It was harvest of arrests in Benin City, Edo State capital after men of the Department of State Security (DSS) paraded three members of a gang suspected of kidnapping the wife, daughter and driver of a justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, in May.
Seven other suspects paraded were three alleged extortionists who were said to have threatened to kill their victim if he didn’t pay up and a musician for trafficking in persons.
The State Director of the SSS, Mr. Bello Bakori, who paraded the suspects before Governor Adams Oshiomhole and journalists, said the suspects confessed to the crimes and that three members of the gang that kidnapped the justice’s wife remained at large. He said Mrs. Rhodes-Vivour and her daughter were kept in a house along Zomi Zomi area, in Upper Sokponba area of Benin-City where the kidnapping suspects were arrested. All the kidnapping suspects are from Delta State while the trafficker in persons is from Edo.
One of the suspects confessed that he was ignorant of the people who were abducted but only fed them as directed by the kidnappers. According to him, “they brought them to the house, a woman and her daughter and I was asked to go out to buy rice for them to eat. Sometimes I bought bread for them too. But I didn’t know they were kidnapped”. Oshiomhole expressed shock that majority of the crimes committed in the state were perpetrated by Deltans.
He declared that the building used by the kidnapping suspects to hold the justice’s wife, daughter and driver will be demolished. “For the landlords, we have made the decision that anyone that aids and abets kidnapping will have his structure demolished. Any hotelier who does not follow the instruction of documenting those who stay in his hotel and allow his hotel to be used for kidnapping or human trafficking, we will demolish the hotel. Nobody has the right to make money out of the pains of Nigerians”, he said.
Oshiomhole expressed joy that security agencies were able to arrest the gang that kidnapped the wife and daughter of the Supreme Court justice, saying: “This is a major breakthrough. What is important is for criminals to know that there is no more immunity.
It is a matter of when, not whether they would be caught, and that the officers and men are determined to do their best and those involved in crime would be brought to justice”. He noted: “Majority of these criminals, 95% of them, are from Delta State. It shows that in this business of crime, criminals are very mobile. No state can find solution as they keep moving from one state to the other. When their colleagues hear that they have been put on trial, they would look elsewhere.”
To members of the public the governor said. “This is something that people should take into account, that your own relation may well be the source of your problem. Your own cook may well be the source of your problem; your guard may well be the source of your problem.
All of us need to be careful and not take anything for granted. The lesson from this effort is that when we report to law enforcement agents, they can be arrested, but when we pay ransom, then we are providing additional incentives for the criminals to remain in business. Every ransom we pay is an opportunity for them to do more. The message is clear, we must resist paying ransom.
We must take law enforcement agencies into confidence. We must trust them. Let me use this opportunity to appeal to our parents that we must watch over our children, particularly our daughters. As we heard from one of those arrested, this business is to attract unsuspecting young girls into travelling with all kinds of lousy promises. In their innocence, they submit and they take them across the borders and they face all kinds of dehumanizing experiences”.
Barely 24 hours after the parade of the suspects, the Edo State Police Command paraded another 26 suspects amongst them a pastor, Philips Ogbebor, alleged to have forced a 20 year-old male member of his church (names withheld) into sodomy. After having it through the anus, the pastor allegedly threatened to kill his victim if he disclosed the dastardly act to anyone.
There was also an alleged case of rape against two suspects who were said to have dragged a 20-year-old female victim into the bush just as the police paraded five persons including a middle aged woman, from Ojah, Akoko-Edo local government council, accused of burning to death one Funmi Abiodun on the allegation of being a witch responsible for the death of a relation.
According to the Edo CP, Funso Adebanjo, “the war against criminality is relentlessly being waged against men of the underworld; the command is not leaving any stone unturned as regards crime and criminality in Edo State. This man, who claimed to be a pastor, defiled a young person. Another thing that is so common here and I don’t know why it is this defilement. I wonder if there is something about it, you see old men defiling young girls who are five years, two years, and so on”.
Speaking to Sunday Vanguard, Pastor Ogbebor simply said, “God will judge, go and talk to others. I don’t have anything to tell you but God will judge”.
However, his victim narrated: “I told him I had never done this since I grew up, but he insisted; it was painful and I now said I will not allow it again. After the second attempt, I said I would expose him;then he said we had to take an oath that if I ever said it out, I would die. He carried sand and olive oil and poured it on my head. He killed a black fowl and gave me the liver and gizzard at around 2 am to eat threatening that if I ever said it out, I will die like the fowl died.
But when I realised that it is a sin, I met a man of God that he should pray for me, that God should forgive me and that I was ready to say it since he forced me and I went to the church publicly to say it out. When he heard it, he was now threatening me, sending his younger brother and others after me; since then I have been running”.
Also, two persons, Frank Chukwudozie, Samuel Ugochukwu, allegedly dragged a 20-year-old lady into the bush and forcefully had carnal knowledge of her. Chukwudozie narrated: “We had been admiring her, but each time we tried to talk to her, she refused. So, that particular day, we watched her as she stepped out of their house, we followed her till we got to a lonely area, then we caught her, took her to the bush and raped her”.
Another suspect, Obaze Aigbontaen, 32, was arrested for alleged defilement of a seven-year-old girl. His confession: “I don’t know what to say, it is the devil’s work. I did not know when something pushed me to take the little girl and made love to her before she started shouting. I had to close her mouth with handkerchief. But I am sorry for what I did, it is the devil”. [Vanguard]