Henry Umahi; Christopher Oji
In all ramifications, 2017 was not a piece of cake for Nigerians, with particular reference to crime-related challenges. Many families were one way or the other affected by one violent attack or the other. It could even be said that security agencies were overwhelmed by the escalation of crime and criminal activities across the country.
From the fringes of the Sahara to the Atlantic coastline, it was blood, sorrow and tears. Almost on a daily basis, blood flowed like a river, even in the desert last year. The most serious of the crimes included kidnapping-for-ransom, armed robbery, terrorism, cultism and murder-for-ritual.
The bloodletting of 2017 has already rolled into 2018. Just at the dawn of the new year, hoodlums, numbering about 30, ambushed people who went to worship God in churches in Omoku, Rivers State. The sons of guns opened fire on the worshipers, killing 22, while over 20 others were injured.
Notorious kidnapper, Henry Chibueze, aka Vampire, was rescued by his gang on January 27, 2017, when he was brought to the Owerri High Court, Imo State, to face trial. Two persons were killed while many others sustained bullet wounds.
However, the bandit met his end on March 1, when police operatives trailed him to his hideout in Omu-Awa forest in Ikwerre LGA of Rivers State, and he was shot dead in a shootout. He had confessed to killing over 200 people across the country.
On June 11, 2017, alleged billionaire kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, aka Evans, was arrested by the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) inside his bedroom in the Magodo area of Lagos.
He was described as the most notorious and most dreaded kidnapper in the country. His targets were wealthy Igbo businessmen and industrialists whom he made to cough out millions of dollars in exchange for their freedom. Before his arrest, the police had placed a N30 million bounty on his head. When policemen broke into his room to arrest him, he reportedly said: “I know this is the end; I am finished.”
Evans confessed to be behind virtually all the high-profile kidnap incidents in many places, including Lagos, Port Harcourt, Onitsha and Aba. His exploits also included the 2013 attempted kidnapping of the owner of the Young Shall Grow Motors. He also confessed that he owned properties in several cities, including two houses in Ghana, one of which is where his wife and five children were reportedly moved to just before his arrest. Among many items recovered from him during his arrest were expensive phones, including a $6,000 satellite device. Evans and his gang are currently standing trial.
Year of kidnappers
Indeed, kidnappers were in control last year. All classes of Nigerians and foreigners were victims. While the lucky ones paid ransom and were released, others died in the den of their captors.
Take this: Ibrahim, 25, a Fulani kidnap-for-ransom kingpin who was arrested in December, volunteered that he not only killed over 10 of his victims but also drank their blood after cutting their throat.
He confessed that some of those he killed and drank their blood like palm wine had had their ransom paid by relations. In addition, he disclosed that he hunted and killed soldiers to get their uniforms and arms for operations.
On January 13, 2017, eight people were abducted from the Turkish International School, Isheri, Ogun State.
On May 25, 2017, six senior students of Lagos State Model College, Epe, were abducted by gunmen. It was gathered that the kidnappers had written a letter to the school saying they would visit.
The victims were released 65 days after at Aboto creek, Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State, at about 3.30pm on July 28. The students were Adedayo George, Farouq Yusuf, Judah Agbausi, Pelumi Philips, Isiaq Rahmon and Peter Jonah.
Interestingly, in July, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State approved the suspension of a traditional ruler, the Baale of Shangisha in Magodo, Chief Yusuf Ogundare, for allegedly faking his kidnap on July 5. He was arrested and paraded alongside his younger brother, Mohammed Adams, by the Lagos State Police Command for allegedly conspiring to fake his kidnap.
One of the criminal activities that rocked the country last year was the emergence of the blood-thirsty Badoo cult group in Ikorodu area of Lagos State and some parts of Ogun State. The killer gang had a penchant of sending whole families to their graves. This jarred many residents of the areas, especially as security agents found it difficult to nip the menace in the bud.
The killers used bricks, pestles and grinding stones to smash their victims’ heads and collected the blood with white cloth before leaving the scene. They attacked a number of worshippers in church, usually in isolated areas.
Two clerics, including Pastor Victor Kanayo of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, were murdered by the group in cold blood. In fact, over 26 persons were killed last year by the group. And the killings were so strange, as the victims were murdered in a most horrific way. Residents fled the area in droves until recently when the Lagos State Police Command picked up four members of the group who named their sponsor and he was promptly declared wanted. The chief priest of the group, who allegedly fortified them spiritually before any operation, was among those arrested soon after.
Last year, suspected herdsmen ran riot, maiming and killing with reckless abandon. They also set many farms ablaze, rendering farmers helpless and hopeless. In January, a police inspector and an assistant superintendent officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corpse (NSCDC) as well as seven others were killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen. The killings took place in Sabon Daga Local Government Area. On Monday, April 25, herdsmen stormed communities in Enugu State and killed mostly women and children.
Herdsmen went on a killing spree in Niger State in May. Twenty-one persons, including the Imam of Etogi village in Gbara ward of Mokwa LGA, were wasted by the rampaging herdsmen. It was reported that the Imam was leading the faithful in early-morning prayers when the blood-thirsty herdsmen attacked them with weapons.
Some members of the community who were not inside the mosque were also attacked and wounded.
Barely 24 hours after the attack in Mokwa LGA, another bloody clash between herdsmen and villagers in Tungan Malam in Paikoro Local Government Area of the state, led to the death of five people.
In September, the Plateau State Police Command confirmed that 19 people were killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen in an attack on Ancha.
One person was killed while many others were injured in attacks on Gaambe-Tiev, Tombo, Logo LGA of Benue State, by suspected Fulani herdsmen in November 2017. The deceased was identified as Ortse Saater Kwaghdom.
In December, herdsmen took their attacks to the next level as they fired at an Alpha Jet and the EC153 helicopter deployed by the military in Numan and Demsa LGAs of Adamawa State. The shooting was apparently an attempt to resist the intervention of the Nigerian Air Force towards arresting the carnage in Numan by the gunmen.
On April 22, 2017, the whistle-blowing policy of the federal government paid off positively as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) stormed a four-bedroom apartment in the Osborne Towers, 16 Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, where a stash of foreign currencies and naira to the tune of $43.4 million, £27,800 and N23.2 million was uncovered.
The operation followed a whistle-blower’s confidential alert received by the commission’s Lagos office regarding some suspicious movement of bags in and out of a particular apartment in the building. According to the source, the movers of the bags made it look like they were bringing in bags of clothes.
Another source familiar with the apartment indicated that a woman usually appeared on different occasions with Ghana -must-go bags. Soon after the affair blew open, the Rivers State government claimed the money was looted from its coffers by a former state functionary, but the National Intelligence Agency said that it owned the funds.
On February 22, 2017, a four-man gang of robbers trailed a customer to the Weatheral Road branch of a new-generation bank in Owerri, Imo State, and unleashed terror on the bank premises. In the ensuing gunfire, one of the bandits, later identified as Ikechukwu Okpara, was shot dead by Sergent Chukwudi Iboko. Sergeant Iboko and Sunday Agbo died the next day while the third police Sergent Otu Attang survived. The then Commissioner of Police of the state, Mr. Chris Ezike, said: “In the course of investigation, three of the armed robbery suspects have been arrested as well as exhibits and vehicles.”
Gunmen suspected to be robbers killed a policeman and a security guard while robbing the Lapai branch of First Bank of Nigeria and United Bank for Africa in Niger State.
Many people died in suicide bomb attacks by the Boko Haram terror group in northeast Nigeria. Although the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, had said that Boko Haram had been “technically defeated” by Nigerian troops, bombings intensified last year.
The terrorists hit worship places, markets, refugee camps, schools and motor park, among others.
On November 21, 2017, no fewer than 105 people were confirmed dead in two deadly attacks in Adamawa State within 48 hours. Several others sustained serious injuries.
While 60 persons were killed by two suicide bombers in a mosque in Mubi, 45 nomadic Fulani herdsmen were allegedly killed by gunmen in Kikan community in Numan Local Government Area of the state.
The suicide bomb blasts occurred in the popular Shiwa Mosque in Anguwar Medina in Yelwa quarters of Mubi, the commercial centre of Adamawa State. Although eyewitness account said 60 persons died in the explosions, the state police command, which confirmed 50, also confirmed that 45 were killed in Numan.
Indeed, during the year, Boko Haram typically targeted crowded places in the North. The attacks displaced many families. There is still fear and apprehension all over the North East as no one knows the next target.
Ozubulu church massacre
One of the most agonising killings in the country was the Ozubulu massacre. August 6, 2017 was just like any other Sunday at Amakwa Ozubulu, Ekwusogo Local Government Area of Anambra State. Parishioners of St. Phillip’s Catholic Church trooped to the church as early as 5.30am to attend the first Mass of the day.
Suddenly, around 6.45am, something terrible happened. In what looked like a horror movie, a trigger-happy young man, wearing black with a peak cap that concealed his face, entered the church and rushed towards the front, where Chief Cyprian Ikegwuonu, the father of Aloysius Ikegwuonu, who built the church, was sitting with his wife, Caroline, and others, and started shooting indiscriminately.
The church service was disrupted as everybody, including the officiating priest, took to their heels. When the smoke settled, about 20 people were killed and many others sustained injuries.
On February 28, four people reportedly lost their lives while several others were injured during a clash of rival cult groups in Ondo town, Ondo State. It was gathered that the skirmish was a reprisal by a cult group in the town as it had lost four members during a fight a few days earlier.
Cult clashes occurred in different parts of Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State. Affected areas included Ikororo, Baboko, Osere, Olunlande, Egbejila and Coca-Cola road. The clashes, according to a source, involved members of the Aiye and Eiye confraternities.
The source disclosed that the latest incident was in response to the gruesome killing of a suspected cultist identified as Tobi at Coca-Cola road.
Gang wars also left many injured in Mushin, Lagos.
On March 29, 2017, many innocent residents in the Alamutu and Alaka areas of Mushin, Lagos State, were left with serious injuries when rival gangs engaged in a free-for-all on March 25 and 26, 2017.
It was reported that the bloody clash between the rival gangs started when scores of hoodlums from different ends stormed the axis wielding weapons like cutlasses, machetes, axes and guns and engaged in a marathon of fights that also led to the looting of shops, vandalism of vehicles and attacks on anyone in sight.
On September 19, 2017, no fewer than six persons were confirmed dead with several others injured in a cult war in Lagos. A witness said the six victims were killed when a notorious cult leader, armed with a sophisticated rifle, led his gang in a fight with youths in the Okepopo and Onola areas on Lagos Island.
The witness claimed that the cult leader had vowed to get avenge three of his gang members from Okepopo, who were lynched by Onola boys earlier in the year.
For many, suicide was attractive last year. While some succeeded, others did not. Verishima Unokyur, a 19-year-old student of Babcock University in Ilishan, Ogun State, committed suicide in his home in Mafoluku area of Lagos, in January. Another student, Adesoji Adediran, a 500-level Urban and Regional Planning undergraduate of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho, hanged himself inside his hostel room. On March 19, a medical doctor, Orji Arwell, 35, jumped off the Third Mainland Bridge into the lagoon. However, a lady who jumped into a canal in Maza Maza area of Lagos a few weeks later was rescued by some young men who were not far away when she took the plunge.
A few days after, a 20-year-old taxi driver took his life by hanging himself in a church in Port Harcourt.
On October 16, Edward Soje, a 54-year-old civil servant hanged himself from a tree in Lokoja, kogi State capital. On October 20, Adekunle Oluseyi, 40, an indigene of Ondo State, jumped off the Lekki/Ikoyi Bridge into the Lagos Lagoon.
In December, Folarin Odukoya jumped into the lagoon from the Ebute-Ero jetty in Lagos.
Some attributed the worrisome trend in suicides to the hardship in the country.
On November 19, four gunmen stormed the country home of Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Udoh Ekpenyong, in Ikot Oku Usang village, Ukanafun Local Government Area, and killed his younger sister and two others.
On December 7, 47 inmates of the Ikot Ekpene Prison escaped. While four of the prisoners died from bullet wounds when they tried to overpower prison officials on duty, some others were recaptured.