The kidnapper is nearer to you than he appears
Olapade Ojo-Odide has been missing since April 24, 2017. Ojo-Odide was driving alone in his car on Elele Road, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, when he was accosted by some hoodlums along the way. They seized him and his car, a Toyota Prado. Ojo-Odide is a general manager with the Dangote Group of Companies. He was in charge of Delta State. He also serves as a part-time pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG. At the last Holy Ghost Congress of the RCCG, on Friday June 2, 2017, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, the General Overseers of the church, rained curses on kidnappers and their fellow travellers. Few days after, the billionaire-kidnapper, Chukwudemeje George Onwumadike, alias Evans, was arrested in Lagos. However, up till now, Ojo-Odide abductors have not been found. They are yet also to make contact with his family or his employers.
Before our very eyes, kidnapping has become a multi-billion naira industry. One is horrified by the revelations coming from the saga of Evans who has made billions of naira in his ill-fated career. This Evans is a methodical terrorist on a gargantuan scale. He is not a thief who deals in cars or cash. He deals in the souls of men, women and children. We are confronted with a man who could easily sell his mother or his father for some few millions and go home the same night to watch a football match.
How would a man you have never met before, you are not buying houses or factories from him and you are not owing him ask you to pay him one million dollars (400 million Naira). It sound like a macabre joke, but it happened not once, not twice but several times. With his blood money, Evans was living like a king. Since kings don’t go out everyday, his neighbours were not worried by this invincible man. I am sure he pays his estate security dues regularly. He donates to the few men and women who dare knock on his gates. It would be interesting to know whether he pays his tithes in his church. It would be interesting too to know whether any of his children ever schooled in Nigeria. Now they are on the run. Ah! Wealthy fugitives could afford anything. I hope the long arm of the law would reach his wife so that she can sing her own songs.
The late Justice Adetokunbo Ademola, the first African Chief Justice of Nigeria, said it is the duty of lawyers to defend every accused person. He said it is a sacred responsibility of lawyers to ensure that every accused person, no matter how pernicious, must have his day before the court, dully represented by a competent lawyer. I will not be surprised therefore if there is already a queue of lawyers waiting to defend this apostle of the devil. If I were a lawyer, this is one client I would certainly not be eager to represent.
Fatai Owoseni, the hard-working Lagos State Commissioner of Police, says Evans Empire extends from Anambra to Edo and Lagos State. Considering its sophistications, its huge annual turn-over and carefully chosen targets, there is no doubt that this empire of crime is extensive. Some of the gang members have been pulled it, but there may still be scores at large ready to spring on members of the society when the time is ripe. There would be the armourers, the informants, the attack dogs, the manager of safe houses, the bankers who helped to squirrel the money away, the medical hands and the technicians who managed Evans telephone conversations and scramble his digital life.
When the gang captured Donatus Dunu on February 14 this year, it already had all necessary information on the target. As Dunu drove out of his company’s premises in Ilupeju after a tiring day at work, he was blocked by a big SUV. And soon as he was forced to stopped, the criminals dragged him out of his car and bundled him into the floor of the back seat. One of the criminals sat on him. He was in serious fright. He had a case in court and thought may be some of his business opponents may have sent assassins after him. He did not know he was in the hands of killers of souls. Evans knew he had in his custody the Managing Director of Marydon Pharmaceutical Company, Ilupeju.
Duru was thinking of sleeping on his bed that night. His wife was waiting for him and the children and the home full of beauty and serenity. But now, he was in a desperate ride to hell in the midst of hell-angels. Soon the criminals entered into the quiet compound of 21 Prophet Asaye Close, New Igando, in the suburb of Lagos. It was dark, but Duru could discern it was a well-appointed bungalow, standing alone on a large compound. The compound was dark, but the power generating set was soon put on and the house was taken over by brightness. The criminals threw their prisoner into a dark room where he was to spend three months.
Duru did not know he was one of the latest captive of a vast crime empire run by Evans, the master-mind who was born 36 years ago in Anambra State. From the proceeds of his crimes, Evans has been able to acquire properties across the world including in Ghana. He has houses in Nigeria including two in the elite enclave of Magodo in mainland Lagos. His wife, Uchenna Precious, moves round the world with his five children, like other children of the rich and famous. His mother, Chinwe, was the envy of neighbours in the village where he had built her a modern bungalow. His residence in Magodo was a showpiece of modern architecture and he spent close to N50 million to furnish it. Evans is a criminal with high taste.
They chained Duru throughout his three months in captivity. When the bargaining began, and the criminals asked for one million dollars, Duru thought it was a joke. How can anyone ask him to pay one million dollars? Where would he get the money? How can any business survive if you take that from its capital base? He asked the criminals to contact his brother. His wife, overwhelmed by the immensity of the problem, was not in an emotional state to bargain. Duru was desperate. Evans would not shift. Duru’s brother pleaded desperately on the phone until Evans got angry and upped the ransom fee to One million Euros. The family begged him to accept the sum of N150 million they had raised, including loans from the bank. Evans accepted the paltry sum and still held on to his victim. He wanted his full money, no more, no less. One million euros or Duru’s life. The N150 million was only an appetizer to the full dish.
On May 12, 2017, a miracle happened. Duru was able to escape from his captors at about 2 a.m. The desperadoes were sleeping. The generator was on and the prisoner was able to loosen his chain. He slipped out of the door, saw a ladder and used it to climb into the next compound where startled residents thought he was an escaped criminal. He was looking wild, having not shaved for three months and not changed the cloth on his back. The police were called and the rest is history.
It would take a lot of efforts to know how extensive the Evans Empire was. Who were his bankers that allowed him to move hundreds of millions of naira across international borders through the financial system despite the heavy hands of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN? Did he has a branch of his kidnapping operation in Ghana too? What of South Africa where he once visited? Are we dealing with an isolated island of terror or we have an archipelago of evil before us?
Of course, kidnapping is not going to go away with the arrest of Evans and his evil confederate. Desperate youth would still be tempted by the prospect of huge reward and the romance of living large. Yet this is a war that society must fight and win. It is a new kind of war that must be fought beyond the terrain where machine guns, armored tanks and modern materiel would be considered useful. We have to ensure that every case of kidnapping ends in failure for the kidnapper. This means a new kind of training and orientation for our police and other security agencies. Intelligence and knowledge are the new weapons of war and they are needed for the new wars involving militants, religious zealots, ethnic jingoists and marketers of hate speeches.
It is good Evans is in the dragnet. This victory is an indication that our police can win the war if it can win this battle. One is happy that the special squad under the command of Abba Kyari has shown that armed with the correct modern weapons of knowledge, our police is equal to the task. But we are still waiting for the good news about the Epe School children, about Ojo-Odide, about the scores in bondage across the Federation held by affiliates of Evans and his likes. Every single battle must be won. “We are expecting Nigerians to blow the whistle on these kidnappers,” said Fatai Owoseni.
We too expect the police to win every single battle against the kidnappers. In 1972, Palestinian gun men attacked Israeli athletes during the Berlin Olympics. All the attackers who participated in that act and those who allegedly helped to plan it were later tracked down and killed one by one. We expect our police to do the same. No kidnapper must go unpunished no matter how long it takes.