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Monday, 19 June 2017

How kidnap kingpin drove FESTAC rich bizmen underground

CHUKWUDI Dumeme Onwuamadike, aka Evans, reigned with terror. He struck his victims when they least expected. His vicious kidnapping runs were the ‘scarecrow’ in Festac town and its environs. Whenever his men struck, their victims’ relatives battled with the pain of raising money to secure their freedom. While his notoriety lasted, Evans’ name gave the deep pockets in the festival town shivers. Not a few rich businessmen in the neighbourhood have relocated for fear of being abducted. To escape from his dragnet, others fortified themselves with armed security operatives.

A source told The Nation that one of his victims, Elias Ukachukwu, is still traumatised by the memories of cruel treatment meted to him by Evans and his gang members. Ukachukwu, a businessman, who used to engage in physical exercises in Satellite Town, Festac, was kidnapped by Evans’ gang in November 2015. They were to later demand an additional sum of $1m claiming family members were rude to them during negotiation.

‘’He used to come to NATCO open field in Satellite Town before he was abducted by Evans’ and his gang in 2015. Since he was freed from the captivity of Evans a few months ago, the unassuming businessman has been keeping to himself. Although, he still visits the field for light exercises not every week anymore, but he is a bit withdrawn because he has not overcome the trauma of his abduction by Evans.’’ ‘’Until Evans was apprehended, Ukachukwu was afraid for his life and he thought that he might be kidnapped again by Evans going by the disposition of the billionaire kidnap kingpin towards his family members’ ‘unruly’ attitude during ransom negotiation.’’ How Evans treated his victims Evans and his gang used to scroll their victims’ mobile telephones to see their bank alerts. This was how the notorious kidnapper used to know the financial worth of victims.

This informed why he was hard-hearted towards them and would not back down on whatever amount he demanded as ransom from victims to regain their freedom. Sources said that his victims’ refusal to pay requested ransom was usually met with brutal assaults. One of such cases, was that of a forex dealer who operates from Auto Spare Parts and Machinery Dealers Association (ASPAMDA) Market tucked inside the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex along Lagos- Badagry Expressway late last year.

Unknown to the victim, his mobile telephone had been searched by Evans and one of his messages had revealed a certain amount posted into his bank account with a new generation bank. When he was asked to pay a certain ransom and he said that he had no such money, he was shot in his legs. ‘’Evans never reduced his ransom and refusal by his victims to pay on time attracted severe punishment including being shot. There was a case of a man who operated a bureau de change inside ASPAMDA Market at the Trade Fair Complex. He was seized in the evening while leaving the market for home. His phone was searched and they found that a sum of N50 million was forwarded to his bank account a few days earlier.

Evans demanded for the money and the man explained that the money was paid by a customer who needed dollars equivalent and that he had since concluded the transaction. ‘’The man pleaded for a reduction of the ransom money but Evans would have none of the man’s explanation. Evans then ordered his men to shoot the man on his legs to force him to pay the money. The fear of being killed made the victim to beg his family members on the telephone to look for the money by all means which was paid before he was freed. ‘’As we speak, the man (victim) now uses crutches to walk after he was freed upon the payment of ransom.

The same treatment was given to some of his victims who were not among those featured in the media.’’ Relocation The fear of being abducted by Evans led to the mass exodus of businessmen from Festac, Amuwo Odofin, Ojo and Satellite town. The Nation gathered that some of the fearful businessmen relocated to Ajah, Oshodi, Ikeja and other communities in Lagos suburbs, while many others who stayed back contracted the services of policemen and operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSDC).

Investigation revealed that the relocation had become inevitable following anticipated attacks by the abductors prowling the affected communities. One of those who fled from his home in Satellite town was the owner of a popular electronics firm in Alaba International Market, Ojo, who relocated from the community shortly after one of his friends fell victim to Evans. Several forex dealers in ASPAMDA Market were also said to have moved out of the market after they became the target of Evans with some of them held in his enclave for several months till the money demanded as ransom was paid. A highly placed source said: ‘’The situation was so bad that rich residents of Festac, Amuwo Odofin, Ojo and Satellite Town, especially many of them who are successful traders in Alaba International Market and ASPAMDA Market, feared for their lives and bolted. Many of them have not returned as I speak.

‘’Others who cannot relocate had to pay heavily for their security by seeking the services of armed policemen and civil defence corps. One of them is a businessman and owner of an oil and gas firm in Festac, who had to request for the protection of his life by armed operatives of civil defence corps after police authorities withdrew its men who were initially his personal guards. The arrest of Evans has however brought animated joy to businessmen and residents who praised the police for apprehending the kidnap kingpin.

A resident of Festac identified as Ambrose urged security forces to mop up remnants of Evans’ gang and other dare-devil kidnapping gangs who have turned Festac and its environ into their colony. He said: ‘’ I want to commend the police for their commitment to security of lives and property by arresting Evans and some members of his terror gang. However, I want to urge the police and other security forces to consolidate the feat by apprehending fleeing members of his gang as well as members of other kidnapping gangs terrorising this part of Lagos State. ‘’I am also of the opinion that these criminal gangs have their informants in the community, therefore, detectives should fish out those who are giving out information about victims to these criminals, so as to contain the sceptre of abduction not only in these communities but in Alaba International Market and ASPAMDA Market.’’

A community leader in Festac, Chief Willie Nnorom, urged the state government and security forces to initiate proactive security measures that would effectively contain kidnapping and other criminal activities in the area. ‘’ To this end, I want to admonish both the Lagos State government, police and other security agencies to come up with proactive security initiatives that can wipe out kidnappings and other criminal activities including armed robbery in this community. Also, there is need to liaise with residents’ associations, business groups and community leaders in crime fighting. The synergy is necessary in the area of intelligence sharing which is vital in combating crime. The operations of the Neighbourhood Watch set up by the state government should be strengthened with modern tools and gadgets to expose and apprehend criminals too.’’

The post How kidnap kingpin drove FESTAC rich bizmen underground appeared first on The Nation Nigeria.



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