From Abuja-Kaduna Expressway, to Kogi, Minna and Bida areas of Niger, down to Lagos, Ogun, Rivers, Edo, Anambra and Imo states, kidnappers operated with reckless abandon. Their targets knew no bounds as old and young people, including pupils in the confines of their schools were kidnapped by dare- devil gunmen, who made mockery of security agencies.
Just when it seemed all hopes were lost, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris declared total war against kidnappers, a step that has seen over a thousand suspected kingpins nabbed.
When IGP Idris was appointed on June 22, 2016, by President Muhammadu Buhari, critics thought his maiden speech, which emphasized 'zero tolerance' to criminality, corruption and unprofessional conduct was a cliché.
To set the tone, the IGP empowered the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) headed by ACP Abba Kyari by broadening its scope and providing the unit with sophisticated gadgets for easy tracking of suspects. Aside that, the Tactical Intelligence Unit (TIU) was established and hundreds of personnel were drafted to Special Forces and deployed across the country to flush out kidnappers.
Prime amongst the successes achieved by the police was the arrest of the most wanted kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike AKA Evans, who was arrested on June 10 at his Magodo multi-million-naira Estate palace in Lagos. Until his arrest, Evans was on the wanted list of the police for over six years. His notoriety in the act of kidnapping was unparalleled. He carefully sought his victims and demanded ransom in millions of dollars.
According to police sources, Evans was responsible for many high profile kidnappings in the southern part of the country and was known to detain his victims up to six months until the last dime was paid.
Evans' arrest opened cans of worm, including the alleged involvement of some security agents in his gang, all of whom the police have gone after.
The suspect who admitted owning choice properties and luxury cars in Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa, recently pleaded guilty to kidnapping before a Lagos High Court, Ikeja.
In Imo State reigned a notorious armed robber and kidnapper, Henry Chibueze AKA Vampire, whose name sent shivers down the spines of those residing in Eastern Nigeria. But on March 2, 2017, Port Harcourt and neighbouring cities were agog after news of Vampire's death went public. The Police Special Forces, who were directed by the IGP to catch him dead or alive, killed Vampire.
It would be recalled that before his death, Vampire had been whisked away by his gang members on January 27 at an Owerri High Court, on the day he was to be arraigned.
Five suspected members of his gang, including a witch doctor that prepared charms for him were arrested. Caches of arms and ammunition were also recovered from them.
At Gawu Babaginda Village in Niger State, a band of hoodlums once held sway. They maimed, raided and robbed motorists along the Suleja-Lambata, Bida and Minna roads with impunity. In fact, the gang had attained 'god-like' status and was feared by all and sundry. That was until August 22, 2017.
Their cup became full as Idris, who was irked by plight of victims, launched operation Maximum Safety along the Kaduna Highway covering Suleja-Lambata, Minna and Bida roads.
It was gathered that the dreaded gang comprised kidnappers that escaped arrest on Abuja-Kaduna Highway and relocated to some major roads within Niger State to continue their nefarious activities. Armed with the information, police operatives set about nipping their activities in the bud and in one fell swoop arrested 26 of the gang members, recovering three AK47 rifles, four single barrel gun, two cut-to-size guns, one locally made revolver, one locally made pistol and one set of military camouflage uniform.
Also recovered were 69 rounds of 7.62X39mm live ammunition, 28 live and two expended cartridges, one set of military rain coat, two sets of military shoes, one jack knife, assorted bundle clothes for men and women and some charms. The suspects, who operated in five gangs were identified and broken down into their gangs with members of the first gang identified as 34-year-old Isah Umar (principal suspect and gang leader), 32-year-old Abubakar Muhammed, 33-year-old Baje Sari, 34-year-old Sanusi Adamu (driver of the gang), 32-year-old Nuhu Yahaya and 29-year-old Sanda Sale.
Members of the second gang, who operated in military camouflages, were identified as 27-year-old Isiya Tukur (principal suspect) and 28-year-old Abbas Tasus. The third gang had Shafiu Mohammed, 27; Ali Ali, 22; Okechukwu Atama, 35; Mohammed Aliyu, 26; Sagiru Dahiru, 25; Abdulahi Bala, 50; Haruna Adamu, 28; and Abubakar Aliyu, 31 as members. In the fourth gang were 37-year-old Haruna Abubakar, 33-year-old Yalli Ibrahim, 35-year-old Yusuf Abdullahi, 36-year-old Deneri Buba, 25-year-old Sani Abubakar, and 29-year-old Adamu Bello. The fifth and last gang had 26-year-old Abubakar Iliyasu, 34-year-old Yahaya Alimadu, 32-year-old Abdullahi Abubakar and 37-year-old Suleiman Mohammed as members.
In February, two German archaeologists, Professor Peter Breunig and Mr. Johannes Behringer were abducted in Kadarko Local Government Area of Kaduna State, prompting then acting President Yemi Osinbajo to summon the IGP. They were later rescued in Jenjela Village of Kagargo LGA of South Kaduna. When the Deputy High Commissioner of Sierra Leone to Nigeria, Major General Alfred Nelson was kidnapped by men of the underworld, a coordinated operation based on intelligence and technical support by the IRT rescued the victims and smashed the 11-man kidnap gang, whose members were identified as Alhaji Rabiu Yusuf (the gang leader), Yusuf Adamu, Hussaini Musa, Shuaibu Idris, Usman Bello, Musa Ali, Muhammadu Abubakar, Suleiman Abubakar, Gambo Ibrahim and Balarabe Mohammadu.
The police also recovered three AK 47 rifles, three AK47 rifle magazines loaded with 90 rounds of ammunition and two sets of military camouflage from the suspect, who usually mounted road blocks on highways and then launch surprise attacks on unsuspecting motorists.
As the police intensified the battle against kidnappers, 72 suspects were apprehended along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway after raiding the forest along the road. While 32 were nabbed on July 31, 2017 at Kateri on Abuja-Kaduna Highway, the other 40 were arrested after combing the forest along the road. Three victims also were rescued unhurt from the gang. The police didn't stop there as they apprehended five suspects said to have kidnapped Kogi State Governor's mother, Mrs. Hawawu Bello, three years ago. At the time of the kidnap, Yahaya Bello was Managing Director, Fair Plus Transport Services.
Those arrested in connection with the crime were a former Councilor and alleged gang leader, Iliyasu Suleiman, Danjuma Ibrahim, Iliyasu Obadaki, Alhaji Nasiru, and Hafiz Yakubu, while two AK47 rifles, 20 live cartridges; one army camouflage inner wear; two army camouflage pair of trousers, two army camouflage caps, one black Beretta, two plastic guns, three sharp knives and an axe were recovered from them. They all confessed to the offence and admitted to the various criminal roles they played in the commission of the crime.
Also, the arms, ammunition as well as properties belonging to some of their victims, who were rescued, were recovered from them. In an interview with reporters, IGP Idris assured that all kidnap suspects in their custody would be prosecuted as soon as investigation in each case was concluded. While appealing for the people's collaboration, Idris said: "We would regularly review the template for providing security from time to time, we will smoke out the criminals. We are not going to spare or think twice about anyone who raises his gun to fire at innocent citizens, we would not allow that hand to come down. I say this with all sense of purpose. But we cannot achieve this without the support of the community leaders, the people and the youth."
To boost the morale of policemen engaged in the war against kidnappers, the Police boss promised rewards and enhanced welfare packages, a pledge he has religiously kept by promoting rank and files who participated in bursting high profile kidnap cases.