A Niger Republic-based kidnapping syndicate has demanded the payment of $100, 000 as ransom for the release of its 15-year-old victim, Precious Okoro.
The victim’s father, Nwaigwe, explained that Precious was kidnapped around Songotedo, in the Ajah area of Lagos State, where she had boarded a commercial vehicle en route to her school in Ikenne, Ogun State.
He said he never knew his daughter had been abducted until two weeks later when the school management contacted him to say Precious had not reported in school.
He explained that he reported the matter to the police at the Ajah Police Division, where he was asked to exercise patience. He said the cops initially thought she fled to a boyfriend’s house.
Nwaigwe, a trader, said he was later contacted by the kidnappers, who informed him that his daughter was in Niamey, the Niger Republic capital.
He said, “My daughter, who was on holiday, was returning to her school in Ikenne Communty College, Ikene, Ogun State. On Sunday, May 25, 2014, she boarded a bus at the motor park in my presence and I bid her farewell.
“I thought she was already in school until the principal called me and said the school was about writing exams and nobody knew her whereabouts.
“I quickly informed the police at Ajah, and the Divisional Police Officer told me to be calm and wait because it was possible she went to a boyfriend’s house and they probably wanted to fleece me.
“One fateful morning in August, I saw an international line and the kidnappers said they were calling from Niamey in the Niger Republic, adding that if I wanted to see my daughter alive, I should pay them $100,000.”
The Ohaozara, Ebonyi State indigene said he did not take the callers serious, until he heard the distressed voice of his daughter, who told him they were indeed in Niger Republic and that the bus she boarded that day was owned by the kidnappers.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the victim’s father began to receive repeated calls from the kidnappers, who later asked him to deposit an initial sum of $30,000.
He said, “I told them to send me an account number, and they sent an Ecobank account number belonging to one Nwachukwu Daniel. I did not have the money they requested and I contacted the police for help, but I was asked to still exercise patience.
“After some weeks, they called again and I asked for another account number. They sent a Diamond Bank account number.
“They were using different international lines to call. They used about 15 different numbers to call us,” he added.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the police later decided to use a decoy to get some of the kidnappers arrested.
A police source said one of the female officers disguised as a girlfriend of one of the kidnappers and called one of the international lines.
After a few weeks of telephone conversations, the kidnapper-lover invited his lady to Niger Republic.
He said, “He sent someone to bring her and detectives trailed her and monitored their calls. They were able to arrest a suspect, who, however, denied knowing anything about the kidnapping, but said he sometimes overheard the victim’s father conversing with the ‘lover’.”
The matter was said to have been transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department, Yaba, when there was no further breakthrough in the case.
Our correspondent gathered that the police decided to work on the three account numbers sent to the victim’s family.
A source told PUNCH Metro that the numbers led the police to different states in the country.
He said, “It was discovered that one of the account numbers was opened at Idumota, Lagos State, and when the police got there, they were told the owner was in Niger Republic.
“Another account number led the police to Onitsha, Anambra State, and when they investigated, they discovered that the owner had earlier been arrested by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Onitsha and had been killed. The N200, 000 the victim’s father paid into the account was stuck because the suspect did not collect it before he died.”
A punch correspondent was told that the police, however, arrested a sister of the suspect living in Aba, Abia State, who had been collecting money paid into a Diamond Bank account number opened in the state.
The girl was said to have admitted that the account belonged to her brother, who was sending money into it and giving her instructions on how the funds should be distributed among the family members.
A source said the girl had been arrested with two other suspects.
The victim’s father, Nwaigwe, said the matter had been referred to the Federal Criminal Investigation Department, Alagbon, Lagos.
It was learnt that the police had not been able to do anything due to lack of funds.
“The police have gone far on this case and needed funds to get those rogues arrested. There is still hope of getting the girl safe home,” a source said.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Kenneth Nwosu, said he would call back, but had yet to do so as of the time of filing this report.