Awka — The leader of a four-man suspected kidnapping gang arrested by the Anambra State Police Command, Chinedu Okafor, has said his gang had kidnapped one Aguiyi of Abatete and released him without collecting any money from him but used money collected from other victims as ransom to buy Aguiyi's car at N1.2 million.
Okafor who was arrested along with three other members of his gang also admitted that his gang has kidnapped so many people at different times that include the Managing Director of NIPCO Filling station, Mr. Aniekwe and collected ransom of N2.5 million before he was released. He said his gang also kidnapped the Director of High life bread Agulu and extorted N2 million ransom from him before he was also released.
"Our group also kidnapped one Reverend Father and a policeman and later released them. We did not collect any money from those ones, but when we kidnapped the INEC chairman of Imo State, we collected N2.5 million before we released him. There was a businessman we caught that gave us N4 million before we released him," he said.
Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Balla Nasarawa said the Camry bought by Aguiyi's gang has been recovered by State Security Service (SSS) operatives while detectives from the State Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) are investigating. He said though there were three kidnap cases reported to the police in the state between August 7 and December 4, this year, his command has arrested 49 suspected kidnappers and rescued 11 kidnapped victims.
He said his command is working hard to ensure that all kidnappers operating in the state and living anywhere are traced and arrested by his men, adding that some of the kidnappers only come to the state, operate and then leave to their states of residence.
He gave example of a suspected kidnapper, Obinna Offor who was arrested in Lagos for alleged kidnap in the state, adding that "Obinna was arrested in Lagos on October 26. After we interrogated him, he volunteered and led SARS operatives to Ezumeri Oraifite in Ekwusigo Locaal Government Area of Anambra State, where one of his cohorts Chinedu Ugochukwu was arrested with grievous bullet injury.
"The suspect was arrested in connection with the kidnap of one Mrs. Nwosu. He confessed to the crime and also admitted threatening to kidnap one Jasman Igbonuzue who agreed to pay N500,000 to them to avoid being kidnapped. The operatives are working assiduously to arrest other fleeing members of the syndicate.
"On October 2, my men arrested one Ifeanyi Obaska of Ebenator in connection with the attempted kidnap of one Donald Nkem of the same address who told us that sometimes in the month of April, 2012 the suspect attempted to kidnap him after which the suspect escaped to Lagos. He supplied him his bank account number to pay ransom of N10 million to the suspect or he would still be kidnapped. They operate in a syndicate. The SARS team is closing at them.
"A police patrol team from Inland town Division had arrested one Olisa Christopher of Ogboga Onitsha, Olisa Igweike of Umuaroli Onitsha, Chibuike Agbarachi of Okoator village Abor Mbaise of Imo State and Paul Uzewuru of Umuhu Ukpor Nnewi. The suspects allegedly kidnapped one Leghara Chigozie Bright but he was rescued by the police on the same day and a black Avalon car with registration number FF 952 LND, a locally made double barrel pistol loaded with two live cartridges were recovered.
"You see, we have done a lot to ensure that we arrest all those that carry out any form of kidnap operation in the state. But because we do it with a lot of professionalism and care to avoid picking on people that are innocent, relations of some victims rush to pay ransom to the kidnappers then come and ask us to help them recover the money they paid to criminals they do not even know where and how to trace them again. To God be the glory, we have succeeded in tracing some of the and even recovered the money they collected from their victims," he said.
CP Balla also said his men had an encounter with a syndicate of kidnappers operating in a black Toyota Camry car with registration number DS 419 LND while attempting to kidnap an innocent person along Nnewi/Oba old road opposite St. John Catholic church Egbo Uruago in Nnewi. He said the suspects escaped abandoning their operational vehicle.
He said the police also recovered two AK47 rifles whose serial numbers were scrapped, four AK47 magazines with fifty-six rounds of 7.62mm live ammunitions and four K2 magazines with 36 rounds of 5.56mm live ammunitions, adding, "Following serious intelligence gathering, my men arrested one of the kidnappers who gave his name as Chika Ekpendu with bullet wounds on his right thigh."
He said one of the strategies the police adopts in tackling kidnappers and other criminals in the state is through periodic raids of suspected criminal hideouts, adding that a recent raid conducted by SARS operatives at a criminal den at Agu-Awka led to the arrest of one Chukwuneye Nwabueze alias Ujoto.
He said Ujota has been on the police wanted list in the state as a notorious armed robber and kidnapper suspected to be a member of a dreaded kidnapping syndicate. He said the police are on the trail of other members of the gang with a view to arresting them.
He said the state government is cooperating with the police in the state towards fighting crime as according to him, whenever the police track down and arrest a robbery or kidnapping syndicate and the facility with which the gang was using to detain their victims are identified, the state government does not waste time in sealing it to avoid further use.
"Recently, following a security report, the Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi sealed two houses at Agu-ukwu Nri belonging to one Polycarp Eziozu and Okwy which are being used as kidnappers' camp in the state. With such support from government and the public, we are sure of reducing kidnappings and armed robberies in the state," he said.
CP Nassarawa said the police in the state have never asked the relations of a kidnap victim to pay ransom to kidnappers, adding, "give us information about the kidnappers and we shall get them immediately. They are living with us. It is either they kidnap your neighbor or they are holding him in your neighborhood. If everybody in the state would volunteer to report to the police any suspicious character around him, we are sure of reducing the number of criminals in the state," he said.