Paraded by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Special Intelligence Response Squad (IGPIRS) Team, three of the suspects, who recently abducted secondary school girls in Ikorodu, spoke to The Nation, giving graphic details of how they planned and carried out the operation.
Kidnap would have fetched me N5m, says first suspect
“My name is Omoni Fred Rufus. I am from Ese Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State. I am 32-years-old and I left secondary school in 2002, and I went into sawmill business. I was born in Ibeju-Lekki area of Lagos State. My father is a wood logger, while my mother is a fishmonger. I sell most of my wood at Ebute-Meta and I have never done anything criminal until last January.”
On his involvement in the kidnap of the girls, he said: “One of my friends, known as Bamidele, whom I have known for a long time, called me and said he had a job for me. This person I am talking about was arrested last year, and was charged to court for kidnapping and remanded in Ogun State prison.
“When he was released in January, he called me and said that one of his friends, who he said he met in prison, called and told him that he had a job for him. He said he wanted me to be part of the operation because I had a car. I asked him what kind of job it was and he told me that it was kidnapping, and that his friend who he identified as Gay, would like to meet him and me so that we can arrange the operation.
“We met him the next day at a petrol station on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and when we met Gay, he told us that the man we were to kidnap was very rich and he was going to bring three more boys who would assist us. Gay explained that he was going to monitor the man’s movement and then he would alert us to his position to enable us kidnap him.
“The next day, I was in the same filling station with Bamidele, and Gay came with some boys and later left, but some few hours later, he called and gave us the description of the man’s car and his location, and when we sighted the car matching the description, we double-crossed the car and abducted the man.
“We took the man in my car into a forest along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and I left him with Bamidele and others and went home. Four days after, Bamidele called me and said that the man had been released and the sum of N2.5 million was paid as ransom. He told me that my share was N200, 000 and that I should meet him at Ikorodu for the money.
“I was at Ibeju-Lekki when he called, and l left what I was doing and hurried to Ikorodu and met him in a fast food joint. He was with someone when I came in and that person introduced himself as Tradition. He is also from my hometown in Arugbo, just like Bamidele. I gave him N1, 000 from my share of the ransom, and he took my phone number and promised to call me.
“I also wish to remind you that two weeks ago, he called me that they had a kidnapping job and that it would not be stressful and it would fetch a huge sum of money. I asked him how much I should be looking at, and he said I could likely get N5 million as my share if we succeeded. My car had gear box issues and I took it for repairs at Ladipo Spare Parts Market in Mushin. I took a commercial bus to Ikorodu.
“When I met Tradition, he took me to Lamienmu who he said brought the job, and we met him and nine others on the Imota Bridge. They took me to the bush where they said we would keep the victims, but I wasn’t pleased with the arrangement. Surprisingly, there was nothing on ground and Lamienmu begged that we should bear with him. From that point, we moved to the school in four speedboats. Those who had guns came from the creek in Fatola, and when we got to the school, including Tradition and Lamienmu, we entered the school. Some others and I stood by the fence, waiting.
“When they brought one of the girls, I carried her into our boat and stayed with her. Others came later with the two other girls and when we went into the creek, we made wooden rafts for the girls to sleep and I slept inside one of the boats. The guys with the guns were on guard all through. Next, Lamienmu and Tradition interrogated the girls. One of them told us that her father was an engineer, while another told us that her father was a pastor.
“We took their parents’ phone numbers from them, and Tradition and Lamienmu called them (the parents) and demanded N200 million as ransom. After that, the girls told us that they were hungry. We asked what they wanted to eat and they told us that they wanted Viju Milk, Lacasera and Indomie.
“Lamienmu’s younger brother, Gideon, was asked to go to town and get them. He went and came back safely, but three days later, when the things he bought got finished, he went into town and came back with the news that policemen were everywhere looking for the girl. The camp became apprehensive with the news and we started contemplating how to release the girls quietly.
“At a time, we reduced our demand to N30 million. By Saturday, we saw Lamienmu’s father creeping into the camp. The guys with guns almost fired him, but what saved him was that he yelled that he was Lamienmu and he was allowed to come closer to be identified. He told us that the police had arrested his wife, Lamienmu’s sister and Tradition’s wife as well, but Lamienmu insisted that we must release the girls or he would kill himself.
“When he left, the camp was thrown into confusion, and when it settled, we all agreed that we should allow the girls to go. By 5:00a.m. on Sunday, Tradition and four others took the girls out of the camp and dropped them off. I waited till the next day before leaving the camp, and when I came out, I went to Ladipo and checked the mechanic who was working on my car, gave him some money and I went back into the creek.
“However, I had this feeling that the police were looking for me. By Thursday, the mechanic called and said he had finished with my car. Then I decided to pick it up and drive out of Lagos. When I got to Ladipo, I didn’t see the mechanic. I called him and he said he was at Iyana Ipaja, washing the car. When I got there, the police showed up and arrested me and accused me of being part of the gang that abducted the schoolgirls.
“But like I have told you, I am not a vandal. I work in a sawmill in Ibeju-Lekki, but it was Tradition who brought me into this business.”
We went from pipeline vandalism to kidnapping – second and third suspects
The second and third suspects, Wekemei Godfrey, 28, from Arogbo, Ondo State, and Priye Pius Gift, 26, who were both arrested in Mosebolatan Guest House in Ibafo, Ogun State, through one of their girlfriends, said they were pressured into joining the gang.
Godfrey confessed that Tradition, who is also known as Felix, recruited them. Narrating how he joined the gang, he said: “I started my life as a fisherman in Delta State and later relocated to Akwa Ibom State. I was exporting Afang leaf to Cameroon and I was making a reasonable amount daily from the business. One day, I met Priye Pius and Tradition, and since we were all from the same town, we became friends. After a while, Tradition left us and went to Lagos, while Pius and I continued our business.
“Early last year, we started having issues with some militants while crossing into Cameroon. The militants were demanding so much money and when we didn’t give it to them, they normally destroyed our goods. Things worsened. Luckily, Tradition came and told us that fuel business was fetching him serious money in Arepo, and that we should come and join him. We immediately followed him to Lagos and he bought 100 50-litre jerry cans for both of us and we started going into the creek to fetch petrol from the pipelines.
“We normally paid the vandals controlling the line between N5, 000 and N10, 000, and they usually allowed us to load our jerry cans. Later, we took the jerry cans to shore and sold them for N1, 000 each to Tradition who would resell to other people. We did this business until there was massive explosion at the site that killed so many people.
“Pius and I were just lucky. On the night that the incident happened, we decided to take a little rest from work. By 2:00a.m, we heard the massive explosion by morning, but when the fire died down, I went into the creek and assisted in the burial of those who were killed. I had a rethink of that business because of what I saw.
“Pius and I left Arepo and relocated to Majidun, and started doing bamboo business. We normally went into the forest to cut the bamboo and we used to sell them to people dredging sand, and they paid us between N25, 000 and N30, 000 but the problem with that business was that we didn’t sell all the time. Three weeks ago, Tradition came to our place here in Majidun and he told us that he wanted to take part in a kidnapping business. I told him that I wasn’t interested because I had no one to help me if we were arrested.
“However, he pressured Pius and I but we refused, and he went with some other guys and they didn’t succeed. He came to us again and said that the reason why they didn’t succeed was because they didn’t have enough manpower. He told us that the business was going to fetch us good money, and because we are his friends, he would want us to take part in it. I accepted reluctantly, and by evening of the day we were to go for the operation, I told my girlfriend that I was going to spend some time with some of my brothers. Pius and I met Tradition at the agreed spot, and we went to the creek and from there, we drove to the school in three speedboats.
“At the scene of the operation that fateful day, Pius and I stood by the fence watching for anyone approaching. After they had abducted the girls and taken them to the forest, Pius and I prepared the raft and left. We were also the ones taking them to defecate whenever they were pressed. You can confirm from the girIs whether I was nice to them or not. If you ask the girls, they will tell you that Pius and I were very nice to them.
“We were also part of the team that went and dropped them. We took them under the bridge and gave them money, and asked them to climb on the bridge and seek help. When we left the camp, I called my girlfriend to be careful because I had done something nasty and she should watch her movement because the police might come for her or me. I later told her to meet me at the hotel where I lodged in Ogun State because I thought it would be difficult for the police in Lagos to trace us to that place. But I don’t know how they arrested my girlfriend, and she brought them to the hotel where I was lodged and they arrested me.”