Until June this year, his name didn’t ring a bell in the ears of many Nigerians. If at all it made any meaning or sense, it was in the circle of his co-travellers in the crime world, where he had established himself as king of terror and nightmare.
In the period he held sway (seven long, crazy years), he struck fear in the hearts of his victims and families, and apprehension in the police. Because he appeared invincible, he came across as a guy who could never be apprehended. He was the ultimate Rambo of robbery and kidnapping, building an intricate network of spies, hi-tech evasive devices (he allegedly had over a 100 phone lines), mansions that hid his real identity and high profile contacts that saw him evading the long arms of the law.
But not anymore; since the bubble burst, he has become the face of national shame and embarrassment. His name resonates across the country and international media, as Nigeria’s most ruthless kidnap kingpin. He also set an unenviable record, as the nation’s first billionaire kidnapper, from his cash hurl. What a record!
When he set out on a career of crime, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, alias Evans, couldn’t have imagined he would end the way he’s bound to: Gallows. A life jail or the death penalty, if found guilty by the court.
What he saw was a glamorous life of luxury: Exotic cars, eye-popping mansions and all the good things money can provide. What came to his mind was the power often wielded by the wealthy in our society; the deference, the influence of the affluent, the doors that opened at village gatherings and high society; the glitters, the fame, the plum and aplomb.
That’s all that seemed to matter to Evans, as he graduated in flying colours from petty stealing (by his accounts) to robbery, drugs and then, the big one, kidnapping! And in the process, he began to roll in cash of different denominations (naira, dollars, pounds sterling), which he extracted at gun point in sinister circumstances from his hapless victims.
In his ruthless determination to build an empire of wealth, no level was too low for him to descend, and no height was too high for him to scale. If men were shot or got caught in the cross fires of ransom payments, so what? If policemen, offering protection to VIP victims, got mowed down, it didn’t matter to Evans and his gang, as long as the money was paid, and paid in full before their captives were freed.
In the dictionary of Evans and his cohorts, there was no word like ‘mercy.’ He showed nothing like that to those unfortunate to fall victim to his deadly kidnap organisation. The case of the man he allegedly extorted $1.2m from was particularly pathetic. He not only collected the money in full, the man had to pay a fine, a surcharge, for attempting to involve security agencies in his bid to breathe the air of freedom.
The ordeal of kidnap victim, Chief James Uduji, Chairman of Cometstar Cable Manufacturing Limited, who coughed out $1.2m, after spending 42 days with Evans and his gang, is indeed touching, and showed the bestiality of the men who held him hostage.
Hear him: “On September 7, 2015, as I was coming back from my factory in Agbara, to my home in Festac, arriving 7th Avenue, I saw four gunmen. They stopped in front of my vehicle and started shooting while I was with my two drivers in my Hilux pickup. I was sitting at the back, thinking they were policemen. I was wondering why they were shooting and charging at us, not knowing that they were kidnappers. In the process, they shot us, me and two of my drivers. But, luckily, nobody died. I still have a bullet in my body. By the time I realised they were kidnappers, they dragged me out of my vehicle to their own Lexus 740 Jeep. Inside the Jeep, there were lots of arms and ammunition inside a box. They had another box at the back where they put me in. Four guys were inside that Jeep, well-armed, even the driver had his own AK47 rifle. They drove past Festac link bridge to Amuwo-Odofin about 4.30pm, as if they were going to Okota. Later, they came out to Oshodi-Apapa Expressway. By this time, they had not blindfolded me, but they pushed my head down, lying bare on the floor of the car. One of them just held me, as I was seriously bleeding. I never knew I would survive this.”
Chief Uduji then went on to narrate the modus operandi of the gang; how they tortured victims, provided semblance of medicare before ransoms were paid, scanty feeding, some form of suspected collaboration with law enforcement officers, among other details. It all sounded like a chilly, horror movie.
“It was a traumatising experience,” he confesses, “So many things happened. You know, I paid $1.2m. We paid it in three instalments. We paid two hundred thousand dollars, eight hundred thousand dollars and another two hundred thousand dollars. He (Evans) claimed that the first two hundred thousand dollars we paid had been cancelled because we set them up by inviting security agents to be tracking them. That’s how we were accused, and that the payment had been rubbished.” Uduji was released October 19, 2015, while he was kidnapped September 7.
Countless other narratives abound of Evans’ deadly exploits in Benin City, Edo State and other parts of the country. A common thread is that Evans exhibited bravery in roguery and lack of compassion in his exploits. Only the smell of cash and nothing else melted his heart, and opened the locks for his ‘incarcerated’ victims.
That’s why many are finding it quite shocking to hear that the man, who showed no mercy to his victims is now begging for mercy. Such is the irony of life.
Should Evans be shown the mercy he denied others? I don’t think so. How would those clamouring for the pardon of the outlaw feel if their relations, friends and family members were victims of Evans and his gang? Would they be singing the same song and peddling the same hash tag of infamy?
I would rather the law takes its course; if for nothing, to serve as deterrence to others like Evans, who think nothing of violently dispossessing others of their hard-earned money, because of their insatiable greed to live a life of wealth.
But the Evans’ narrative certainly holds some lessons for our people and nation. For individuals, the simple moral is that crime does not pay; that ultimately, the criminal soon gets entangled in his own criminal web, bringing disgrace to his family, community and nation.
By his infamy, Evans has no doubt brought shame and embarrassment to, not only his nuclear and extended families, but to his community and nation. How many people will be proud to introduce themselves as relatives of Evans now or in the future, his stupendous wealth notwithstanding? Evans broke the heart of his wife, who is finding it difficult to convince the public she didn’t know the job her husband was engaged in, his lovely kids, parents and kinsmen, many of whom are asking: Why did he do it?
Evans may blame the devil for his act of devilry. But he is the one to receive the shame and punishment for his perfidy, not the bad, old devil.
Our society must do something urgently to reorder her values. Any country that worships money the way we do here will continue to breed many Evans.
In a country where it is almost a crime to be poor, Evans hit on a life of crime to avoid the ‘crime’ of poverty. He knew too well that our society often worshipped the man of means, without giving a damn about the means he has used to achieve his means or new status. When he crashes or runs foul of the 11th commandment: Thou shall not be caught, the same society condemns him for engaging in what it encourages. What a country!
• First published June 19, 2017