The unprecedented visit of strange-looking men to the home of Dr. Paul Erie, an associate professor of agricultural economics at the Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension, Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, on June 16, 2015 signalled an omninous outcome. His house is located at Igbanke, Orhionmwon Local Government Area of Edo State. Time was 8pm.
The armed invaders numbering eight, reportedly positioned themselves strategically within the premises. While some of them barged into the sitting room without knocking, others stayed outside to ward off intruders.
They reportedly made straight for where Dr Erie was, with a stern warning to him to cooperate or have his life wasted by a bullet from their lethal weapon.
Like a sheep being led to the slaughter, Dr Erie reportedly obeyed and was subsequently whisked away in their operational vehicle which left a haze of dust from its screeching tyres.
The commando-like operation was that of kidnap! Investigations by Crime Guard revealed that Dr Erie’s case was not the first of its kind in Igbanke. In fact, some indigenes who came visiting during festive periods are frequently kidnapped, only to be released after payment of ransom.
Crime Guard gathered that after contact was established by Erie’s devastated family, N900,000 was dropped next day at a designated point at the instruction of his abductors who promised to release him later that day.
But the culprits never lived up to their promise as Erie’s apprehensive family members waited in vain for his return, without any explanation from his abductors on reasons for the delay.
The worst fears of the anxious family were however confirmed four months after, following the arrest of the suspected kidnappers by men of the Anti-Kidnapping Team set up by the Edo State Commissioner of Police, Mr Chris Ezike, where it was discovered to the chagrin of all, that Dr Erie had been murdered!
During interrogation, the suspects disclosed that the remains of Dr. Erie had been buried in a shallow grave in their hideout located inside a forest at Igbanke. Policemen of the Anti-Kidnapping Team, on the directive of the CP, reportedly accompanied the suspects to the shallow grave where an exhumation of the body carried out confirmed the corpse to be that of Dr Erie!
One of the suspect was in-law to deceased
Surprisingly, one of the suspects was discovered to be an in-law to the deceased. He is Lucky Amiehi, the suspected leader of the kidnap syndicate that had been terrorising Igbanke and the entire Edo State. In this interview with Crime Guard, Amiehi (33), a welder who admitted to have been behind several kidnaps in the state disclosed that information on their victims was often given to them by their relations.
He was however quick to state that he never knew that late Erie was his in-law until the gang’s sinister motive was accomplished. Hear him: “Yes, I was among those that went to kidnap Prof. from his house. I never knew him by his name. But he was popularly called ‘Prof.’ We never planned to kill him. His death was an error on the part of my colleagues.
After we succeeded in abducting him from his house, we drove straight to the bush where we kept him. We did not blindfold him, but only advised him to cooperate with us. Next day, I contacted his wife and demanded for N10 million ransom. But she pleaded that she could only raise N900,000 and I told her where to take the money to.
“Immediately after the conversation, I went back to the bush only to discover that Prof.’s mouth was tied with his singlet. When I asked why, they told me that he attempted to raise the alarm when he heard footsteps. “But on close observation, I discovered that he was motionless. Immediately, I untied his mouth.
Yet, he did not move. I called the attention of the boys that tied him up, but they claimed he was only pretending. Since it was raining, I let him be, with the hope that he would be revived by the rain. That evening, I went to the meeting point to collect the N900,000 ransom from his wife.
“But to my surprise, I later discovered that he was my in-law.
My sister was married to Prof’s younger brother who died about five years ago. She had a son for him. Though I visited her while her late husband was alive, I never met Prof. It was when my relative told me that my sister’s brother in-law had been kidnapped and described his house to me, that I realised I had shot myself in the leg.
“I never gave anyone information on Prof. In fact, one of us wanted to kidnap him before now. But by the time they went, they discovered he had left for Ekpoma Campus of AAU, where he was a lecturer. On the day he was eventually kidnapped, I was informed he was around. In fact, two members of our gang had to keep watch on his apartment before our arrival.”
“We treat our victims like VIPs”
“We never beat our victims because someone who wants to give you money does not deserve to be beaten. Rather, we treated them like VIPs. We never meant to kill Prof. His death was an error. The singlet used to tie his mouth was mistakenly used to tie his nose as well. He could have suffocated.”
Amiehi disclosed further that, before the abduction of late Dr Erie, an indigene of Igbanke who came visiting from Port Harcourt, River State, Mr Abel Ushagwu, was also abducted the same week. Ushagwu, Crime Guard gathered, was also taken to the bush, from where he was released after N5 million was paid as ransom.
Amiehi revealed that he got N600,000 out of the amount, and added: “The man worked in an oil firm in Port Harcourt. He visited the village for burial. On his way back from the funeral ceremony, we laid ambush for him in front of his house. We also had the intention of selling the victim’s car. But it was tracked by the police to where we packed it.
“I was also responsible for the abduction of two Chinese men along Esan Road. We drove them to the bush as usual but they later escaped. They were able to escape because after each kidnap, we usually stayed distance away from where our victims were kept. That way, policemen will not be able to trace our exact location, should they be tracking our calls.”
Asked how they were able to abduct the Chinese men, he said: “We laid ambush for them along the expressway and struck when they slowed down on approaching a bad spot.” Also asked how they were able to cover their tracks in the bush without being noticed by villagers who have farmlands around their den, he said victims were usually warned in their own interest to keep quiet since they were not going to be used for rituals.
He further explained that most times, they monitored farmers before leaving or going to visit their den. “I also changed my clothes any time I was going out of the bush so as not to arouse farmers’ suspicion. Besides, the forest is very far from villagers farmlands, so no one could easily see our victims.”
Business, according to him, sometimes went sour, particularly when they discovered that their victims were poor. “Most times, it was women that turned out to be poor victims. And these people were usually those kidnapped outside Igbanke. Any time such persons were kidnapped, we would allow them to go because our purpose of kidnapping in the first place was to make money.”
Asked what he used the money realised from the illicit business for, he replied in a harsh tone: “Ah! Ah! Why are you asking me such question? Am I not a family man? It is expected that I should have expenses as a family man. I have a wife and two children who are students.”
When asked if his wife was aware that he was into kidnapping, he replied: “No, she was not. I did not even give her any reasonable amount any time business boomed, or must I tell my wife everything? She does not have to know everything about me simply because she is my wife. Whenever I went out for an operation, whether at night or in the day time, I didn’t need her approval. And whenever I returned, she won’t ask me where I went to.”
Beginning of kidnapping career, arrest
“I started kidnapping since 2012 and we were more than eight initially. Some of our members are no longer in Nigeria. “But whenever business was low, I focused on my welding job”, he said without feeling remorseful.
Arrested alongside Amiehi were Usiagwu Stephen (68), Jeremiah Amayo (40), Samson Idegbema (39), Eboigbe Monday, Ejimeh Oyairie (55), Benjamin Blessing (27) and Odion Otabo (40). Some of them confessed their culpability in several kidnaps in the state while others claimed to be victims of circumstance, appealing to the police to pardon them.
But the Command boss, Mr Chris Ezike, stated that their case would be determined at the court where they would soon be charged to, adding that the Command had resolved to launch a strategic battle against kidnapping in the state. He therefore warned others still indulged in the criminal act to desist or have same fate befall them.