They gave us terrible treatment.”
One of those whose strength could not hold out for a long-time under the terrible treatment, the frog-marching, at gunpoint, was Prince Abuda who pleaded to be allowed to catch some breath. “He could not walk fast.” Oghieakhe, who witnessed it all, told Saturday Sun, in tears. “I begged them so that we could carry him but they refused and shot him dead.”
But controversies exist as to which day the incident took place and how much was paid to the abductors as ransom, on his behalf. Majority of the news reports, print, electronic and social media claim that the gunmen demanded N10 million ransom for Abuda and each of the passengers travelling along with him and this was paid in full. Others claimed that they demanded N20 million but N10m was eventually paid.
Account of the incident given to Saturday Sun by Hon. Julius Abuda, a lawmaker and younger brother of the deceased, tend to cast some doubts on some of those reports. He said the moment he learnt about the kidnap on Saturday, January 30, 2021, he went to the Anti-Kidnapping Squad of the Edo State Police Command to lodge a report. “He was travelling with some other people to Lagos from Fugar when they attacked their Sienna car,” he reiterated. “His driver and two others were kidnapped along with him. Calls placed on his telephone line did not go through except that of Chief David Oghieakhe who was travelling with him.
“The kidnappers demanded N40 million, N10 million each from relatives of the four victims. They later called me and negotiated with me before switching off their phone. It was on February 2, 2021 that I went to the forest around 6:30pm. The kidnappers used other victims’ phone to make transaction to collect ransom after they switched off Abuda’s phone. I personally took N3.7 million to their hideout. I dropped the money. After that, I didn’t hear from them. I only heard a gunshot. I believed that it was that gunshot they used in killing my elder brother. The Ahor community forest is a vast one where kidnapped victims were kept for days.
“We discovered his corpse on February 3, 2021. The Commissioner of Police led the operation and discovered my elder brother’s lifeless body in the forest. We have since deposited it for autopsy at a private hospital mortuary in GRA Benin, Edo State.”
More facts surrounding his death emerge
Although the younger Abuda put the date of his elder brother’s murder on Tuesday, February 2, 2021, a poster by his family and people announcing his funeral arrangement and, sighted by Saturday Sun within the week, put it on Saturday, January 30, 2021. That’s not all. A twitter post by Reno Omokri, the former Special Assistant on Social Media to Nigeria’s former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and a close friend of the family, claimed that contrary to reports quoting the amount paid as N10 million or N3.7 million, the kidnappers collected a whopping sum of N14 million as ransom. Omokri who showed, on the Twitter post, a picture he and the late Prince Abuda took together when he attended the funeral of his Personal Assistant’s father, to whom Abuda is an uncle, lamented that although “the ransom was fully paid to the kidnappers Prince Eloniyo Abuda’s dead body was later discovered where the kidnappers dumped him.”
The body of the deceased said to be a well-known estate developer, was discovered by the police in the forest on Wednesday, February 3, 2021, while his three abducted relatives were released on Tuesday after an undisclosed sum was paid. One of the abductors was said to have been killed during a gun battle with the police while three others were apprehended. The police spokesperson in the state, Chidi Nwabuzor, who confirmed the development, said operatives of the command were still searching for other abductors.
“After killing him, they proceeded with the ransom negotiation and got the money. So sad,” he said. That was the very height of subterfuge. In fact, sources say that it was in order to prevent his relatives from knowing the truth about his death and then reneging on their promise to pay up or to continue with the negotiation that the kidnappers switched off Abuda’s phone. But his co-travellers who were in the know about the development were in such a mortal danger that they dared not open their mouth to say anything that would dissuade their relatives who were busy running about and trying to raise the ransom money, from troubling their lives. Abuda’s decomposing body was later found near the small town of Agbanikaka, Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo State.
Outrage and police intervention
That discovery sparked a wide outrage from Adachi Kingdom, Fugar, Avhionwv Clan, Etsako Central LGA, Edo State in Nigeria where he arrived last year to celebrate the Christmas and New Year with his people from Atlanta, Georgia, United States, where he resides.
News of his death sparked anger in many parts of the state. Hundreds of women, some of them half-dressed and carrying and waving leaves, barricaded the Uromi Road in Esan North East LGA that connects travelers coming from the North to the South. The blockage caused serious traffic gridlock. The protesters marched across streets in the town, demanding immediate eviction of kidnappers and other criminals hiding in the forests surrounding the area. They accused them of being responsible for the violence, killings, rape, kidnappings and destruction of farmlands in the area.
Some of the women lamented that they could no longer go to their farms for fear of being kidnapped, raped and killed by herdsmen who they accused of grazing their cows on their farm crops. They blocked major roads leading to the town. They include the road from the palace of Ojuromi of Uromi, Anslem Aidienojie II, and the divisional police station. They insisted on being addressed by the monarch and the Divisional Police Officer before they could call off their protests. But they were told that the two personalities were out of town.
It was in order to forestall further breakdown of law and order in the state that the Commissioner of Police, last Wednesday, led some police officers to a forest along Benin bypass, in search of the killers of the man. He led the operation alongside the Deputy Commissioner of Police Operations, Mr. Milter Dantawayo, the Area Commander of Ikpoba Hill, Mr. Adebowale Lawal, the Anti-Cultists Squad, DPO Egba Division, Police Tactical and Crack Squad.
During the search of the forest, the police team allegedly raided the kidnappers’ hideout. Ogbadu told Saturday Sun that it took them two hours before they could find the corpse of Prince Abuda. “We recovered it and took it to the mortuary. We had a serious gun-battle with the kidnappers. We shot one dead and arrested three of them. We rescued four victims from their hideout.”
When Saturday Sun visited the community located along Benin-Auchi bypass, it found the people in celebratory mood. They expressed their joy to see the Commissioner of Police leading the operation himself into the forest. One of the community members, Mr. Gabriel Joshua, said elatedly: “This is the first time we have seen Commissioner of Police enter the forest to have gun encounter with kidnappers. We heard several gunshots. We are happy. We had been under their bondage for over three years.
“We find it difficult to go to farm. The forest is a no-go area. The kidnappers would kidnap victims and march them to the forest and demand for ransom. In the forest, you see human parts, lifeless bodies and they always release their victims at night. We always assist some of them who escaped from the forest or who were released. We usually take them to our houses and take care of them. The following morning, we would take them to motor-park to find their way home. Today, February 3, 2021, the entire community is relieved to see an end to these ordeals and we are ready to assist the police with more information.”
Ogbadu noted that the command has moved police intelligence officers to all the flashpoints where armed robbers and kidnappers are known to operate especially along Benin/Agbor and Benin/Auchi Expressway. He promised to continue constant raids of those places. He said that the command, in their security sweep, arrested 25 suspected kidnappers in the forest and Ugo community in Edo State.
Remains buried amid tears and laemtation
For now, the remains of Prince Abuda, born, December 11, 1958, have been committed to mother earth. Aged 62, he is survived by a wife, two sons, one grandchild and brothers and sisters. A funeral order of programme released by his family, showed that he started his journey to his final resting place with a service of songs held in his honour at Christ Our Hope Catholic Church, 1786 Wellborn Road, Lithonia, Georgia, USA on Sunday, February 7, 2021 and another one held in his residence, Abuda Compound, Adachi Kingdom, Fugar, on Wednesday, February 10, 2021. This was followed by internment on Thursday, February 11, after a funeral mass held at St. Theresa Catholic Church, Fugar.
But all these notwithstanding, Nigerians have not ceased to lament his painful passage and to continue to pour curses and opprobrium on his killers. “They are all cursed!,” a social media activist that goes by the name, Luckyodede, said in a tweet: “They will eat all that money and never find happiness in all they do, and they all shall see worst things till they all confess of all they have done on earth.”
Another wrote: “May your killer never know peace.” Adenike Orenowo posited: “What a great loss. My condolences to the family of the deceased.” Ogobuch Nwonu Theophilus, added: “ May his soul rest in peace.” “OMG,” one Abimbola Dotman James exclaimed: “What a pity. Is it a crime to visit home for Xmas? May your soul rest in peace.” “May your killers never know peace.” “This is how the generations of these heartless marauders will be consumed to their 4th generations,” another vowed. “May progress elude all their generations.” “Very unfortunate,” one of the tweeters lamented. “Nigeria has never been this bad. Where are we heading to?”