Unease in Enugu as killings, kidnappings set communities on edge

Motorists protesting over the continuous kidnapping activities on Enugu -Ugwuogo Nike -Opi Nsukka Expressway last Tuesday

*Police, anxious residents in verbal war

By Damian Duruiheoma, Enugu

Since the month of June, 2023, residents of Enugu State have been reminded once more of how precarious life has become in the state following the renewed spike in kidnapping, routine killings and armed robbery activities. 

While some of these criminal activities, to say the least, have now left most residents on the edge and in trepidation of what fate lies ahead, some others have taken it as a pass time to the effect that they no longer feel surprised to hear such incidents criminal activities happening around them.

However, one of such incidents that have left a sour taste in the mouth of residents was the killing of a graduate of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), Augustine Somuadina Ali, on Friday June 2. Somuadina was said to have been kidnapped while going home to his village in Udi, Enugu State.

It was gathered that three days before his kidnap, Somuadina had procured a United Kingdom visa for his Masters degree programme. He was said to be heading to his village, Umuochi Ugwu in Orji Amokwe, Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State when he ran into the kidnappers.

It was further gathered that his body was found where it was dumped along a road hours later even as his abductors never asked for ransom before his death. He was said to be the hope of his family, a reason they ensured that he moved to the UK for his Masters Degree.

Similarly, a final-year student of the Institute of Management Technology (IMT) who boarded a mini-bus on his way to school was kidnapped. A huge ransom was reportedly paid for his release.

Last week Friday on June 23, masked gunmen numbering over 30 attacked and killed a security operative identified as Onyebu Idoko, working with the Central Neighbourhood Watch in Igboeze North Local Government Area. He was on his way to work when the incident happened.

According to a source, the hoodlums operated freely despite the presence of military and police formations the area.

He said: “It was a terrible situation. The shock is too much for me. We saw them marching with guns and ordering people to clear the road until the neighbourhood watch member ran into them.

“They ordered the man who was riding on his motorcycle to alight and leave the arena; then they shot him severally. His blood was flowing like water on the road,” he said.

Apart from the routine killings, criminal gangs are holding the state hostage with their indulgence in armed robberies, which has become a daily occurrence in the state, particularly, the state capital.

While the activities of criminals who use tricycles and mini-buses to rob and dispossess unsuspecting residents of their valuables, has been there, there have been increasing cases of attacks on Point-of-Sale (POS) operators in recent weeks.

This is more pronounced around Gariki, One-day and Menuri axis in Enugu South Local Government Area of the state as well as Abakpa and Emene areas in Enugu East LGA.

A witness said that the robbers attacked the unsuspecting operators and succeeded in dispossessing them of huge cash.

A POS operator was also attacked at Texaco Junction, Abakpa, Enugu East, by some hoodlums who released gunshots into the air as they escaped.

In some occasions, the robbers even became emboldened to attack certain areas that were hitherto seen as no-go areas for criminals. For instance, on June 17, armed robbers operating in a brand new black coloured bus stormed the popular Roban Stores Enugu along the popular Bisalla Road which around the Enugu Government House.

It was gathered that the masked robbers, could not gain entrance into the store, as they were reported to have been stopped from entering the shop courtesy of internal security which automatically shut the doors against them.

However, the robbers reportedly escaped with two customer’s vehicles as well as its occupants. Another customer was also said to have been abducted as the invading robbers made good their escape.

While, the residents are getting more on the edge over the activities of armed robbers, the incidences of kidnapping for ransom now assumed a disturbing dimension, particularly along the Enugu-Ugwogo Nike-Opi Nsukka Road, where bandits, conduct regular acts of kidnapping activities, most times unchallenged.

It could be recalled that late last year, the kidnappers, suspected to be herdsmen, resident in the Ugwuogo Nike forests, took over the road and abducted travellers on a daily basis. The climax was the abduction of a former Secretary to the Enugu State Government, Dr Dan Shere, as well as some returning students of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka(UNN).

Then governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, deployed heavy security to the road and even had to lead the police, arny and other security chiefs to the forests in Ugwuogo Nike. His visit led to the clearing of the forest for visibility and ended the kidnapping menace.

However, the bandits have now returned back with more vicious attacks on motorists, while taking travellers hostage on a regular basis.

It was gathered that no fewer than 23 persons had been kidnapped for ransom on the said road between Tuesday June 20 till Friday June 23 despite the presence of over ten police and military check points on the road. While some of the victims had regained freedom after payment of huge ransoms, others whose relatives were yet to raise the required ransom, were still held in captivity as of the time of filing this report.

The Enugu-Ugwogo-Opi Nsukka Road, our correspondent learned, is a stretch of road that is less than 10km long.

Some of the recent victims of the kidnap hail from Eha-Alumona community in Nsukka LGA. It was gathered that families of four of the victims from the community, paid total sum of N11 million as ransom for their relatives to regain freedom five days after they were kidnapped on the same road.

On Thursday, June 22, the kidnappers were said to have struck three times on the said road between the hours of 12 noon to 5pm and marched their victims into their hideouts.

A stakeholder from Ehalumona community, Dr Sampson Ugwu told reporters before the release of their kinsmen that their natives were still being held hostage, stressing that efforts to reach them have proved abortive.

He said the four natives left Enugu and coming to the community on Thursday for burial but were kidnapped between Ekwegbe and Opi-Agu boundaries.

A relation of one of the kidnapped persons, stated that his relative was kidnapped on Friday June 23 on their way to a burial in Nsukka, stressing that “just Sunday morning, his abductors called and demanded to know how much we can raise in cash. They said they needed cash and that they would call again in an hour’s time. But as I speak to you (3.30pm), they are yet to call back”.

Some residents and observers within the ancient city believe that the spate of violence and insecurity has taken the alarming dimension in the state because the security agencies had been lax in clamping down on identified and notorious hoodlums within the state, particularly that of Enugu-Ugwuogo Nike-Opi-Nsukka Road.

Perturbed by the development, Council Chairman for Nsukka Local government, Walter Ozioko, mobilised a special security patrol on the length and breadth of the distressed road daily so as to restore sanity.

Ozioko stated that the essence of governance, remained the provision of security of lives and property for the governed, stressing that the intensified security “is aimed at curbing the rising menace of kidnapping along Opi-Ugwogo road,”

While addressing the security team in his Adada House office before deploying them, the chairman charged them “to make the road uncomfortable for the hoodlums”.

He stated that he would embark on another round of bush clearing along the roadsides to increase visibility for commuters and remove hiding places that enable the kidnappers swoop on their unsuspecting victims, suddenly.

Sadly, the security agencies, especially the police, do not seem to get a handle on the sticky situation. While residents think the situation was an ominous one that required a decisive and emergency response, the state police command denied any knowledge of such incidents, especially the kidnap cases.

The police, which dwelled so much on a viral video and report of repeated kidnappings on the Enugu-Ugwogo-Opi-Nsukka road, said viral video was “untrue and misleading”.

Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Daniel Ndukwe stated: “The Enugu State Police Command is in receipt of a viral video clip depicting gunshots and people running in a forest, with the accompanying message that “Enugu-Ugwogo is not safe now… Yesterday, hoodlums kidnapped three times yesterday. The first was by 12pm, 2pm and 6pm.” This was similarly published in some news blogs and webpages with the title: “kidnappers conduct marathon operations at Nsukka-Ugwogo-Nike-Enugu Road”.

“The Command, therefore, wishes to state categorically that the video, with the accompanying message and the news publications, are not only untrue, but highly unfounded and misleading. This is because there was no such serial or repeated incident of kidnapping on the same day as reported, or shooting and chaotic incident as relayed in the video, at the mentioned location or any other part of the State.

“As a matter of fact, forensic analysis of the video indicates that it did not happen anywhere in the country, let alone Enugu State. In the same vein, the Command sees the unverified and unfounded report of repeated kidnapping incidents on the same day, as a misleading and mischievous act of misinformation, aimed at creating panic in the State.

“Nonetheless, the Command, while acknowledging the recent reoccurrence of acts of abduction/kidnapping at some locations of the said road, wishes to clearly state that sensationalizing and blowing the situation out of proportion, as intended by peddlers of the video clip and the publication, will never be in the best interest of the security and safety of the State and her people”.

He said that the Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Ammani, has ordered the massive deployment of the Command’s policing resources to the said location and other of such locations, to sustained onslaught against criminal elements. 

“He reiterates the unwavering commitment of the Command to contain such acts of crime and criminality in the State and to bring their perpetrators to book.

“The CP, therefore, enjoins citizens of the State, especially those of locations where acts of abduction/kidnapping and other criminality are perpetrated, to assist the Command with credible information and intelligence required to tackle the situations headlong. This they can do by reporting at the nearest Police Station or by calling the Command’s emergency hotlines on: 08032003702, 08075380883, 08086671202 or 08098880172, or send email to infoenugupolice@gmail.com”, he said.

However, two days after the police statement denying reports of the incidents, angry motorists on Tuesday blocked that axis of the notorious Ugwogo-Opi Nsukka Expressway in protest over the continuous kidnapping activities along the road. 

It was gathered that the kidnappers returned back on the road and took some travelers away.

 The protest left hundreds of commuters and travelers stranded on Tuesday. The protesters, who were carrying placards with different inscriptions, called on the state government to immediately intervene to arrest the situation.

One of the protesters, Andrew Ugwu said, “Government should urgently intervene on this road. We cannot continue plying this road in fear. Men, women and children are in the bush and the government is not doing anything about it. 

“Criminals are increasing on this road and security operatives are reducing. The attention of the government is highly needed. It is either the government intervenes or nobody will ply this road again”. 

Confirming the protest, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor Peter Mbah on New Media, Reuben Onyishi, assured road users of the safety of the road, adding that no new case of kidnapping was recorded on the road.

“The true position was that commercial Siena drivers converged at Opi- Nsukka with placards, protesting the cases of kidnapping that took place on the road last week.

“They were addressed by the DPO of Umabo Police Station, Eha-Alumona Nsukka this morning, explaining to them the security measures that had been put in place and which had successfully cleared the road off kidnappers. Thereafter, they dispersed and went about their businesses”, he said.

He also encouraged residents to disregard the claims by ‘mischief makers’ on assignment to scare commuters that kidnappers were on the road. 

“The road is safe as a joint team of the military, police and forest guards patrol the road and the bushes. Let no one be scared. Opi-Ugwuogo Road is safe as the Enugu State Government has adequately contained any form of insecurity on that road,” he said.

Interestingly, moments after the protest on the road, the state police command paraded 15 criminal suspects, including two of the kidnappers involved in the daily abduction of travelers along Ugwuogo Nike-Opi Nsukka Road.

Some of the kidnap and armed robbery suspects paraded at the Enugu State Police command headquarters recently

They were paraded at the State Police Command headquarters alongside 13 other suspects arrested for various crimes.

The Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, of the command, DSP Daniel Ndukwe, who addressed journalists, Tuesday, on behalf of the Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Ammani said a female victim (names withheld), escaped from the kidnappers.

He gave the names of the suspects as Sani Usman, aged 25 and Landi Usman, aged 30, both from Sokoto State.

Ndukwe said: “a total of fifteen (15) male suspects were arrested for the offenses of conspiracy, murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, rape, unlawful possession of firearms and fraudulent acts.

“These arrests led to the rescue of seven (7) kidnapped victims and the recovery of seven (7) firearms, two (2) motor vehicles, one (1) motorcycle, one (1) dagger, cash sum of N701,000.00 and other incriminating exhibits, in the separate operations carried out by Police Operatives of the Command, with support from other security forces and law-abiding citizens.”

“Accordingly, Operatives of Anti-Cultism Squad of the Command, on 26/06/2023 at about 2 am, acting on a tip-off, carried out a raid operation in a hotel (name withheld) along Enugu/Port-Harcourt Expressway and arrested one Ali Jubril aged 25, a native of Kogi State.

“The suspect is reasonably suspected to be a member of a kidnapping gang, while the total sum of N701,000.00, which he could not give satisfactorily account of, and one (1) dagger, were recovered from him. Further discreet investigation is ongoing at the Anti-Kidnapping Squad of the Command

“Similarly, Police Operatives of the Command, serving in Igbo-Eze North Division, with active assistance from Forest Guard and Neighbourhood Watch Group, on 25/06/2023 at about 1pm, rescued four (4) kidnapped victims (two males and two females, names withheld), after an intense gun fight with the kidnappers in a forest at Aishi-Ette in Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area.

“The kidnappers, most of whom escaped with varying degrees of gunshot wounds, abandoned the victims due to the superior firepower of the Operatives. However, one of the victims sustained a gunshot wound in his left thigh during the duel, but was moved to the hospital, is responding to treatment and in stable condition; while others and all the Operatives returned unscathed.

“The victims were reported to have been kidnapped at Umuopu village, along Ette/Ogugu Road, on 23/06/2023 at about 9.30 pm, on their way to Obollo-Afor, Enugu State from Ankpa, Kogi State, with the hoodlums said to have demanded ransom of N10,000,000.00 for each of them.

“Also, acting on a tip-off, Police Operatives of the Command serving in Adani Police Division, in a Joint Operation with Troops of the Nigerian Army Enugu, Forest Guards and the Neighbourhood Watch Group, on 25/06/2023 at about 6 pm, rescued a woman and her child, alleged to have been kidnapped at Ngene-Ukwu, along Adani-Opanda Road. The Joint Team is still on the trail of the suspected kidnappers.

“In a different case, acting on credible information on alleged attempted armed robbery, Police Operatives serving in Awkunanaw Division of the Command, in synergy with the Neighbourhood Watch Group, on 22/06/2023 at about 1.30pm, arrested one male suspect, Danjuma Mohammed aged 21, at New Gariki Cattle Market, and recovered one (1) locally fabricated pistol from him. Further discreet investigation to apprehend his cohorts at large and recover more exhibits is ongoing.

“In another development, following the receipt of distress information on alleged kidnapping at Api-Opi, along Enugu/Opi/Nsukka Road, on 19/06/2023 at about 6pm, Police Operatives serving in Umabor Division of the Command, immediately mobilized to the scene and while combing the forest, they rescued a female victim (names withheld), who had escaped from the kidnappers.

“However, while still at the scene, the Operatives sighted and arrested two (2) male suspects: Sani Usman aged 25 and Landi Usman aged 30, both from Sokoto State, who the rescued victim identified as members of the kidnapping gang. The motorcycle they rode to the scene was recovered, while the case is undergoing further discreet investigation and tactical operational actions at the Anti-Kidnapping Squad of the Command.

“Also, on 18/06/2023, Police Operatives serving in Abakaliki Road Division, acting on credible information, busted a “one chance” armed robbery, abduction, rape and fraud syndicate, and arrested the following suspects: Uche Nnanna Ede aged 21, of Ugbawka, Nkanu East LGA, Paschal Chukwu aged 25, of Nomeh in Nkanu East LGA, Moses Uchechukwu Nnaji aged 20, of Agbani in Nkanu West LGA, and Joshua Okonkwo aged 22, of Ugbawka, Nkanu East LGA.

“Their arrest is as a result of the Operatives tactical response to series of complaints, alleging that the suspects used commercial mini buses to abduct their unsuspecting victims within Enugu metropolis, particularly young females, to secluded locations, where they robbed, raped and transferred sums of money out of their bank accounts at gunpoint. One (1) Pump Action gun was recovered from them.

“Also, Police Operatives serving in Emene Police Division of the Command, on 20/06/2023 at about 7.20am, while on routine stop and search duty along Ugwuomu-Nike Road, Enugu, intercepted a motorcycle and upon search conducted on the rider and his male passenger, two (2) locally made guns and workshop tools were recovered from the passenger, one Edeh Longinus aged 47, who is physically challenged and of Ohuani-Owo in Nkanu East LGA.

“Preliminary investigation shows that he is a gun fabricator and runner, with workshop at Amanvu in Nkalagu community of Ebonyi State. Further discreet investigation is ongoing at Crack Squad Unit of the Command.

“Similarly, Police Operatives serving in Udenu Area Command of the Command, arrested one Obinna Emmanuel Nnaji aged 29, of Obollor-Afor, on 16/06/2023, for threatening violence and unlawful possession of firearm, recovering one (1) locally made Double-barreled gun from him.

“His arrest and the recovery is sequel to a report received at the Area Command, alleging that he, on 31/05/2023 at about 5.30pm, violently threatened to shoot the complainant (names withheld), who had gone to his house in April 2023, to demand for the payment of the sum of N70,000.00 she lend to him. Further discreet investigation into the case is ongoing at the Anti-Robbery Section of the State CID Enugu.

“In a related development, Police Operatives serving in Nkanu East Division, working with members of the Neighbourhood Watch Group, on 21/03/2023, arrested one Chiemerie Edeh aged 22, at Ishi-Ogbo Nara in Nkanu East LGA, and recovered one (1) locally made pistol from him.

“His arrest was due to a complaint alleging that he violently threatened the complainant on the said day. The suspect and the exhibit were transferred to the Anti-Robbery Section of the State CID Enugu, from where further discreet investigation led to the recovery of two (2) more locally made guns from him.

“In another development, Police Operatives serving in Trans-Ekulu Division of the Command, on 28/04/2023 at about 4.30pm, arrested one Chibuike Eze aged 27 and Paulinus Orji aged 26 at T-Junction, Abakpa-Nike Enugu, following the receipt of a report that a black-coloured Peugeot 307, alleged to have been snatched at gunpoint from its owner sometimes in April 2023, was sighted displayed for sale at the said location.

“Preliminary investigation shows that after snatching the vehicle, Chibuike Eze took it to the workshop of Paulinus Orji, an Auto-electrician, where it was put up for sale before they were arrested and the vehicle recovered.

“And following the confessional statement of Chibuike Eze, Police Detectives serving in the Anti-Robbery Section of the State CID of the Command, further recovered in Abuja, a white-coloured Lexus LX250 car, the suspects and cohorts had snatched from its owner in Awka, Anambra State in April 2023 at gunpoint.

“Also, the same Police Detectives, acting on intelligence, on 14/05/2023, arrested one Onyeanaso Ekene aged 25, of Egbona Street, Topland Enugu, following the receipt of a report that he, on 30/03/2023 at about 2pm, bought different electronic items at the total cost of N1,500,000.00, from an Electronic Shop (name withheld) at Zik’s Avenue Enugu, and left with the items after making a fake transfer payment of the said sum to the seller.

“In a similar fashion, the same Detectives, acting on intelligence, arrested one Mmesoma Linus (a.k.a “Silver Money”) aged 26, on 23/05/2023, at Independence Layout Enugu, for issuing a fake credit alert of N3,530,000.00 to an unsuspecting timber dealer (names withheld) in Nsukka Timber Market, on 28/11/2021.

“The suspect, who has been on the watch-list of the Police for the criminal act perpetrated on the victim and others, had on the said day, after pretending to buy woods from the victim, sent the fake credit sum and deceived the seller to give him its cash equivalent, which he immediately made away with.

“The suspect confessed to the crime, while a video clip intercepted in the course of the ongoing discreet investigation, shows him spraying cash, which is reasonably suspected to be proceed of his criminal activities, in a nightclub.

“The suspects will be arraigned in court and prosecuted accordingly, once investigation into the cases are concluded.”

He reiterated the commitment of the Command to continue to protect the lives and property of citizens, as well as maintain maximum public security and safety in the State.

By Damian Duruiheoma, Enugu

“Also, on 18/06/2023, Police Operatives serving in Abakaliki Road Division, acting on credible information, busted a “one chance” armed robbery, abduction, rape and fraud syndicate, and arrested the following suspects: Uche Nnanna Ede aged 21, of Ugbawka, Nkanu East LGA, Paschal Chukwu aged 25, of Nomeh in Nkanu East LGA, Moses Uchechukwu Nnaji aged 20, of Agbani in Nkanu West LGA, and Joshua Okonkwo aged 22, of Ugbawka, Nkanu East LGA.

“Their arrest is as a result of the Operatives tactical response to series of complaints, alleging that the suspects used commercial mini buses to abduct their unsuspecting victims within Enugu metropolis, particularly young females, to secluded locations, where they robbed, raped and transferred sums of money out of their bank accounts at gunpoint. One (1) Pump Action gun was recovered from them.

“Also, Police Operatives serving in Emene Police Division of the Command, on 20/06/2023 at about 7.20am, while on routine stop and search duty along Ugwuomu-Nike Road, Enugu, intercepted a motorcycle and upon search conducted on the rider and his male passenger, two (2) locally made guns and workshop tools were recovered from the passenger, one Edeh Longinus aged 47, who is physically challenged and of Ohuani-Owo in Nkanu East LGA.

“Preliminary investigation shows that he is a gun fabricator and runner, with workshop at Amanvu in Nkalagu community of Ebonyi State. Further discreet investigation is ongoing at Crack Squad Unit of the Command.

“Similarly, Police Operatives serving in Udenu Area Command of the Command, arrested one Obinna Emmanuel Nnaji aged 29, of Obollor-Afor, on 16/06/2023, for threatening violence and unlawful possession of firearm, recovering one (1) locally made Double-barreled gun from him.

“His arrest and the recovery is sequel to a report received at the Area Command, alleging that he, on 31/05/2023 at about 5.30pm, violently threatened to shoot the complainant (names withheld), who had gone to his house in April 2023, to demand for the payment of the sum of N70,000.00 she lend to him. Further discreet investigation into the case is ongoing at the Anti-Robbery Section of the State CID Enugu.

“In a related development, Police Operatives serving in Nkanu East Division, working with members of the Neighbourhood Watch Group, on 21/03/2023, arrested one Chiemerie Edeh aged 22, at Ishi-Ogbo Nara in Nkanu East LGA, and recovered one (1) locally made pistol from him.

“His arrest was due to a complaint alleging that he violently threatened the complainant on the said day. The suspect and the exhibit were transferred to the Anti-Robbery Section of the State CID Enugu, from where further discreet investigation led to the recovery of two (2) more locally made guns from him.

“In another development, Police Operatives serving in Trans-Ekulu Division of the Command, on 28/04/2023 at about 4.30pm, arrested one Chibuike Eze aged 27 and Paulinus Orji aged 26 at T-Junction, Abakpa-Nike Enugu, following the receipt of a report that a black-coloured Peugeot 307, alleged to have been snatched at gunpoint from its owner sometimes in April 2023, was sighted displayed for sale at the said location.

“Preliminary investigation shows that after snatching the vehicle, Chibuike Eze took it to the workshop of Paulinus Orji, an Auto-electrician, where it was put up for sale before they were arrested and the vehicle recovered.

“And following the confessional statement of Chibuike Eze, Police Detectives serving in the Anti-Robbery Section of the State CID of the Command, further recovered in Abuja, a white-coloured Lexus LX250 car, the suspects and cohorts had snatched from its owner in Awka, Anambra State in April 2023 at gunpoint.

“Also, the same Police Detectives, acting on intelligence, on 14/05/2023, arrested one Onyeanaso Ekene aged 25, of Egbona Street, Topland Enugu, following the receipt of a report that he, on 30/03/2023 at about 2pm, bought different electronic items at the total cost of N1,500,000.00, from an Electronic Shop (name withheld) at Zik’s Avenue Enugu, and left with the items after making a fake transfer payment of the said sum to the seller.

“In a similar fashion, the same Detectives, acting on intelligence, arrested one Mmesoma Linus (a.k.a “Silver Money”) aged 26, on 23/05/2023, at Independence Layout Enugu, for issuing a fake credit alert of N3,530,000.00 to an unsuspecting timber dealer (names withheld) in Nsukka Timber Market, on 28/11/2021.

“The suspect, who has been on the watch-list of the Police for the criminal act perpetrated on the victim and others, had on the said day, after pretending to buy woods from the victim, sent the fake credit sum and deceived the seller to give him its cash equivalent, which he immediately made away with.

“The suspect confessed to the crime, while a video clip intercepted in the course of the ongoing discreet investigation, shows him spraying cash, which is reasonably suspected to be proceed of his criminal activities, in a nightclub.

“The suspects will be arraigned in court and prosecuted accordingly, once investigation into the cases are concluded.”

He reiterated the commitment of the Command to continue to protect the lives and property of citizens, as well as maintain maximum public security and safety in the State.

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