HEADLINE | Posted: Tuesday, July 9, 2024

End of the road for 9 billionaire kidnappers in Lagos


By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor

fter the arrest of the notorious kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, popularly known as Evans in 2017 following his seven years of high-profile abductions across the country, during which he collected millions of dollars in ransoms, nobody knew that another dreaded gang would spring up soon after.

New tactics

This time around, this gang of daring kidnappers took over from him and concentrated more on the Centre of Excellence, Lagos. The gang members operated freely for over a year and specialised in targeting their victims who are usually stupendously rich and they end up collecting ransom in both naira and dollars.

Their areas of operation included Ago Palace Way, Isolo, Okota, the popular auto spare parts market, Ladipo; Festac and other environs. Police sources said they always disappear through the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, meander through the ever-busy Second Rainbow Bus stop and Apple Junction and end up in a yet-to-be-known enclave.

From here they will negotiate the ransom for their victim before relocating out of the city. The difference in their mode of operation is that apart from being based outside Lagos, they always insist in collecting not less than N1 billion or their victim will be killed. They also threaten to kill their victims should information about them leak to the police.

Waterloo

The good news at the moment is that the gang last week met its Waterloo in the Ladipo area of Lagos. This was after the gangsters targeted a very rich international businessman and were on the verge of kidnapping him. Their evil plot was foiled by eagle-eyed policemen from the Commissioner of Police Special Squad who confronted them and killed nine of them.

Recovered from them were four AK-47 rifles, four locally-made semi-automatic pistols, nine AK47 magazines, three walkie-talkies, one POS machine and a loudspeaker. Two of their operational vehicles: a black Toyota 4Runner and a blue Lexus RX350, were also recovered. However, two of the suspects narrowly escaped by disappearing into the large crowd keenly watching the shootout that ensued between the heavily armed kidnappers and the police.

Intelligence report received

The scenario which played out like a Hollywood movie was clinically executed by detectives from Police Command Headquarters, Ikeja who were reportedly drilled and selected by the Commissioner of Police, Adegoke Fayoade.

They had embarked on the assignment after receiving intelligence reports about the deadly operations of the gang of kidnappers in and around Lagos for a long. Remarkably, three Commissioners of Police during their respective tenures in the state also raised police teams to confront and neutralise the same gang but did not succeed in rounding them up. Rather, they only succeeded in curtailing their activities.

Records of kidnap cases

Police records showed that the gang made up of trigger-happy shooters kidnapped a businessman on April 10, 2023, in the Ikotun area of the state around 4 pm and the victim paid $8000 as ransom. The gang which in most cases, carried out its operations with a Lexus 350 SUV and 4 Runner jeep kidnapped another businessman same date around 11.30 pm at Ago Okota using the same vehicles and later collected a ransom of N5m.

On April 23, 2023, the gang struck again and this time, they went for a popular millionaire who sells assorted drinks at Ago Okota and kidnapped him.

He reportedly paid not less than a billion naira, but the family hid it from the police on account of threats from the kidnappers. The same thing happened to another rich businessman at Ikotun the same day as they were fleeing from the scene with their victim. The businessman was returning from his farm in Ogun State when they accosted and kidnapped him.

They later collected ransom in three tranches of $6000 and $3,600. They wrapped up their operation that day by abducting another businessman man few metres from the same area in Ikotun and he paid N8m as ransom.

Ransom payments galore

It was also gathered that on August 18, 2023, at Ago Palace Way, members of the gang kidnapped another businessman and collected N120m; the following day they struck at Gowon Estate and their victim paid an undisclosed huge amount of money before he was released.

Then, on November 29 same year, around 8.45 pm, they kidnapped another businessman at Apple Junction and collected N6m as ransom. Three days later, they abducted another businessman at Ikotun with the same operational vehicles and collected a ransom of N24m.

From there, they moved to Isolo and abducted another victim who reportedly paid a huge amount of money as ransom also.

Xmas bonus

While preparing for Christmas that year, they also struck at the popular Ladipo Auto Spare Parts market and collected N100 million from their male victim. The gang opened the New Year in 2024 by striking at Ikotun and collecting N120m from their victim.

Notably, while they were freely carrying out their operations, the police were on their trail and all efforts made to round them up failed. However, police sources said they continued to follow up on their trail and they discovered that they always carry out operations with a Toyota $ Runner Jeep and a Lexus 350 SUV.

It was also discovered that they always carried out their operations dressed in camouflage military uniform, and once they picked their victims, they took them out of Lagos and when they wanted to release them after payment of ransom, they dropped them at any point in Ogun State or in some cases at Governor’s Road, Ikotun.

Sources said that this trend continued and police were oblivious to their operations until an intelligence report informed detectives that the gang that left Lagos a long time ago was back and was using the same vehicles.

The source said they thought the coast was clear for them to operate after disappearing from Lagos for long. Their last criminal rendezvous took place at the ever-busy Ojekunle street inside Ladipo market where they had perfected plans to kidnap a very rich businessman in the market with the hope of collecting not less than N1b from him.

How the bubble bursts

Vanguard learned that a friend of the rich businessman was earlier kidnapped and he paid a huge amount of money. He reportedly confided in his friend that they were also planning to abduct him and their target is N1 billion.

Based on intelligence information, it was gathered that the Commissioner of Police personally mobilised specially trained operatives with skills in operational shooting and detailed the officer in charge of his special squad, CSP Kehinde Oni, to swing into action and confront the daredevil kidnappers frontally, banking on the concept of Silence, Speed and Surprise, SSS.

The showdown

Sources said as expected, the kidnappers arrived at the scene in their usual vehicles and on seeing a decoy placed by the detectives, they started shooting frantically, not knowing that the whole area was cordoned off by heavily armed policemen. The first shot they fired, according to sources, made detectives to identify them with their vehicles and a shootout that lasted for over three hours ensued.

During the intensive shooting that reverberated all over the area, nine of the kidnappers were neutralised while two escaped with bullet wounds by disappearing into the crowd. Reports said detectives avoided gunning the fleeing gang members so as not to hit the wrong targets. Bullets from the kidnappers’ weapons hit the engine of one police vehicle and also hit a policeman in the jaw. He had since been treated and discharged.

So far, detectives are on the trail of other fleeing members of the gang and they have concluded plans to raid their hideouts, including the homes of their dead kingpin whom information revealed was married to four wives and built mansions for them in one of the states in the South-Eastern part of the country.

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