Sam Nwaoko reports how a female kidnap victim in Ekiti fell in love with one of her abductors, thereby bringing a division in the gang which subsequently exposed them to the long arm of the law.
For some months in early 2015, kidnapping took over the Ekiti socio-economic space and created fear and despair among the citizenry. Reports of abductions became commonplace then and reached what many regarded as its peak in the month of May. In that month alone, there were more than five abductions and the killing of two people in the process. On May 23, security agencies freed 11 kidnap victims from where they were kept in a vast forest spanning Esure, Eyio, Iropora and Awo serene communities in Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government Area of the state. Among the freed kidnap victims in the Esure operation was Dr. Kikelomo Adegun, wife of a former Chief Medical Director (CMD) of Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital (EKSUTH), Dr. Patrick Adegun, who was freed about a week earlier by the kidnappers ostensibly “to go and look for money to pay ransom for his wife.” Also rescued from the Esure forest was Dr. Femi Omisore of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), whose driver, identified simply as Sikiru, was shot dead when the university don was abducted; and Mrs Margaret Aladenika, a senior nurse at the Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido-Ekiti (FETHI).
Following the heightened operation of the kidnappers, Governor Ayò Fayose, wrote a letter to the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase and followed it up with a visit to the IG, as he sought for urgent intervention in the frenetic spate of abductions. Mr. Etop James, the state Commissioner of Police and Mr. Duke Fubara, Director of the Department of State Services had only resumed work in the month of May but were thrust into the socio-political chaos created by the seemingly intractable abductions.
Etop James and Fubara were naturally under pressure from the Ekiti people but especially from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) and Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), which had actually gone on strike to protest the kidnapping of its members. The Akure Zone of ASUU even went as far as pointedly alleging that Fubara wasn’t competent because, according to the association, he was in charge in Cross River State when a lecturer was kidnapped about five years ago and still hasn’t been found.
To the people of the state, the security agencies appeared helpless and uninspiring while they claimed that they were tired of hearing the promises by the government to bring the trend they referred to as “strange to Ekiti” to an end. There was palpable tension. As if to confirm the fears of the Ekiti citizenry, the kidnappers struck again on the night of Tuesday, June 9, 2015. This time, and strangely too, they stormed a Catholic mission house in Ido-Ekiti, headquarters of Ido/Osi Local Government Area of the state, went into the room of the parish priest of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, Rev. Father Emmanuel Akingbade, and took him away at gun point. However, the following Tuesday, Father Akingbade simply reappeared in what his Bishop, Most Reverend Felix Femi Ajakaye and himself saw as God in action.
The story of Father Akingbade was made even more mysterious when none of the security agencies in the state gave explanations on how the priest was found.
The mystery of Father Akingbade’s one-week ordeal seemed to have stemmed the tide of the crime as the state enjoyed a long “break” from the disturbing crime. But the news of the abduction of 78-year-old Mrs. Victoria Aina, at Ilogbo-Ekiti in the same Ido/Osi Local Government Area of the state, in the night of July 7, disrupted the ‘kidnapping holiday’.
However, despite a loud complaint by the Ekiti CP that people were not helping the security agents by their refusal to volunteer information, the security agencies still went about the job of digging into the crime quietly. They sewed the pieces of scarce information at their disposal together with a view to breaking the kidnap syndicate they had earlier identified to be two. And this they successfully did through a novel inter-agency operation that led to the arrest of 13 alleged members of kidnapping syndicates in Ekiti State.
The suspects were paraded before newsmen at the DSS office in Ado Ekiti on July 27, after which 10 of them have now been charged before an Ado Ekiti Chief Magistrate’s court. They were arraigned on Tuesday, August 4, on a two-count charge of kidnapping and robbery.The parade even turned dramatic as the suspects, in a strange admission of guilt, went down on their faces, pleading for forgiveness. One of the two women paraded, named Bose Ajayi, led others in the begging game, spewing confessions and excuses for her involvement. Interestingly, most of the suspects were found to have escaped from the Ado-Ekiti Prison during the November 2014 jail break. The parade of the suspects was attended by Governor Ayodele Fayose, an event many saw as a show of relief and commendation for the security agencies by the worried governor. But the prostration of the suspects to beg Governor Fayose and open admittance of their guilt in the crime didn’t change anything as the governor chose not to interfere in the job of the security agencies.
But before the 10 landed in court, an interesting development had helped the innovative joint operation of the Police and DSS in their investigations into the cases of abductions for ransom in the state. One of the 10 suspects, who was also a kidnap victim herself, Rachael Oladapo, gave away the syndicate when she curiously fell in love with one of her abductors while in their captivity. Oladapo, more popularly known as ‘Alhaja’, was abducted sometime in May and had spent 10 days in the den of her abductors. In the course of her 10 days in captivity, the 46-year-old ‘Alhaja’ fell in love with one of her kidnappers, Ayodeji Solomon and the romantic relationship continued after she was released.
A source in the team of investigators told Nigerian Tribune that “unknown to ‘Alhaja’ and Ayodeji, we were monitoring their calls. After her release, she became an informant for the kidnappers. Ayodeji even moved in with the wealthy Alhaja, who is a widely travelled textile merchant, and was cruising around in her car. We became curious when ‘Alhaja’ became evasive and wouldn’t want to cooperate further with the investigation.”
The top security source added: “The camp of the kidnappers got disorganised because of the love relationship between Alhaja and Ayodeji. We learnt that one of the suspects, Gbenga David aka Oruma, wanted To Molest her but Ayodeji vehemently refused and this had led to a fight in their camp. They fought so much and stabbed themselves in the process.”
Perhaps, to prove how well trained she was after her release, security agents accused Alhaja of facilitating the kidnap of Mrs Aina, who is also a textile trader. The other female in court, Bose Ajayi, was alleged to be a popular trader in Ilogbo, and had been the one who made the kidnap of Alhaja and Chief Femi Akanle possible.
CP James and Fubara said the suspects gave confessional statements about their involvement in the criminal activities while David (aka Oruma) is in a hospital receiving treatment for gunshot wounds he received when he tried to evade arrest.
“We can all attest to the fact that the kidnappers terrorised the state from the first week of May this year. Their activities brought a lot of trauma to the been released, we did not give in. We investigated and we increased our network and the result is what you are seeing today. What we found with the composition of the suspects was that some of them were part of the inmates that escaped during the November 30, 2014 jailbreak in Ekiti.”
The CP said the Anti-kidnap Squad of the command was working round the clock to prevent resurgence of kidnapping in the state. DSP Marcus Ogundola, who leads the Police anti-kidnap squad in the state praised the innovative collaboration between the DSS and the police in the fight against kidnapping, and said “God used us together, we shared information and there was no rivalry that could have jeopardised the goal we jointly wanted to achieve.” He recommended the cooperation to other states, saying “cooperation between the agencies was wonderful in Ekiti and if this could be emulated in other states, we will be dazing criminals left and right.”
The court has remanded the suspects in prison till September 9 but the joint team of DSS and Police has said Kenneth Felix Ozoh, Jonathan Ozoh, Kehinde Adeleye and Sunday Ogunleye were still at large and were being trailed. Governor Fayose, who commended the Police and DSS, said “it is a collective fight. We have to fight this together, so that all of us can sleep with two eyes closed.