Suspected abductors of the Vice-Chancellor, Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), Prof Cyprian Onyeji, have been nabbed by operatives of the anti-kidnapping squad of the Enugu State Police Command.
The nine-man gang was said to have confessed to having carried out series of kidnapping in the South-east region, including the recent kidnap of Onyeji, who regained freedom 20 days ago.
A statement by the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Ebere Amarizu, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, said members of the syndicate were arrested yesterday after a heavy gun battle with security operatives.
Security agents had surrounded their hideout at Safety Hotel, Uwani in Enugu South Local Government Area following a tip-off.
Narrating how the suspects were arrested, Amarizu said policemen who had been on the trail of the suspects since the kidnap of the VC last month, arrested three of the suspects at about 4pm Wednesday, who led them to the others. Amarizu said the arrest of Osinachi Iheanacho, Ejike Aba and Obinna Okoro from a commercial bus at Agbogugu, Awgu on the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, was as a result of intelligence report gathered by the police.
"Then, at about 1.30am on Wednesday, the operatives were led to Safety Hotels at Uwani of Enugu State where severe gun duel ensued between the suspected kidnappers and the security operatives and after the serious gun battle, one Ezebilo Ihiemere alias GAGO, Ifeanyi Kingsley Edeh, Ani Chidiebere, Udeonu Ernest and Chibuzor Eze were arrested, while one Chiboy escaped from the roof top of a three-storey building with serious gun injury," the police spokesman said.
Among items recovered from the suspects was a Volkswagen Vento car with registration No AQ 780 BRS. The police said on searching the car, two sunglasses, two AK47 rifles and five loaded magazines with 52 rounds of ammunition, among other items, were found in it.
Following their arrest Wednesday, the police spokesman said the suspects confessed when they realised that their game was already up and revealed the identity their gang leader and other members of the gang who had arrived earlier from Port Harcourt.
He added that the suspects confessed their roles in the VC's kidnap as well as other kidnapping incidents in the state and its environs.
He commended other security agencies in the state, the media and members of the public for their timely and useful information and assistance that led to this arrest of the suspects and assured Nigerians that the police would continue to work harder with a view to ensuring safety of lives and property.
He also used the opportunity to appeal to the members of the public, particularly medical personnel, to watch out for anyone with bullet injuries and promptly report the matter to the police for appropriate action.
Onyeji was abducted on August 15 by some gunmen who had waylaid his convoy at the gate of the university at Agbani. In the attempt to kidnap him, they wounded three policemen in his convoy who were members of his security team.
The entire staff of ESUT resorted to what they called "spiritual warfare", even as they constituted a body of "prayer warriors" to intercede on behalf of their boss. They had also declared fasting during the period of the intercession.
After nine days in captivity, he was eventually released. Although the kidnappers had demanded N200 million as ransom, it is believed that they eventually reduced it to N50 million. However, it could not be ascertained how much was eventually paid to secure Onyeji's release.
"For sure, money exchanged hands but I can't say how much. But for security reasons, that part of the story is better left untold," a source, who was one of the first set of people to see the VC when he was released had told THISDAY.
The source added that, "From information available to me, we learnt that the Prof was moved from place to place during the nine days he was in captivity. They made sure, security operatives did not pin them down to a particular spot. But, one sure thing is that he was not maltreated and he looked hale and hearty when he was found at the place they dumped him."