.Recover nine weapons, 18 live cartridges
By Precious Igbonwelundu and Ebele Boniface
In continuation of its efforts to rid Lagos State of crime and criminality, the state Police Command yesterday paraded eight suspected hoodlums.
The suspects in a group of four each, were alleged to have been involved in kidnapping and armed robbery/gun running.
Edet EKuno, 32, Sunday Samiga, 24, Hope Edet Okon, 27 and Unagbon Isaiah, 31, were nabbed for kidnapping and had two locally made pistols and 18 live cartridges in their possession.
Whereas, Andrew Moukwe, 50, Christopher Edwin, 42, Peter Onyeale, 37 and Okpara Reginald, 30 were arrested for armed robbery and illegal arms deal with three AK47, two Baretta and two Brownie pistols recovered from them.
Briefing reporters before the suspects were paraded, the Commissioner of Police (CP) Kayode Aderanti said the suspected kidnappers were nabbed on March 7, at a hotel at Ojodu Berger, while they were planning to abduct a Lagos businessman.
According to the CP, the suspected kidnappers worked in collaboration with a taxi driver who usually conveyed their target to and fro the airport as well as business transactions.
He said: “At about 2 am on March 7, information got to me that kidnappers are lodging at D2 Hotel Ojodu Berger and that they are perfecting plans to kidnap a businessman in Magor Estate.
“Upon receipt of the information, the officer in charge of SARS, S.P. Abba Kyari was directed to move in and stop them in their tracks.
“He led a decoy team to the scene and effectively arrested the suspects and revovered two locally made pistols. All the suspects arrested confessed to several kidnappings in Akwa Ibom and Lagos states. Serious efforts are being made to arrest the remaining gang members.”
On the suspected armed robbers, Aderanti said Andrew Moukwe were arrested in Onitsha, Anambra State on January 18, based on follow up of an earlier case.
“Upon interrogation, he confessed to have sold over 200 AK47 rifles smuggled from Mali to several criminals and militants in Anambra, Rivers, Bayelsa, Abia, Enugu and Lagos States.
“He led SARS operatives back to Onitsha where one Christopher Edwin was arrested and three AK47 rifles with serial numbers AB256591, VL420219 and AXA 17 were recovered.
“He further led SARS team to Rivers state were Peter Onyeale and Okpara Reginald were arrested and four English pistols, two Baretta pistols with serial numbers 148847 and 682404 as well as two Brownie pistols with serial numbers 42649 and 1137366 were all recovered.
“Detectives have embarked on intensive combing in Bayelsa, Enugu and Abia states to fish out the remaining gang members who have gone underground after hearing of the arrest of Moukwe. Meanwhile efforts to arrest the remaining buyers and recover the arms continue,” said the Commissioner.
My charm failed me
One of the suspected kidnappers, Samiga who said he was from Benue state, expressed displeasure that the charm given to him by a herbalist in Cotonou, Benin Republic, failed him.
He told The Nation that he joined the kidnapping gang last year after he discovered that the money he was making from snatching people’s bags was mot enough to set him up as he wanted.
“This is the first time I am following them. My plan was to make big money to start up a business or buy a motorcycle so that o can start a normal life.
“I used to drive motorcycle in Isolo but when the police seized my bike, I starting snatching bags at Okeafa area. I was doing it with one of my friends, a Ghanian who is also a truck pusher. We call him Rasta.
“He was the one who took me to Cotonou and introduced me to the herbalist for protection. The baba gave me a charm that I should always wear it and that if I do ko one will catch me or want to search any bag am carrying.
“I usually kept the charm in my pocket and it was working for me because each time we snatched bags, no one used to stop us. It was from the money I made from snatching bags that I bought the two manpa (Locally made pistols) and one cartridge.
“I bought them in Cotonou at N17000 each, while I bought the cartridge about N4000. Before then, we used to cut slippers in the shape of a gun and wrap it celotape, which we used to rob people.
“The day I was arrested, u was wearing the charm in my she. We were in the hotel when the police came in with one of the kidnappers and picked us.
“I feel bad because the charm failed me. I do not know if it’s because I put it in my shoe that it did not work. If I knew I would not have followed them. I would have continued with my bag snatching because now, I have not gotten anything and see where I have landed,” he said.
I wanted to make big money to add to my father’s poultry
Edet EKuno who appeared severally injured and could not stand without assistance said he started kidnapping in 2010 in Akwa Ibom, where he made about N800 thousand.
The 32 – year-old who claimed he was an engineering student of the Akwa Ibom State Polytechnique said he was lured into kidnapping because he needed money to invest in his late father’s poultry business.
He said the Akwa Ibom incident was the only successfully abduction he had engaged in, adding that the group’s plan to abduct a chevron staff, resident at Church Street Ajah, who was given away by his neighbour was unsuccessful.
“This was supposed to be our third operation. The first time I did the business was in Akwa Ibom and we got about five million naira but my share was N800 thousand which I invested in the poultry business belonging to my late father.
“I did not follow them again after the failed operation in Ajah in 2012 because I was in school and also involved in land business. When people come to buy land, I get N50,000, if I am the one who showed them the land.
“It was one of my friends, Cap, whom I did not know was I prison in Cotonou that called me after he got out and told me about the Ikeja operation. He said he was in touch with the taxi driver who carries the man about and has all the necessary information about the man.
“I came to Lagos with N50,000 that I made from a land deal and after I have spent the money for hotels and other bills, I did not have money to stay in the hotel that night and was roaming the street.
“Since we were supposed to strike around 6am, I left my hideout one hour earlier and moved to Double2 Hotel at Berger where the other gang members lodged so that we can take off.
“But when I got to the hotel and called them to come down, they insisted I come up first for all of us to take off at the same time. I did not know that the police have already arrested them.
“I was very stupid and greedy to have left my land business to come to Lagos for this business. I was in Lagos for about two to three weeks and we have been trying but it did not work. I feel very ashamed of myself.
“What we do I the gang is contributory effort. My role in 2010 was bringing someone who has a car which we used in the operation. I want God to forgive me of my sins,” he stated.
I joined kidnapping after I was sacked from the bank
An ex – banker, Hope Okon who said he was sacked after banks’ consolidation under Prof. Charles Soludo, claimed he could not explain how he fingered his neighbour as their hostage.
According to him, he joined real estate business in Ajah after he lost his job and was making h earns meet until he ran into his old friend, EKuno who requested that he (Okon) showed him those in his neighbourhood who would pay ransoms if abducted.
“I still cannot explain how or why I gave my neighbour away. The man never did anything wrong to me and in fact, he was a good man. I just can’t say what happened and how I found myself in this mess.
“Ekuno came to my area and asked me to show him people who will pay ransom if we kidnapped them and I just showed him that my neighbour. That was the only time I went with them. I have not followed them for any other operation.
“I feel very bad because I have brought shame upon my family. I used to work in Skye Bank as a teller but I lost my job when Prof. Soludo brought the directive of consolidation. After that I started working as estate agent and I am also a devoted music minister,” said the suspect.
I bought two cars from selling guns
He looked unrepentant as he responded to questions from reporters on what led I into illegal arms deal.
Moukwe who said he learnt the trade fro his late masters, countered the claims by the police that he has sold up to 200 AK47 rifles.
Hear him: “It is not true that I have sold up to 209 AK47. I have sold about 100 AK47 rifles and I do not sell to armed robbers or militants. I sell to people I know who also know that I sell weapons.
“I usually buy from Ibadan. The people who supply it to me bring them to Onitsha when I call them on phone. I have a shop in the main market but there is nothing in the shop.
“When they come to buy, I usually ask them what they want to do with it. Some of the. Say they use it for inter – communal conflicts like those from Aguleri, others say they have oil and want to protect their oil.
“I buy the weapons at N350 thousand and sell N400 thousand each. I make at least N50,000 from each sales. I used the money to train my children and to buy two cars. I did not know it was illegal to trade on arms without licence until recently.
“When I knew, I went to confession and the priest told me to do penance and stop the illegal business. It was in the course of the penance that I was arrested and so, I took the police to the people I sold to,” said Moukwe.