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Kidnap canaries

  • Kogi LG lawmaker, others open up on Gov Bello’s mother’s abduction, N20m ransom and more

By CHIOMA IGBOKWE

Iliyasu Suleiman, the Kogi local government councillor who was arrested over the kidnap of Governor Yahaya Bello’s mother has been singing like a canary in police custody. The council lawmaker has told the police that he deliberately arranged the abduction to prove a point. Sometime in 2014, a group of armed men successfully kidnapped Bello’s mother. No one heard of the incident and it was never investigated as the family was alleged to have co-operated with the kidnappers and paid N20 million to secure the release of their aged mother. 

However three years later, nemesis came visiting when the police recently caught one of the gang members, Danjuma Ibrahim over a robbery incident in Kogi and Niger states. Ibrahim had during interrogation while listing his exploits in the past mentioned a woman whom they kidnapped in Okene.

His confession led to the arrest of Hon lliyasu Suleiman whose statement made detectives discover that the woman mentioned by Ibrahim was actually the mother of Kogi state governor.   

Other suspects arrested were Illiyasu Obadaki, Alhaji Nasiru, Hafiz Yakubu and Mohammed Jamiu who was killed during a shootout with policemen in another robbery incident.

Arrest

On their arrest, the Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Moshood Jimoh had in statement said that the arrest was based on the Inspector General of Police’s directive on the spate of kidnappings in Abuja, Niger and Kogi states. The operatives of Intelligence Response Team (IRT) after the earlier arrest of Danjuma Ibrahim and in a follow-up to his confession on several robberies and kidnapping in Kogi, Abuja and Niger states also arrested more members of the deadly gang in Okene, Kogi state.

According to him, items recovered from the suspects include two AK47 rifles, 20 live cartridges, one army camouflage inner wear, two pairs of army camouflage trousers, two army camouflage uniforms, one black beret, two plastic guns, three sharp knives, one axe and assorted charms.

My story

Determined to bare it all, Sulieman aged 44, a native of Okene town and former councillor in Okene local government claimed that he got involved because he wanted to help security operatives assemble all the criminals in Okene.

“Please I am ready to tell you the truth and nothing but the truth. I played along with Ibrahim and others in order to expose them to security agencies. Ibrahim is a bad boy, infact he is a member of Boko Haram. Late Alhaji Lukman who was killed during a fight gave the rifle in question to him. He decided to keep the gun for his personal use. It is true that I contacted him to help me during my election as councillor in 2007 but just as an agent.

“There was a time when government organised a programme granting amnesty to the restive youths. They offered them N250, 000 in exchange for their guns. He refused to submit his own; rather he continued committing crime and was seen amongst Boko Haram members in Kogi.

Infact, I am very sure that he was among those who attacked the army and was also rescued by his gang who attacked operatives of DSS in the state. It is because he knew that I was helping security agencies to rid Okene of criminals that he decided to rope me into the crime.”

On his alleged role during the kidnap of Kogi governor’s mother, Suleiman said that he arranged the kidnap to help convince the security agencies that these boys whose names he had already submitted were confirmed criminals. “I decided to arrange the kidnap and called all the people that I have been suspecting that they are criminals. I told them who to kidnap while I watched from a distance. They successfully carried out the crime and disappeared.

“Ibrahim started disturbing me; I had called the one negotiating with the family of the woman to give him N200, 000 so that he will leave me alone. They disappeared and I did not hear from them till four months later when Tijani who also participated gave me a Peugeot 406 car. I had no choice but to collect it because I had no car.”

When asked why he never handed them over to police if his claim was genuine, Suleiman said he was still investigating. “I wanted to be sure that all of them are available before I will hand them over.”

On why he chose the governor’s mother, Suleiman said, “He (Bello) was not the governor then and besides there was no security around his mother. I knew the family can co-operate with the kidnappers and the ransom money will not affect them. No one told me how much that was paid by the family. It was when the governor came to see us at the police station that he told us that his family paid N20 million before his mother was released. He was a common rich man then, that was why there was no security around his mother. But note that I decided to arrange the kidnap to help security operatives know the real kidnappers who have been terrorising Okene.”

Another suspect counters

Obviously aware that the game is up, Ibrahim aged 26, wondered why Suleiman decided to deny him and accuse him of the crime when he was the one who contracted them for the kidnapping job.

“I don’t know why they are lying against me. We are all in police net and it’s time to tell the truth. I ended up as a criminal because life has been unfair. My father was concerned with getting married and producing children without any means of training them in school. This was why I dropped out of school after my primary school education.

“I started doing one odd job or  another to survive till I ended up with bad friends who introduced me to crime. Okene became so hot (criminal activities on the increase) that I had to relocate to Abuja. During my days in Okene, I got to know Hon. Suleiman and he knew that I was into armed robbery even as a teenager.

“During the local government election in 2007, he called me to work as his thug. He was the one that gave me the pump action gun. During the campaign period, crisis erupted and there were serious clashes between PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) and APC (All Progressives Congress) members. My father’s house was razed in the process. He later won that election and became a councillor. I begged him to compensate me, but he told me to hold on that there will be job that I will benefit from. Sometime in 2014, he called me that they want me to join some boys to kidnap one woman in Okene. I joined them and it was a huge success.

“I was not part of the negotiation because he told me that he would handle it. When I learnt that they have released the woman, I asked for my share and he gave me N200, 000. If he was not part of it, where and why did he give me N200, 000? It was in the police station when the governor arrived that I discovered that they cheated me,” he stated.

On the allegation that he is a member of Boko Haram sect, Ibrahim said that he mistakenly joined them during their programme in Okene. “There is a mosque close to my house where I normally go for prayers. It was during one of their teachings that I realised that these must be Boko Haram members. I gradually stayed away from them so that they will not suspect that I wanted to run away. It was one of the reasons I left Okene. I have nothing to gain as a member if not to kill. I am an armed robber and that’s how I make money and spend without any control. Even when the army arrested me, they discovered that I am not one of them, that was why they released me.

“On the issue of DSS, they arrested some of my brothers when they came to look for me. My brothers are still in their detention camp. I heard of the attack and I can assure you that it was Boko Haram members that did that,” he stated.   

And the others too

Another suspect, Obadaki, a native of Okene claimed that he was contacted by the ex-councillor to monitor the kidnap operation. “He just called me and asked me to wait at a corner and watch what was going on. It was there that I saw Ibrahim and others carry the woman and they were shooting into the air. I had to hide very well.”

When asked why he did not report to the police, Obadaki said that he was terrified that he would be killed, if he dares to. “In 2014, Kogi was very hot. It was not even safe to call the police if robbers attacked you. We don’t know who is who as so many people who tried it ended up being killed.”

The story is the same with Alhaji Nasiru who told the police that he decided to join them to earn more respect in his community. “I am from Inike village in Suleja, Niger State and I became an Alhaji four years ago. Normally, it is expected that an Alhaji should have money to help the society, that was how I ended up in crime. One of the days, one Samuel came to borrow my car and promised to pay me some money. When he came back, he gave me N20, 000. I was surprised and asked them how he made such money. He opened up and I told him that since it’s my car, I will like to join them.

“I did so three good times and I was paid N80, 000 twice and N30, 000 once. It was during one of the robberies that I met Ibrahim who led police to arrest me. I am terribly sorry; it was the pressure to live up to expectation that landed me into trouble.”

Yet another suspect, Yakubu who is a member of Ibrahim’s gang claimed a friend introduced him to robbery. “I am a student of Idah polytechnic. Things were so hard that I had no choice but to join a bad gang. I normally join them for armed robbery and kidnapping whenever I am on holiday. My greatest mistake was that I did not stop even when they killed that my friend that introduced me. As soon as they arrested me, I knew it was time to repent. Infact, I have repented.”

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