By Ifeanyi Okolie
He would consider himself a lucky man after he was kidnapped in November last year by five armed men clad in police uniform who crossed his Range Rover Sport Utility Vehicle at Isheri Roundabout, Idimu, Lagos. $400,000 was demanded as ransom for his release, but four days into negotiations, operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, led by SP Abba Kyari, stormed the den where he was being held by his captors and rescued him unhurt.
The Chairman of Kings Petroleum, Alhaji Hammed Fashola, is still finding it difficult to unravel the mystery behind his rescue without ransom being paid. His friend, Chief Idowu Coker, owner of Dapsey Oil, was not as lucky, as he was abducted few weeks before him and ransom of N20million paid for his freedom. Fashola told Sunday Vanguard during an interview that he was jolted by gunfire when SARS operatives stormed the well fenced compound located at Isheri-Oshun in Ikotun area of Lagos where his captors held him. The 55-year-old man, chained on his legs and hand and dumped in one of the toilets in the house, said he made quick prayers as he heard voices of the police asking his kidnappers to surrender or be killed. “I knew I was a free man the moment I heard the gun shots and the police screaming for the kidnappers to surrender, but could not unravel how the police knew my locations,” he stated.
Five suspects, Kelvin Igah, 39; Ogechi Igah, 32; Victor Igah 35; and Chukwuma Kingsley, 43, including an alleged informant, Afam Nriezedi, said to have masterminded the kidnapping and that of Coker, few weeks earlier,are in police net.
Fashola narrated how he was abducted by the gunmen in police uniform, blindfolded, chained and dumped in the toilet for four days without food. He explained how the leader of the gang, identified simply as Ike, attempted to intimidate him into paying the ransom they demanded.
His Story: ‘How I was kidnapped’
On the day I was kidnapped, I was on my way home from work. Time was bout 7pm. A Honda Pilot crossed me and some gunmen in police uniform emerged. When I saw them, I suspected they were armed robbers and I refused to open my door. They broke my vehicle glasses and dragged me out. I knew the police will not operate in such a manner, that was why I refused to open my door. They dragged me into their own vehicle and blindfolded me. When we got to where they were taking me, the blindfold was removed and I found myself in a toilet. A man came in and chained my legs and hands. I couldn’t sleep throughout the night. The following day, around 6am, I started hearing the voices of children and I suspected that the house was a residential building. By 7am, a woman went out with the children and, by 2pm, she came back with the children and was taking them through their home work. The guy on ground offered me food and water but I opted for water only. At that time I knew I had been kidnapped.
The gang leader, Ike, came into the toilet after a while putting on mask. We chatted and I told him that he may have taken the wrong person because I didn’t have money to give to kidnappers. I told him whatever must have made him to go into kidnapping could have also gotten me into it as well, because we are all citizens of this country. I told him that I am a self-made man and I have never had access to free money in my life. With that impression, he didn’t have the courage to continue interacting with me. He then started discussing with my wife. People in my second car witnessed how I was abducted and, because the gunmen were in police uniform, the driver thought I was arrested by the police.
My wife and the driver had visited several police stations before my kidnappers contacted her through my mobile phone and demanded a ransom of $400,000. My wife told them she did not have that kind of money but they insisted on collecting nothing less than that amount.
Alleged plot to kidnap Lagos deputy governor’s mother
The leader of the gang boasted that he was untouchable and nothing would happen to him. He told me he was making plans to kidnap the mother of the former deputy governor of Lagos State. He said he had surveyed the area and knew the number of policemen protecting the woman at her residence and that job may be the last he would do before leaving this area. He also told me about his exploit and that he just kidnapped a man, and when the man attempted to escape, they increased the ransom. I didn’t know that he was talking about my friend, the owner of Dapsey Oil. He equally told me that he wanted me to leave on time because he was expecting other victims. I asked him if he knew me before then and he said somebody brought the job to him. I asked if I could know the name of the person, the person they earlier kidnapped and he said he would not divulge the name to me. I also asked him why he went into kidnapping, and he replied that it was a means to survive. I put it to him that that was not enough reason to go into criminality as all Nigerians are suffering the same thing. My wife was also talking to the police at SARS and they asked her to play along. Throughout my stay, my handler was always checking on me even at midnight. They were two but the other guy didn’t show his face.
I don’t know how the police located their hideout. I heard gunshots and a voice that ‘if you move, I will shoot you’. I could not understand how the police knew my location. I said a quick prayer. It all shows that the police can be efficient if they have all what they need.
When they stormed the house, they met two men, three children and a woman, who is the mother of the children. They were all arrested and I was rescued. When the police were about leaving, I told them to exercise a little patience, as Ike was coming the next day and they agreed. They slept and waited for Ike and another member of the gang coming the next morning. The police asked one of the men watching over me to put a call to Ike and inform him to hurry down as I was sick. Around 6pm, Ike called to say they were at the gate. The police took position inside the compound. Ike and his partner came in, but sensing danger, he jumped the fence while the other member of the gang was arrested.
‘The man who sold me out’
When they took the suspects to SARS and the police commenced investigations, additional arrests were made and I was called to come to SARS office in Ikeja. It was then I knew the man who planned my kidnap, called Afam. When I met him, I asked what my offence was and he told me that I had not offended anyone and even the boys in my area spoke well about me. He also identified me in the midst of many people in SARS. He usually sat in a vulcanizer workshop close to my house from where he would monitor my movement. He told me he knew my office and brought the kidnappers there and that they usually sat in a restaurant opposite my office pretending to be drinking, while monitoring my activities. He said on the day I was kidnapped, he saw me outside giving instructions to my staff and he pointed at me. He also told me that he monitored me for over one month and he warned Ike that I could be a tough man to deal with. He told me he was the one who took his gang to Dapsey’s office where they kidnapped him and collected N20million ransom before he was released.
‘Please don’t release my kidnappers’
I want to call on the authorities to ensure that the suspects are prosecuted to serve as deterrence. I have been informed that their relatives are pressuring the police to release their wards to them. If these people are released, they will surely make life unbearable for residents of Alimosho and Lagos at large.
‘I aided kidnapping’
Sunday Vanguard spoke to the alleged mastermind of the Fashola kidnapping, Afam Nriezedi, a native of Agu Ukwu Nri, Anambra State . He confessed to the crime and blamed his involvement on greed. The 41-year-old said, “I was a trader in hospital equipment; I also did buying and selling of clothes before I joined a 419 gang. I was buying the clothes from Cotonou.
“I was arrested last Saturday at Ikorodu because I gave information to kidnappers. I gave information about two prominent men in Lagos, the owner of Kings Petroleum, and the owner of Dapsom Petrol Station. It was only two of the suspects I know, IK and Chekwube. They were the people I gave the information. I knew them at a drinking pub. It was through their business discussions that I knew they were kidnappers and flowed along with them.
“After a week, they asked me if I knew any big man. I told them I knew two petroleum dealers. I knew them because I usually bought fuel from their stations and they had offices at their filling stations.
“I use Camry car; it was my sister who gave it to me to use for car hire service. I did not know how they were kidnapped. They only gave me N7,000 to repair my car.
“Kings was kidnapped on his way home. I heard gunshots, after that everywhere was calm. It was in the morning when police came to remove King’s white Range Rover that I knew he had been kidnapped. I knew it was the gang that did the job.
“I called IK to tell him I was aware they kidnapped Kings, but his number did not go through. I didn’t know where IK and the rest were. I was arrested at Ikorodu where I went to operate on my swollen neck.
“The police came with my brother and sister to arrest me. We are eight children in the family. I am the sixth. We are two boys and six girls. I was into bank fraud. I made up to N300,000, N400,000 each time I did it.
“I used to do it with friends who had inside connection. We used clone cheques and forged signatures. We hacked lines and diverted them so that when they called the owner to confirm, another person would pick it and do the confirmation.
“All the money I made in bank fraud, I squandered on drinking and womanizing.
“I was arrested by police twice for bank fraud. I was charged to court twice, in 2005 and 2007. I was released on bail and the court later struck the cases out when the bankers were no longer coming to court.”