By CHIOMA OKEZIE-OKEH
You’ve heard of Pythagoras Theory or Theorem which states that in a right-angled triangle, the square of the hypotenuse side is equal to the sum of squares of the other two sides. In other words, the biggest square has the same area as the other two squares put together.
You’ve definitely heard of Thomas Malthus population theory which states that population growth will always tend to outrun the food supply and that betterment of humankind is impossible without stern limits on reproduction. He noted that food production will not be able to keep up with growth in the human population, resulting in disease, famine, war, and calamity.
You have also heard of Robert Koch’s germ theory of disease which states that foul odour does not cause disease but invasion of the body by microorganisms, too small to seen excerpt through a microscope.
Now, here comes a kidnapping theory developed by Barine Yilda alias “Albino” or “Yellow,” a kidnapper arrested recently in Port Harcourt, Rivers State by operatives of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT), along with some of his team or gang members, including his leader, for carrying out series of kidnappings in recent months, starting from October 2020.
Asked why his gang specializes in kidnapping women and why most of his victims are female, the 29-year-old young man from Gwara community, Khana Local Government Area, Rivers State, noted that women fetch more money than men whenever they are kidnapped:
“Women cannot endure pain and their families will do anything to get them released,” he explained. “But men are always stubborn and most time they attack us. That man that reported us spent almost a week and still he did not raise up to N400, 000.” In today’s scary world of kidnappings, this morbid theory spurn by kidnappers makes women endangered specie, doesn’t it?
Well, ask Cynthia, a 29-year-old businesswoman based in Rivers State. Of the same age with Yilda, on December 9, 2020, she was on her way to attend a Winners Chapel church programme held somewhere on School Road, Elelenwo, Port Harcourt. At about 8.40pm, as she made to enter her car, a Toyota Camry to take off for the programme, a young man walked up to her and drew a gun. Before she knew what what was happening, three others joined and that was how she was whisked off and kept with them for about six days before she was eventually released from captivity after payment of N5 million ransom, a far cry from the initial N30 million demanded by her abductors.
Several other ladies and few men who wrote petitions to the Inspector General of Police alleged that they were abducted in similar circumstances between October 2020 and January 2021.
Acting on the petitions, operatives of Intelligence Response Team (IRT) who were assigned to investigate the cases tracked five members of the gang and got them arrested between January 17 and 29, 2021. They are Barine Yilda, Epo-Bari Nwolu, Sammy Junior Inordee, Osinachi Ngwakwe and Yabari Gbarale.
Investigation revealed that their modus operandi is to target persons, mostly women driving posh cars. Not only do they sell off the cars, they also collect ransoms from their families. They claimed to have started their criminal activities during the ENDSARS protest in October. But since then they successfully kidnapped about nine persons before their eventual arrest.
Those picked are then taken to a remote village in Eleme and kept there till their families are able to pay the demanded ransom. Apart from Cynthia who was picked at Elelenwo others are: Mrs Onuwabhagbe picked at Woji area, Mrs Nwakanma and Oghene Emmanuel, a man. They all claimed to have paid several millions of naira before they were released.
The suspects led the operatives to their hideout. There different types of arms, including a military camouflage face cap, were recovered. They confessed that they use them to pass through security checkpoints while transporting their victims to their hideout.
Victims recount their ordeal and experiences
Recounting her ordeal in the hand of the gang, Cynthia confirmed that she was on her way to attend a church programme when she was approached by a young man, armed with a pistol. “Suddenly, another boy joined him and pushed me to the backseat. Two others entered making them four. My car was abandoned at a point and they transferred me to a bike and we drove in the bush for more than 30 minutes. We got to a house in the bush and I was locked up in the toilet for four days. They only served me water for those four days. I could only hear the voice of passersby always hailing “Albino” or “Yellow.”
“It was the one called Yellow that stayed with me most of the time. On December 13, 2020, he entered the toilet where I was kept and woke me up. He asked if I was married and I said no. He said he was going to have sex with me and I told him that I was menstruating and he said he would penetrate me through my anus. I started shouting and he brought out a matchet and threatened to cut my head with it if I refused. I was scared and allowed him have his way. The following day they brought another woman who is much older that me. I stayed there till December 15 before they told me that I was free to go. They took me on a bike and dropped me by the roadside. They also gave me N500 as transport fare. One of them who later became nice to me called my fiancée to confirm if I was already at home. At the time I was granted freedom that new woman was still there.”
According to Cynthia’s fiancé, Johnbull, her abductors initially demanded for N30 million naira as ransom. “It was during the Winners Chapel Shilo event and my fiancée attends the one at Elelenwo. I was not bothered that I could not reach her because it is normally a vigil. But I was shocked when I received a call the following day from one of her family members that she was kidnapped.
“She was driving a Toyota Camry and they did not contact us until December 12 at about 7.30pm. They told me that Cynthia is in their custody that I should bring N30 million if I want to see her alive. On December 15, we were able to raise N5 million. They asked us to bring the money to new town Eleme. We delivered the money around 8.50pm and at about 11pm I got a call from my fiancée that she has been released.”
The second victim, Onuwabhagbe said she was picked on December 14 around 8.30pm in front of a shop at Woji where she bought some stuff for her home. “I was about to enter my Lexus Jeep when two young men with gun overpowered me. They forced me into the car and we drove to a point close to the bush before they handed me over to another group,” she said. “I was kept in a toilet for seven days till my husband was able to raise N2 million. They only gave me water.”
The husband of another victim, Mrs Nwakanma claimed that he paid N3 million before his wife was released. “I received a call from an unknown person who claimed that my wife and three of her colleagues at work had been kidnapped. They released the others as soon as they got close to the bush but dragged my wife to their hideout. They asked for N150 million ransom but I was able to negotiate with them before they agreed to collect N3 million. She was not fed for seven days.”
Why we target women
According to Yilda, it is easier to kidnap women than men who at times spend weeks in their custody before the money is paid. He claimed that more money is paid when women are kidnapped. “I participated in the kidnap of Cynthia and others,” he admitted. “I decided to touch her because she is single. I cannot touch a married woman because my mother is still alive and it is wrong to touch another man’s wife.”
On how they select their victims, Yilda said that they rarely depend on information for fear of been traced through their informant. “Police normally catch informants easily and once they reach police station, they will tell them where to catch us. So, we decided to hang around quiet areas close to a major road and pick anyone with a posh car.” The second suspect Epo-Bari Nwolu, 26, said that their hideout where they usually keep their victim is a village known as Ebubu under Eleme Local Government Area. “It is a normal village setting and people move around freely; it’s just that the route to the village is bushy and if we drive any of those exotic cars into the community, they will start asking questions. So, we keep them in the bathroom that has no window but with a hole where water passes through.
He confirmed that one of the women they kidnapped stopped by along the road to buy something. “It was when she was about to enter her car that we overpowered her. The same thing happened to others. That man that was kidnapped, we were attracted by the quality of the car he was driving. But, unfortunately, he did not pay much.”
Division of labour among kidnappers
Asked why he decided to take to a life of crime, he said: “My parents could not afford to send me to university, so I had no choice than to become a commercial Okada rider. It was one of my area guys known as Teddy that lured me into kidnapping. The place that we normally keep our victim belongs to “Albino” and it is located in Ebubu community in Eleme.” Sammy Junior Inordee who is believed to be the gang leader said that it is his responsibility to find the guns they use in carrying out operations. “Finding guns in this area is not difficult because of the activities of militants,” he said. “In all the nine cases that I participated my share was N3 million.”
The buyer of stolen products among them, Osinachi claimed that he did not participate in any of the kidnap operations but was alerted severally to pick the vehicles snatched in the process. “I have returned three of the cars and I promise to help police find others,” he said.