Daily Trust (Abuja)

3 February 2013

Nigeria: Ex-Policeman's Kidnap Game With Actress Nkiru Sends Him to Dragnet

Mr Ndidi Nwokama Cletus otherwise Mathew Ofurum 30, joined the Nigeria Police Force in 2004 with the mindset of tackling all forms of crimes and was posted to the Police Mobile Force Squadron 19, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He served there until August 2010 when he absconded and went into hiding, initially without any explanation.

Detectives combed the whole country including his hometown, Umuokedina Awara in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government, Imo State looking for him.

Later, police declared him a deserter after failing to locate his whereabouts.

The police spokesman Frank Mba said Cletus left service following his active involvement in the kidnap of workers of an oil company in Rivers State before he was identified. "A group of kidnappers who participated in the abduction of the oil workers were arrested by the police and investigation commenced to ascertain the motive and their accomplices.

It was found that Cletus provided tactical support to the kidnappers and after their arrest he knew that he would be fingered in the act. He cleverly returned his gun to the armory of the Squadron and left his duty post without telling anybody. Police went to several places including his hometown to arrest him after establishing that he actually participated in the kidnap of the oil workers. He was declared a deserter after three weeks and later a wanted man.

Since then police have been looking for him." The other accomplices of Cletus were charged to court with abduction and convicted. "They are currently serving various terms in Owerri prison in Imo State." He said Cletus will be prosecuted for aiding the kidnap of the oil workers.

Cletus however formed another gang of kidnapers that abducted several people mostly in Imo State where they operated. The gang had a place where kidnap victims were kept with security guards who looked after the victims before ransom was paid. They normally asked for huge amounts of ransom ranging from N1 million to N8 million from the families of their victims and have so far collected all the monies successfully without anybody tracking them.

The gang was however arrested in a manhunt launched by the police and the State Security Service (SSS) following the abduction of Ms Nkeiruka Sylvanus, Senior Special Assistant to Imo State governor on December 15 and three of her contemporaries in Owerri, Imo State.

Ironically, the gang received the ransom of N8 million before freeing the victims on December 21. The joint police and SSS efforts only led to the arrest of the gang in January 2013. Sylvanus, a popular actress, was abducted alongside Uche Okoli and Kenneth Okolie at Nworie Street, Akanchawa roundabout, Owerri by three gunmen.

They were kept in a bush around Avu junction for six days before they were released on December 21 after payment of N8 million ransom. The sum of N3.4 was found on Cletus by the SSS operatives after his arrest.

They were subsequently paraded on Tuesday by both the police and the SSS at a joint press conference in Abuja. Cletus confessed while at the SSS custody in Abuja that he enlisted into the police in 2004 as Mathew Ofurum and that he absconded as a result of ill-health thereafter dismissed in 2007.

He confessed that he was the leader of the gang that abducted Sylvanus and has spearheaded the abduction of several other people. The gang was responsible for the abduction of one Okoro Okechucku (Sonnic), an electrical appliances merchant on October 15 who was released after the payment of N1.025 million ransom as well as one Pauline Nkiruka Okwosha, civil servant between October 14 and 23 2012 released after the payment of N3 million ransom.

The gang also kidnapped Gloria Henry Agbonghae and received N1.5 million before they set her free.

Deputy Director, Public Relations (SSS in Abuja) Marilyn Ogar said at the joint press briefing with police spokesman Frank Mba that the suspects were arrested by the two agencies. Six suspects are now in custody of the SSS while three are being detained by the police.

She said the suspects with the SSS are Ndidi Nwokama Cletus a-k-a Mathew Ofurum 30, Stanley Asonna 27, Aminu Musa (Aboki) 40, Mohammed Abubakar 34, Obinna Okwuolisa 30 and Samson Chinedu Onwuka (VIP) 24. "Cletus was a dismissed police officer who confessed to being the leader of the gang that kidnapped Sylvanus and two others."

The suspects with the SSS have been transferred to the police for prosecution. Asonna from Oguta, Imo State joined the gang in October 2012 as a driver and served as guard of kidnapped persons at their Ovu Junction hideout while Musa, a livestock merchant and battery charger from Sidi village, Mutum Biyu Local Government, Taraba State was said to have been lured into the gang by Cletus.

He was among those who kidnapped Okechucku and Sylvanus. Okwuolisa was a trader and a commercial tricycle operator and hail from Umuedara village in Ihiala Local Government, Anambra State. He gathered information about the people to be abducted by the gang.

He provided sufficient intelligence to the gang about Okechuckwu prior to his abduction.

Abubakar, cattle rearer from Toto Local Government Area, Nasarawa State was persuaded to join the gang by Cletus and served as its guard in Avu Junction den. Onwuka who was a commercial tricycle operator from Awo-idemili in Orsu Local Government area; Imo state took part in the abduction of Okechukwu, Sylvanus alongside Cletus, Sammy Okechukwu, Musa and Okwuolisa.

He transported the kidnappers to where they abducted their victims in his tricycle. He also served as guard of the victims.

Police spokesman Mba said members of the gang in police custody who took part in the abduction of Sylvanus are Okon Bassey, Chijioke Chime and Festus Olegeme. He said police will charge the suspects to court after investigations.

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