Uzordima Chukwudi, 29, was a lotto operator before he took to kidnapping, a trade he was into before he was arrested by the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team, led by CSP Abba Kyari.
Chukwudi was arrested alongside some other members of the group, including Joseph Chiaotu, aka Ejima, 21, Anozie Chinonso, 25 and 27-year-old Chukwuma Agim, who is a prison official, in connection with the kidnap of a woman in Imo State.
Speaking to journalists during the week, Chukwudi said he was studying Mechanical Engineering at Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Imo State before he dropped out in his final year. “What led me into kidnapping was unfortunate,” he said.
He explained that the pressure to raise the bride price of his pregnant girlfriend lured him into the crime. He said, “My girlfriend is pregnant and I have been under pressure to pay her bride price but I had no money. She told me that since she became pregnant her mother had been ostracised by her fellow women in their village. The pressure was too much that I needed to look for money by all means.”
On how he came across the other suspects, Chukwudi explained that when the pressure became unbearable, he contacted two of his friends; Nnamdi, who is now in prison, and Chiboy, who later introduced him to Agim for the trade.
He said, “Agim, being a prison official, was the one making way for us whenever we approached a police check point but our first operation was not successful because the person we targeted escaped. But on the second operation, Chiboy went with a policeman and they kidnapped the woman.”
He said for his involvement in the deal and for taking food to the victim in the bush, he was given N100,000 as his share. He said, “Chiboy told me that he got only N1.1m from the woman but when we were arrested, the woman told us she paid N3m as ransom. The moment I got my own share, I gave my girlfriend part of it to start the preparation (for the wedding) while I went to the market to buy drinks. That was when I got a call from Agim and when I met him I was arrested.”
Agim, a prison official from Imo State who said he was lured into the trade by an inmate, Nnamdi, told journalists that even though he was able to buy clothes, settle his debts and fix his car with his N100,000 share in the ransom paid by the victim’s family, he regrets his involvement in the act.
He recalled that when he was posted to the Owerri prison, his mother, who was also serving in the prison, warned him to be wary of one inmate, named Vampire, and his friends so as not to get into trouble. He maintained that he was reluctant when Nnamdi approached him but that he later found the offer attractive.
He began, “I was in my final year student in Imo State University where I was studying Insurance. I was earning N43,000 monthly as a prison official and I was even thankful because I didn’t join the Service with a first degree.
“When I came for industrial attachment last year, our chief warder told us that there was a notorious kidnapper called Vampire who was arrested and would be brought to Owerri Prison. Early this year I met Nnamdi who was in the same cell with Vampire. Nnamdi first asked me to get him a phone and he offered me N3,000 but I refused. So, he met another officer who got him the phone. They kept pressurising me that they wanted us to be friends.
“So, one day, we sat behind the food store and they told me several stories about their escapade in kidnapping and I found it attractive. They told me they were rich people and they used to visit several popular bars in major towns in the South East and South South states and that when they observe rich people leaving the bar, they go after them and kidnap them.”
He said at the end of the conversation, they gave him a number and that with that he was able to link other members, including Chiboy, aka Eze Ekudeley, whom he called a big kidnapper, Ejima and Chukwudi.
He said they used to work with a policeman and that on the day they went to pick their victim, a woman, she wasn’t the main the target but she was traced to her house where she was picked.
“It was Nnamdi who called me to and look after the woman in the bush. I borrowed money from a friend and used it to buy food for the woman. I gave the food to Uzordima to give to the woman. I learnt the woman stayed for two days. I was given N100, 000 after the N1.1m ransom was collected. I bought clothes, settled my debt and fixed my car.
He said he was arrested few days after the operation. “It was Ejima who led them to me. I regret getting myself into this mess he lamented,” he added.
On his part, Ejima said his share of the ransom was N70,000, out of which he used N10,000 to buy shoes and clothes. “I don’t know how the police heard about what I did; they came after me and arrested me. I led the police to arrest the prison official and four other members of the gang, but we were unable to arrest Chiboy. He noticed the presence of the police and he attempted to escape. He ran into the bus and the police fired several shots at him but he wasn’t hit.
Chinonso, who also hailed from Imo State, said poverty led him into kidnapping. “All I was looking for was a little money to buy a bus on hire purchase because the one I had got spoilt. I met Ejima recently and I told him I needed assistance because I had no job. He promised he would help me.”
He explained that he participated in the kidnap and that his share was N100,000 but that he was arrested when he was about hiring a bus. “It was poverty that led me into this crime. I am a very poor person struggling for myself and my family. I have no one helping me and my mother is a very old woman. I pray this woman (the victim) and her family would forgive me, he said.