On Saturday, July 4, 2020, the wife of a Court of Appeal Judge, Ekwele Agube, was kidnapped by six armed men who accosted her along Ministry Road, off NPA junction in Calabar, Cross Rivers State, killing her aide, Glory Egbela, before whisking her away in their operation vehicle.
The victim, who spent 14 days at the kidnappers’ den was released after a ransom of N6.8million was paid, Vanguard Newspaper reports.
But few weeks after her release, operatives of the Force Intelligence Response Team, IRT, who were detailed to investigate and track down the kidnappers succeeded in arresting six members of the gang, identified as Nsense Bassy, Edet Ene, Christopher Effaeyo, Etim Offiong, Bassy Effiong and Luis Otu bassy. Two locally made guns and 15 live cartridges were recovered from them.
It was gathered that the victim’s husband, Justice Ignatius Agube, had contacted the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, informing him about the kidnap of his wife. The IGP was said to have deployed operatives of the IRT to track down the suspects.
It was gathered that the IRT made its breakthrough when it trailed one of the phone numbers used in negotiating the ransom to one of the gang leaders identified as Bassy alias Lion and during interrogation he confessed to the crime and led the operatives in arresting five other members including the gang’s informant, its cooks and boat boy.
In his confession, Bassy confessed that he had led members of his gang to kidnap a Cameroonian Diplomat and an Igbo businessman who both paid N2million each before they were released.
The 30-year-old suspect, from Akam Local Government Area of Cross River State and married with four children, said he took to kidnapping because he had no means of feeding his children during the COVID-19 lockdown.
He said; “I am a primary school dropout, my father had no job and my mother left him and I was left on street of Calabar to fend for myself.”
“I couldn’t learn any skill, I was just roaming the streets doing menial jobs. During the lockdown, when my family was hungry, one of my friends known as Christian introduced me to a kidnap gang.”
“I joined because there was no other way I could get money to feed my children. Our first operation was at White Market area of Calabar where we kidnapped an Igbo man who dealt in motor spare parts.”
“Six of us went for that operation. After kidnapping the man we took him to the waterside and I left them from that point and went home.”
“My other gang members then took the man into our camp. Christian, who introduced me to the gang negotiated for the ransom. N2million was eventually paid as ransom and I got N300,000 as my own share.”
“One month later we kidnapped a Cameroonian who we found on the street trying to buy something. Christian took the man’s car away and sold it.”
“We then took the man into our camp where he spent one week before he was released after paying N2m ransom. I got N270,000 as my share.”
“Our third operation was brought by one Luis, a friend to Christian. They told me that the woman we would kidnap was very rich and that if we succeeded in kidnapping her, the husband or relatives would pay huge sum of money for her ransom.”
“Luis monitored the woman’s movement and when we eventually kidnapped her, we had an exchange of gunfire with some policemen on patrol but I didn’t know that somebody died in the process.”
“It was when we were arrested that I heard that someone died. Christian, who negotiated for the woman’s ransom collected N4.8million from the victim’s family and absconded with the money while the boys looking after the woman in the creek refused to release the woman as they insisted that they must get their share of the ransom.”
“So, I went after Christian but he refused to see me. He however dropped the woman’s phone at a place where he directed me to pick it up. I then called the victim’s family and requested for another N2million which they gave to me.”
“I called the boys at the camp to release the woman. I got N350,000 as my share and I gave the informant N100,000. Few weeks later I got a call from pastor, who asked me to come to the church and when I got there, I was surrounded by the police and I was arrested.”
On his part, Luis Otubassy, 25, the gang’s informant and motorcycle operator said he was introduced to the gang by one Nsense alias lion and his job was to convey the gang members around the town in search of victims to kidnap.
According to him, “on the kidnap of the Appeal Court judge’s wife, I didn’t know that her husband was a judge, I thought the woman was a contractor.”
“I was the person who mounted pressure on other members of the gang to kidnap the woman and her aide was killed in the process.”
“I was given the sum of N70,000 as my share, I didn’t know that they got N6.8milion from the woman. I was only looking for money to buy pampers for my child. Now I feel very sad that I got only N70,000 out of N6.8million”, he lamented
Another suspect, Edet Ene, 28, from Apkabiyo area of Cross River state, who was the gang’s boat operator said he joined the gang because he was hopeless.
He said; “I paddled the boat into the creek and we used to spend 30 minutes on the water before getting to the camp. I also bought food for the victims.”
“I am an orphan, I have no one to help me, that was why I joined the gang. On the first day they called me, I ferried their victim into the creek and I was with them in the creek.”
“I was paid N180,000 when ransom was paid for the release of the victim. My mother died when I was five years old and I didn’t know my father.”
“I have been struggling alone all this while. I fell for the gang because I was hopeless. I also got N100,000 from the second operation.”
“I haven’t enjoyed anything with the money before the police came and arrested me. Please, I want them to forgive me, I will never take to crime again”, he pleaded.