In our attempt to present the inside story of the kidnap of Pa. Okowa, the first of such in Ika land, we now present, below, a detailed report by Olusola Fabiyi which was publish in Punch Newspaper Saturday, 16 Aug 2008.
Apparently, the gang of kidnappers reckoned they could make a lot of money by kidnapping Chief Arthur Okowa. This is because his son, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, is the current Secretary to the Delta State Government.
The gang met and assigned each member a role in the kidnap bid. But implementing their plans became a problem because the old man was always in the company of people.
In the early hours of July 19, 2008, however, the gang summoned courage and stormed the residence of Pa Okowa at No 2, Amokwu Street, Boji-Boji, Owa in Ika North East LGA of Delta State. The gang whisked him away to an unknown destination. And thus began Pa Okowa?s sojourn in a dungeon for six days. Narrating how he was kidnapped to Saturday Punch, 27-year-old Fresher Aiworo, one of the suspects who is in police custody in Abuja with five other members of the gang, said the plan to kidnap Pa Okowa was hatched by three men and that he only bought into the idea because he realised that he could make money from the act.
?Three men actually came to me around 8 p.m. and told me that they had kidnapped the man but needed a place to keep him. I was asked to keep him in my house and that I would be paid the sum of N200, 000 for that. I agreed,? he said.
That was a paltry sum compared to the ransom money the kidnappers had demanded from the relations of Pa Okowa. After forcibly taking the 76 year-old man away, they had asked that his family pay them $20 million as ransom before they would release him. The said sum, according to Ferdinand Iwerebor, a 20-year-old secondary school drop-out who is also in police net, was to have helped him and the members of his gang to start a meaningful life. Iwerebor told our correspondent that he got involved in the kidnap when it became apparent that Aiworo was having a problem keeping the old man in his house. The first accused person, he said had complained that since he was staying in a compound that houses many people, there was no way the lid would not be blown at a point. The gang therefore approached him to accommodate Pa Okowa in his house. For that, he was promised the sum N500,000.
He said, ?When the offer came, I could not resist it because I had been living in abject poverty. There is no one to cater for me, because my relations are not doing well in their various jobs. I therefore decided to join the gang that kidnapped grandpa. Throughout the time he was with me, the old man was very sad, but since we had to keep him and get some money from his relations, we had to do it. After all, we did not plan to kill him. All we wanted was to extort money from his people. We know that he has a son who is in government.
?Delta State is one of the richest states in Nigeria. We also know that the former governor of the state, Chief James Ibori is currently being tried for corruption. We are aware that the man?s son was a commissioner under Ibori and also aspired to be the governor of the state. So, tell me, why won?t he get the money?
?Even if he does not have the money, what of the state? The state was supposed to come to his rescue. Our demand was therefore not out of place. We knew that his family could afford the money before we hatched the plan to kidnap him. It is better to kidnap people like Papa than to kidnap people whose families are poor and may not be able to afford the money we are demanding. A person like Papa has kidnap value. It is better to pick such people up.?
Like the Biblical Ark of Covenant, Pa Okowa became his abductors? albatross, necessitating his transfer from Ewerebor?s house to that of Bright Ajulor, a barber. Ajulor, who described himself as Aiworo?s relation, said he was surprised to see Pa Okowa brought to his house. He said, ?I am a relation of Aiworo and we were at the backyard of my house in Agbor when they brought the old man to me. But I declined to have him since there was nowhere that was conducive in my place.?
The lot then fell on Bright Onyemere, a 23-year-old photographer. Bright said that he was called on his mobile telephone by one Palote, who with three others are still at large, that he should help keep Pa Okowa in his house. He said he was elated at first on hearing the monetary reward that would accompany the assignment, but when he realised his limitations, he felt bad.
He said, ?I was called on my mobile telephone by Palote on July 24 to help keep Papa in my house and was promised the sum of N1 million, if I could do it successfully. I was very happy because that is a very huge sum of money. Initially, I said no, just to raise the stake, because I was only promised N700,000. But when I said no, the money was increased to N1 million. I was happy because it was an opportunity for me to become somebody in life. But l later realised that where I am staying is a family house. Because of this, I was able to keep the old man for just one day. So, on July 25, I took Papa back to Palote?s house.?
Onyemere recalled that for the one day Pa Okowa stayed with him, he (Okowa) only drank water. At times, he said, the man would refuse to talk to them, which he said made him to feel for him.
Also in police net are the duo of Nathaniel Omoretiomwan, an employee of 7Up Bottling Company, and George Ogala, a farmer. Though Omoretiomwan denied complicity in the crime, saying that he was in his house on a Friday morning when police came to arrest him and Ajulor. He said they were subsequently taken to the police station where they were detained. He swore that he had never met Pa Okowa. But Ogala insisted that Omoretiomwan was approached by Bright to help keep the old man in his house and begged him (Ogala) to allow him and Papa to pass the night in the same house as well. He claimed that he thought that both Ogala and Ajulor were there by agreement. He refused to disclose the amount promised him for allowing the use of his house. But excerpts from police investigations indicate that all the suspects were involved in the kidnapping. The excerpt reads, ?On July 20, 2008, at about 15hours, police received information that Chief Arthur Okowa has been kidnapped from his residence at No 2, Amokwu Street, Boji-Boji, Owa, Ika North East LGA of Delta State, by a gang of gunmen, to an unknown destination. The kidnappers thereafter demanded for a ransom of $20m from Chief Okowa family. Acting on this information, police operatives from Zone 5 command spread their dragnet to every nook and cranny of their territory and on July 24, arrested Fresher Aiworo at 3, Circular Road, Benin City. Who confessed his involvement in the kidnap and that the victim was first kept in his house. On July 25, with the assistance of information from Fresher, the police hotly pursued the other suspects to Boji-Boji, Owa where they were led to the house of one Chief Humphrey Ewerebor and four of the principal suspects were arrested while their other cohorts fled, leading to the safe rescue of the victim by the police at Ewuru near Agbor, Delta State. Further efforts by the police led to the arrest of George Ogala at Ewuru-Agbor, Delta State on August 1.?
Commenting on the arrest, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, told our correspondent that it was regrettable that the menace of kidnapping ?which is spreading to virtually all the states in the South of Nigeria, has become a matter of concern, (given) for its multifaceted dimension. The good news, however, is that the police have displayed much dexterity in checking the trend and is bringing the culprits to book.?