Police dashed our hope of beign N200m richer– Lagos schoolgirl kidnappers

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The last has not been heard of the abduction of three female students of Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary (BMJS), located in Ikorodu, Lagos State. Three more suspects were arrested in connection with their abduction.

The arrest of the three came after Emmanuel Arigidi was earlier apprehended by operatives of the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team (SIRT). The girls were rescued at Imota in Ikorodu.

The schoolgirls, Timilehin Olosa, Tofunmi Popoolaniyan and Deborah Akinayo, were kidnapped by 12 gunmen while they were reading in one of the school’s classrooms at night.

Their abductors were said to have dropped them off at Imota after the arrest of one of the kidnappers, Arigidi. Arigidi was arrested when he stepped out from their hideout to buy food.

Father of two of the kidnappers – Lamienmu and Gideon – heard that Arigidi was taking 500 policemen to the kidnappers’ camp in a bid to rescue the girls and went there to pressurise his sons to jettison the idea of ransom.

They heeded his call and dropped the girls at Imota Village. After the arrest of Arigidi and subsequent rescue of the girls, everyone heaved a sigh of relieve and went back to their daily routines.

But operatives of the SIRT didn’t go back home to their families or Abuja, where they were drafted from to take over the case of the adducted girls from the Lagos State Police Command.

The SIRT continued to gather more intelligence, seeking for more suspects. Their tireless efforts led to the arrest of three more kidnappers. The three suspects, now providing useful information to the police, are Omoni Fred Rufus 32, Wekemei Godfrey 28 and Priye Pius Gift, 26.

They confessed to the police that they were in charge of cooking, feeding and ensuring that the girls did not escape. According to them, the abduction of the schoolgirls was supposed to fetch them N200million, but the SIRT dashed their hopes. Rufus, who was into sawmill business, narrated how he joined in kidnapping the schoolgirls.

Rufus said: “I have never done anything criminal until last January. One of my friends, Bamidele, whom I have known for long, called me. He said he had a job for me. Bamidele was arrested last year for kidnapping and later remanded in Ogun State prison. After he was released in January, he called me. He said one of his friends, Gay, whom he met in prison told him that he had a job for him.

Bamidele said he wanted me to be part of the job because I have a car. He said the job was kidnapping. He said Gay would like to meet me, so that we would organise the operation.”

Rufus, Bamidele and Gay met at a petrol station situated along Lagos- Ibadan Expressway to fine-tune their first kidnap as a gang. “Gay told us we were going to kidnap a rich man. He said that he needed to bring in three more men.

He said he would monitor the man’s movement and alert us, so we could kidnap him,” said Rufus. The following day, Gay called and gave them description of the victim’s car and location. When the gang sighted the victim’s car, they used theirs to block him.

The victim was forced to a halt. Rufus said: “We took the victim in my car into a forest by the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. I left him with Bamidele and others. Four days after, Bamidele called me. He said the man had been released and the sum of N2.5m ransom paid. My share was N200, 000.” Rufus raced to Ikorodu to meet Bamidele to collect his share. They met in an eatery. Bamidele was with a guy when Rufus walked into the eatery.

The man was Tradition. He would later be instrumental in the abduction of the Ikorodu schoolgirls. When Rufus was leaving the eatery, he gave Tradition some money as a gift. Tradition collected Rufus’s phone numbers and promised to give him a call. Rufus recounted: “Two weeks ago, Tradition called me.

He said that there was a job. He said it would fetch huge a sum of money. I asked how much and he said I could get N5m as my share. My car had gearbox issues and I took it for repairs at Ladipo Spare Part Market, in Mushin.”

When the gang met again to discuss how to storm BMJS, Tradition told the gang members that one Lamienmu brought the job. Rufus said: “We met him and nine others on Imota Bridge.

They took me into the bush where they said we would keep the victims. I wasn’t pleased with the arrangement. Lamienmu pleaded that we should bear with him. We moved to the school in four speed boat.

Those that had guns came from the creek in Fatola. When we got to the school, Tradition and Lamienmu entered. I and others waited by the fence. “When they brought one of the girls, I carried her into our boat and stayed with her. Others came later with the other two girls. When we went into the creek, we made wooden rafts for the girls to sleep on. I slept inside one of the boats.”

Rufus said that everybody was tense and those with guns stood guard all night. The next day, Lamienmu and Tradition interrogated the girls. One of them said her father was an engineer, another said her dad was a pastor.

The kidnappers collected the victims’ parents’ phone numbers. According to Rufus: “we called and demanded N200m ransom. The girls said they were hungry and asked for Viju Milk, Lacasera and Indomie.

Lamienmu’s younger brother, Gideon, went to town and bought the items.” Three days after the incident, Gideon went again into town to get more food items for the girls. That was when he heard that police were frantically hunting for them.

The members became scared and started discussing whether to release the girls or wait for the ransom to be paid. They became desperate and lowered the ransom to N30m. By Saturday, they dropped the idea of ransom like hot coals.

“On Saturday, we saw Lamienmu’s father. He crept into the camp. Our guys almost shot him. He yelled that he was Lamienmu’s father. He said the police had arrested his wife, Lamienmu’s sister and Tradition’s wife.

Lamienmu insisted we should release the girls or he would kill himself,” said Rufus. After Lamienmu’s father left, the camp was a frenzy of activities, arguments and counter arguments.

They reluctantly abandoned the ransom idea and agreed to allow the girls go. Rufus noted: “We all agreed that we should allow the girls to go at 5:00am on Sunday. Tradition and four others took the girls out of the camp. I waited till the next day before leaving the camp. When I came out, I went to Ladipo and checked the mechanic who was working on my car. I gave him some money and left.

I had a feeling the police were hunting for me. On Thursday, the mechanic called me. He said my car was ready. When I got to Ladipo, I didn’t see the mechanic. I called him and he said he was at Iyana-Ipaja, washing the car.

When I got there, police arrested me. They accused me of being part of the gang that abducted the schoolgirls.” Godfrey and Gift, the gang members who were the ones cooking for the girls, were both arrested in Mosebolatan Guest House, Ibafo, Ogun State. The police traced them through one of their girlfriends. Godfrey said Tradition, known as Felix, was friend to him and Gift.

Godfrey was a fisherman in Delta State, before he relocated to his state, Akwa Ibom. Tradition and Gift were from the village with him. It was in Akwa Ibom Godfrey started exporting ‘Afang’ vegetable to Cameroon.

Tradition and Gift were also in the vegetable exporting business until Tradition left for Lagos. Godfrey said: “Early last year, we started having issues with some militants when crossing into Cameroon.

The militants were demanding too much money. Whenever we couldn’t give them, they would destroy our goods. Things went deteriorated. Luckily, Tradition came and told us that fuel business was fetching good money in Arepo, Ogun State.

He said we should join him. We immediately followed him to Lagos. He bought 100, 50 litre jerry cans for Gift and I. We started going into the creek to siphon petrol from pipelines.

We paid vandals that control the pipelines between N5000 and N10, 000. They would allow us to load our jerry cans. We then sold each jerry can for N1000 to Tradition. He in turn sold to other people.”

They continued their illicit business until a massive explosion occurred at Arepo. Many people died in the explosion. Godfrey said he and Gift would have died that night, but for divine intervention. His words: “On the night of incident, Gift and I decided to take a little rest from work. Around 2:00am, we heard the sound of a massive explosion. When the fire died down, I went into the creek and assisted in the burial of those killed.

I had a rethink about the business after what I witnessed. Gift and I left Arepo and relocated to Majidun, where we started doing bamboo business. We would go into the forest to cut bamboo and sell to people dredging sand.

They would pay us between N25000 and 30000. The problem with the business was that we didn’t sell all the time.” He said that about three weeks ago, Tradition came to Majidun. He told them he wanted them to take part in a kidnapping. They said they weren’t interested. Tradition went to BMJS with some other men, but the abduction plan failed.

Godfrey said: “Tradition came back to us. He said they failed because they didn’t have enough manpower. He said the abduction would fetch us good money. I reluctantly accepted. I told my girlfriend that I was going to spend some time with some of my brothers.

Gift and I met Tradition at the agreed spot. We went to the creek and from there, drove to the school in three speed boats. Gift and I stood by the fence, watching for any one approaching.

After they abducted the girls, we took them to the forest. Gift and I were in charge of taking them out to answer the call of nature. Ask the girls, they would tell you Gift and I were nice to them. We were also part of the team that dropped them.

We took them to the bridge and gave them money. We asked them to climb on the bridge and seek for help.” Godfrey said immediately after that, everything began to move swiftly. He left the camp and called his girlfriend.

He warned her to be careful, that he had done something bad and was afraid policemen were hunting for him. He said: “I asked her to meet me at the hotel where I lodged in Ogun State.

I thought it would be difficult for the police to trace us to that place. I still don’t know how they arrested my girlfriend. She brought them to the hotel.”

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