The Nigeria Police yesterday displayed the N14. 725 million recovered from suspected kidnappers of Mrs. Margaret Emefiele, wife of the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele. Nine suspects arrested in connection with the abduction of Emefiele were paraded.
The CBN Governor’s wife was, on September 29, kidnapped alongside three of her aides at Oquneki Hills, along the Benin- Agbor Road in Delta State. Among those arrested are two serving Army personnel (Lance Corporals Musa Maidabra and Edwin George), as well as a dismissed soldier, Ernest A. Uduefe.
Maidabra and George are serving at 122D30 Regiment in Maiduguri, Borno State. Other suspects paraded were: Mohammed Abubakar (Gang leader), Mohammed Musa, Mohammed Sule, Ibrahim Abdullahi, Aliyu Musa and Mohammed Yusuf.
They were arrested by the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) and other tactical teams, whom the Inspector- General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, had saddled with the responsibility of rescuing the kidnapped victims.
One of the soldiers, Lance Corporal Maidabra, confirmed that he only helped in the movement of the ransom. He, however, denied involvement in the actual abduction of Emefiele’s wife. Maidabra said: “We were not involved in the abduction; we only assisted them to transport the money to a location. We carried the money and ran away with it in a vehicle.
It was part of my friend’s share he gave me. We didn’t know the money was from an abduction operation.” His colleague, George, admitted that he only provided security cover for the kidnappers to transport the money to Benin City, the Edo State capital. He said: “I was not involved in the kidnap. The money they gave me was over N6 million. I asked about the source of the money, but they didn’t tell me.”
Addressing journalists in Abuja, the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), Mr. Don Awunah, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), said Emefiele and her aides were rescued unhurt on September 30, a day after they were kidnapped.
Though, Awunah declined to state the exact amount that was paid as ransom, the sum of N14,725,000 was displayed as part of what the suspected kidnappers had collected. Items recovered from the suspects include three cars, one AK 47 magazine and two cartridges.
The suspects were arrested in Benin City, the Edo State capital, where the ransom money was driven to. According to Awunah, the gang leader allegedly confessed to receiving the sum of N11 million in cash.
Also, a sport utility vehicle (SUV) worth N1.5 million and N4 million (all proceeds of the crime), were recovered from Maidabara. For Uduefe, the Police said he bought a Honda car with N1.5 million, even as he allegedly furnished an apartment in Benin City within 48 hours of the incident.
Another suspect, Musa, who sustained gunshot wounds after a gun duel with the IRT, was said to have received N10 million from the ransom paid. Like Musa, Sule and Abdullahi, allegedly confessed to receiving N10 million each.
The trio of Maidabara, George and Uduefe, were said to have escorted some of the kidnappers and the ransom money out of the forest, where they had held the victims.
They were said to have driven in a maroon coloured Audi car, with the soldiers dressed in Army camouflage. The uniforms were also displaced as exhibits. Other exhibits recovered were two Honda cars and the Audi, which the Police said were parked within the premises of the Force Headquarters.
Awunah said: “The IGP is committed to ensuring that all forms of crime, fear of crime and particularly kidnap for ransom and other violent crimes are brought to the lowest ebb throughout the country.
“Similarly, the IGP is determined to making sure that all those who are engaged in kidnapping, abduction and armed criminal activities will not escape justice. To this end, the Nigeria Police will galvanise all available re sources at its disposal to make sure that miscreants, hoodlums and deviants have their day with the law.
“Against this background, the IGP had ordered the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) and other tactical teams to swing into action to rescue Mrs. Margret Emiefele, the wife of the Central Bank Governor unhurt and apprehend all those remotely or directly responsible for the dastardly act.
“Consequent upon de-ployment of Intelligence Platform, Mrs. Emiefele and her aides were rescued on September 30 unhurt and they have since been reunited with their families after debriefing.
“The Nigeria Police Force will continue to limit the capacity of kidnappers and other criminals to disrupt the quality of life of Nigerians by the deployment of adequate manpower and resources in crime reduction, detection and effective prosecution of offenders in courts of competent jurisdiction.
“The curtailment of the activities of kidnappers in our communities will be ultimately successful through the cooperation and collaboration of all stakeholders.
There must be collective ownership of law enforcement. “It is instructive to mention that money or ‘ransom’ is sometimes used as a bait or bargaining chip to save the lives of the victims of crime, which is primary to security operatives.”
Notwithstanding, the Police have cautioned against payment of ransom for the release of kidnap victims, saying it was “inherently counterproductive.”