Solomon Eze, a 30-year-old pastor, who is currently cooling off at the dreaded cell of the special anti-robbery squad, SARS, Ikeja, Lagos over an alleged case of armed robbery and kidnapping is finding it difficult to maintain his innocence.
The Abia State-born suspect, who was arrested with an Ak 47 rifle, told Crime Alert that he is a deliverance minister at The Bride Assembly, a Church located at Ijesha area of the State. He explained further that the rifle found in his possession belongs to a friend he met at Ikire prayer mountain in Osun State.
However, police sources intimated Crime Alert that Eze was arrested during investigations into the gruesome murder of a police corporal, Iweka Ramat, at kirikiri area of Lagos State. Sources said Eze and one of his colleagues were accosted inside a taxi cab by a police patrol team at Berger axis of kirikiri Town in February 2013 and while the police attempted to search them, they bolted out of the cab and the policemen went after them. The police officer, Ramat, who went after Eze was later found dead in an isolated part of the area after a deafening sound of gunfire was heard.
The taxi driver was taken into custody and later transferred to the SARS where he was interrogated. It was gathered at that point that Eze contacted the taxi driver on the phone before he picked them. “We retrieved the phone number from the taxi driver and we contacted the network provider who furnished us with Eze’s home address. On April 4, 2013 the officer in charge of SARS, Sp Abba Kyari led a team of crack operatives to Eze’ s apartment at No.113, Idowu Street, Olodi Apapa, Lagos, around 2 am in the morning where they apprehended him.
He later took the operatives to an apartment in Ikorodu area of the state where they recovered an Ak 47 rifle with number 6090. When we interrogated him further, Eze led us to arrest six other members of his gang identified as Sunday James, 29; Emmanuel Iloakazi, 26; Ikechukwu Okafor aka Osuofia I, 37; Obinna Egbugha, 26; Ikechukwu Chedom, and Christian Ezinkwo aka Alhaji, 3, while two additional AK47 rifles, 11 Ak47 magazines loaded with 30 rounds of live ammunition, were recovered from them,”the source added.
When Crime Alert spoke with Eze who hails from Osisioma village, Abia State, he said the AK 47 rifle belongs to his friend Uchenna. According to him “On October 15, 2012, I met a brother, Uchenna where I used to pray for people – Mountain of Mercy, Ikoyi, Osun State. After three days’ prayer, he started calling me. He asked me where I live and do prayer. I told him that I live in the Leadway Estate, Eruwe.
He later came with one Ogonna on January 2. Ogonna collected my number and left. I did not see him for more than a month until I was about traveling to Anambra for a church programme. I left them in Ikorodu and travelled to Anambra. I was there when my brother, Kingsley called me that the police had arrested him because of me. I was arrested and brought to SARS. Uchenna told me that his brother used to bring cars from abroad and asked me to follow him to bring them. We went and brought a Toyota Camry car. He gave me N30, 000.
“I only prayed for Uchenna before my encounter with them. I am married. My wife sells fruits and she is carrying a seven-month pregnancy. It was James that put me into trouble because I arrested him. I did not participate in four armed robbery and kidnap operations as he is claiming. I don’t even know that I was arrested for belonging to a robbery/kidnapping gang. It is a surprise to me because I have never been involved in this type of case.”
Sunday James who is the second in command to the gang said “ I am from Ebonyi State but I live in Coker, Orile, Lagos. I was introduced to the gang by Victor Emmanuel, who is the leader of the gang.
In January, Emmanuel rented an apartment in Ajah area and in February, we started the business fully. Whenever we kidnap, we take the victim to the apartment. We have kidnapped four people so far.
“The first person we kidnapped paid N1m ransom and my share was N100,000. Emmanuel received N200,000 since he was the leader. The second victim paid N1m and we shared the money in the same manner.” The suspect however added that they later increased their ransoms for subsequent operations. “We later started demanding N2m as ransom.
After our last operation, we bought a jeep for N1.5m and the remaining money was shared equally. I got N70,000 and that was the last time I saw the gang,” he said. The suspect said the gang was much organized as every member had his own role to play.
According to him, a gang member had a duty of feeding and looking after victims while in captivity. He said, “Emmanuel was the one responsible for spotting people that we will kidnap. He was the one who usually contacted the families of victims and he also collected the ransom.“Pastor’s job is to provide the guns that the gang will use. I only follow the gang but I don’t carry guns.”
Kidnap of a prominent person
When asked how the gang usually picked its victims, the suspect said anyone seen in a flashy car was a potential victim. He said, “Emmanuel usually sits on the passenger side and anytime he spots someone in a flashy car, we trail the person and then grab him or her. We then dump the victim’s vehicle somewhere before contacting the family. We have never kidnapped a prominent person.”
The Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, Umar Manko, told newsmen while parading the suspects that, “ in our efforts to rid the state of kidnapping, we were able to identify two groups of kidnappers, we have been able to uproot one group and we believe that the other group is responsible for the kidnap of the LCDA boss. We also sealed off two of the kidnapper’s dens located at Ikorodu and Ibeju-Lekki and a storey-building belonging to one of the kidnappers located at Ajangbadi area of Lagos.