Thirty-two-year-old Edet Ekuno, an ex-banker, and seven others are currently in the police net for alleged kidnapping, robbery and illegal dealing in arms.
Ekuno, it was learnt, worked with one Hope Okon, an ND 2 Computer Engineering student at a polytechnic in Akwa Ibom; Sunday Samiga, Unagbon Isaiah and other suspects at large, to kidnap unsuspecting well-to-do residents around Lagos and Akwa Ibom states.
PUNCH Metro gathered that a decoy team, led by the officer in charge of the Special Anti- Robbery Squad, ASP Abba Kyari, rounded up the suspects at about 2am on March 7 at D2 Hotel in the Ojodu-Berger area, where they were reportedly perfecting plans to kidnap a businessman in Magodo Estate.
Two locally-made pistols and 18 live cartridges were said to have been recovered from the gang.
A cab driver, who reportedly aided the syndicate with his car, was said to have evaded arrest.
Ekuno, who lives in Ajah, told PUNCH Metro that he joined the group in 2012 to kidnap one of his neighbours working with Chevron. He added that he could not explain what prompted him to the act.
He said, “I was laid off by the bank I used to work for. I am also an estate agent and the music minister in a church. I don’t just know what came over me. The 2012 operation involved a neighbour, but it was not successful. The man shouted for help and we fled with his money and phones. We were five in that operation. I was given N20,000 from the proceeds. Magodo operation was my second attempt.”
In his confession, 27-year-old Okon said he made N800,000 from one of his operations after collecting N5m ransom from the family of a woman they kidnapped. Okon added that he had been in Lagos for about two weeks monitoring their target’s movements.
He said, “In 2010, in Akwa Ibom, we kidnapped a woman whose daughter is a medical doctor. We released her after her family paid N5m. My share was N800,000. I used it to keep poultry, but it later collapsed due to poor management. The cab driver gave us information that the businessman was rich because he rode different types of cars. I was about to go back to Akwa Ibom having exhausted the N50,000 on me when we were arrested. Samiga and Isaiah usually helped us to scare our victims with guns but they don’t kill.”
Apart from the gang, four other suspects ─ Andrew Moukwue, Christopher Edwin, Peter Onyeale and Okpara Reginald ─ were paraded for illegal dealing in arms and robbery.
Our correspondent gathered that three Ak-47 rifles, two baretta and brownie pistols were recovered from them.
Moukwue, the kingpin of the dealers, who was apprehended in Onitsha, Anambra State and transferred to the Lagos command, was said to have led SARS operatives back to his accomplices’ hideouts.
Fifty-year-old Moukwue said he had sold over 100 guns since 2011, adding that he had customers across the country.
He said, “I bought the guns from one Alhaji Amau in Ibadan. I have sold more than 100. I buy one for N350,000 and sell for N400,000. People came from Anambra, Bayelsa, Rivers, Abia, Enugu and Lagos states to buy from me.
“I had a store at a market in Onitsha, where I kept the guns. I use the money I realise to train my children. I did not know the business is illegal until I was arrested.”
Edwin, who hails from Omasi in Anambra State, told our correspondent that he had bought 14 guns from Moukwe since he started the business in 2014.
“I was selling beverages before somebody introduced me to this business last year. I resold each of the 14 guns I bought from Moukwue for N430,000. Nomads and businessmen patronised me,” he said.
Reginald, 30-year-old final year Economics student, said he knew Moukwue through his master, who is now late.
The Lagos State Commissioner of police, Kayode Aderanti, said the suspects were apprehended through information provided by members of the public.
Aderanti also said the police would hunt down the bandits who killed three cops and a fish seller while robbing a bank in the Lekki area.
He said, “We will ensure that perpetrators of Lekki robbery are brought to justice. The type of weapons used by these robbers showed that they were well prepared. It requires diligent investigation to fish them out. I promise that such an attack will not happen again.”