The police and other agencies should go after the others
News of the arrest of big-time kidnapper Chukwudubem Onwuamadike, alias Evans, had elements of a thriller. A police source was quoted as saying: “Someone called and gave information on his whereabouts. When we got there, he hid inside the roof of the house. He could not withstand the pressure on him from the police. While Vampirewas the most deadly kidnapper in the history of Nigeria and was caught some months ago during a gun battle, Evans remains the most brilliant, richest and craftiest kidnapper in the country’s history.”
It is striking that Evans, a native of Umudun, Nnewi, Anambra State, was arrested on June 10, at his classy home at Magodo, Lagos, about three weeks after the announcement of N30m bounty by the Inspector- General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, for information that could lead to his arrest. He has been on the wanted list of the police in three states, Edo, Anambra and Lagos, for over four years; and police interest in him was renewed by his alleged involvement in the abduction of Innocent Duru, the owner of a multi-national pharmaceutical company in Ilupeju, Lagos.
He was paraded with others: Felix Chinemerem, Nwosu Chikodi Chukwuma (aka Sado), 42, Suoyo Paul (aka Nwana), 42, Ikenna Emeka, 28, Uchechukwu Amadi and Ogechi Amadi. Evans painted a picture of how he started kidnapping: “I was into auto spare parts importation but lost all my money (over N25m) when Customs seized my goods. From there, I relocated to South Africa, where I started peddling drugs. But along the line, my business partner shot me and passed me off as dead. I recuperated, returned to Nigeria and decided to start kidnapping rich men for ransom.”
In 10 years, Evans acquired a reputation as a high-profile kidnapper. A report captured his criminal trajectory: “Chief Raymond Okoye was kidnapped in 2015 and was detained for two months until his relatives raised $1 million. A trader, Uche Okoroafor, was whisked away in 2015 and held captive for three months until his family paid $1 million. Another businessman, Elias Ukachukwu, was kidnapped in November 2015. He paid $1 million. But the kidnappers refused to release him after collecting the initial ransom. They demanded another $1 million on grounds that the victim’s relatives were rude to them. Ukachukwu stayed in their den for several months and it is unclear how and when he regained freedom. Francis Umeh, an auto parts dealer, was kidnapped in July 2016 at Raji Rasaki Estate, Ago Palace Way, Okota, Lagos. He spent two months in the kidnappers’ den and paid an undisclosed amount of dollars.”
The report continued: “Evans and his gang met their waterloo with the kidnap of billionaire pharmacist Innocent Duru, who they wanted to kill after collecting a ransom. The victim was with the kidnappers at 21, Prophet Asaye Close, New Igando, Lagos, for over five months. He eventually escaped and gave the police the information which led to the busting of the gang.”
It would appear that Evans brought evil genius to his operation as kidnap kingpin. Giving an insight into how he managed to evade arrest before he was caught, Evans said: “I have people heading different sections. There are two gangs that work for me in every operation. It is not all the time I follow them for the job. Most times, I control them on phone. The two gangs do not know themselves and neither of them knows my house.”
It is a positive angle that Evans expressed remorse after his arrest, saying, “I am feeling bad. People who are still into kidnapping should quit. They should learn from what has happened to me.” His unveiling at the Lagos State Police Command Headquarters in Ikeja, Lagos, was a moment of self-assessment and self-judgement. His message to the public is useful and welcome: Crime doesn’t pay.
Evidently, Evans enjoyed the proceeds of crime. Now, the time has come for him to pay for his crime. It is noteworthy that police spokesman Jimoh Moshood said Evans had two mansions in upscale Magodo GRA Phase II, Lagos, worth about N300 million. He also said Evans “has two houses in highbrow area of Accra, Ghana, among many other properties, such as exotic cars, expensive watches, jewelry he bought from ransom.” The police reportedly recovered AK47 and AK49 rifles, double-barreled long guns, and magazines with ammunition, from the gang, which further reflected the threat they posed to the society.
The police should be applauded. According to the police spokesman, the operation to catch Evans was successfully carried out by the Inspector-General of Police’ (IGP) Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Anti-Kidnapping Squad of the Lagos Police Command and Technical Intelligence Unit (TIU). It is reassuring that he was quoted as saying: “The force would build on this success and continue to prevent kidnap cases and criminality in the country.”
With Evans in the cage, the case against him and his gang must be pursued with focus. It is noteworthy that, in February, Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode signed a law stipulating death penalty for kidnappers whose victims die in their custody, and life imprisonment for kidnapping. The Evans case will be an interesting test for this law.
But Evans is just one of a long list of dedicated super hoodlums making wealthy careers from the captivity of fellow citizens. The police and other law-enforcement agencies, including intelligence personnel, should track them down and bring them to answer to the brutal majesty of the law.