Saturday, 30 July 2016

We used N1.5m ransom for Sallah celebration – Suspects who kidnapped Sierra Leonean envoy

The suspects who kidnapped the Deputy High Commissioner of Sierra Leone to Nigeria, Maj-Gen. Alfred Claude-Nelson, have confessed to the crime.

The kidnappers, who are currently in police custody, made a series of confessions on Friday, with some of them saying they used to be cattle rustlers but had to venture into kidnapping following the killing of some of their members by herdsmen.

DAILY POST recalls that Claude-Nelson, who was travelling with his driver, was kidnapped on June 30 along Kaduna-Abuja Road by suspected gunmen and freed on July 5.

The vehicle was accosted by a gang of kidnappers, who took them hostage for four days before releasing them after N1.5m ransom was paid.

It was gathered that some of the kidnappers were dressed in army uniform, which made it easier for them to stop the vehicle.

The Force Public Relations Officer, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Don Awunah, who paraded the suspects before newsmen, said the suspects were arrested through a coordinated police operation.

In their confession on Friday, the suspects, 45-year-old Alhaji Rabiu Yusuf (said to be leader of the gang), 27-year-old Garba Abubakar (second in command), Yusuf Adam (20), Hussaini Musa (25), Shuaibu Idris (35), Usman Bello (20), Muhammadu Abubabar (30), Sulaiman Abubakar (25), Musa Iliyasu (20), and 45-year-old Musa Ali, a security guard, said the ransom they got for the release of the envoy was used for Sallah celebration, which held between July 5 and 7, 2016.

One of the suspects, Abubakar, who was the first suspect to be arrested, said when they were planning the kidnap, they never had anyone in mind, as all that mattered to them was to raise money and have a memorable Sallah celebration.

He said he used to be a cattle rustler but switched to kidnapping after some of his colleagues were killed by herdsmen while attempting to steal some cows in Kaduna State.

“I invited my girlfriend from Zaria during the Sallah celebration and we spent part of the money together. In fact, she was with me at Paki Local Government secretariat in Kaduna State, when I was arrested.

“When we staged the kidnap on the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway by blocking the Dutse end of the expressway, some of us were putting on army uniforms.

“When we abducted the man (the envoy), he and his driver thought we were genuine soldiers until we realised they were being kidnapped. We did not know he was an ambassador until we saw it on the news. We demanded N30m as ransom but accepted N1.5m.

“It was one Umaru, who collected the ransom, but he declared only N1m and I got N200,000 as my share. That operation was the third operation I had done with that gang,” the Katsina State indigene said.

Yusuf, who is the leader of the gang, said when he and some of his colleagues were still into cattle rustling, they stole not less than 100 cows in the forest, usually when the owners were sleeping in the night.

The father of 10 said they always sold the cows to a man named Saleh, who is now dead.

He said two of his gang members were caught and killed instantly by the herdsmen during a cattle rustling operation.

“We recruited more men after that but last year, Saleh died and there was no one else to receive our stolen cows, so I ventured into kidnapping. I recruited eight persons to form the kidnapping gang. Mohammed, Musa and Sule brought two rifles, 16 live ammunitions and two army uniforms which we used in our operations,” the gang leader added.