Commercial kidnapping quickly caught on once kidnappers realized it was a quick way to make fast money. The rule, though unwritten, was clear: The more prominent the victim, the larger the ransom to pay.
Here Goaldig profiles the ten famous Nigerians who got kidnapped.
Fumebi Akene had a lot going well for him: young, educated, suave and living in relative comfort, Akene was rightly placed to go on to acheive great things.
And when he was made the Commissioner for Lands and Survey in Bayelsa state, it seemed the Akenes were finally on the path to political relevance.
Then tragedy struck.
Six fearsome looking gunmen entered into Fonibiri community, the country home of the Akenes and seized the aged mother of the Commissioner, Mrs Patimi Akene.
The kidnappers were unusual. They
wanted neither money nor gold. For them to release 78 year old Patimi Akene
alive, Fumebi Akene would have to resign from his post as commissioner.
Series of intrigues, drama, accusation and counter-accusations later, the elderly Akene was released to her family.
Prince Kenneth Emeakayi had plied the Okija-Awka road hundreds of times since he was a kid. He knew every shortcut, every turn and twists, every road bend and every roadblock. He knew his people and his people knew him.
Afterall he was a man of influence and the PDP Chairman in Anambra state, so it was his duty to know.
Yet little did he know on the noon of 1 December 2013 that he was going to be abducted on the same Okija-Awka road. Four well-armed gunmen stopped his vehicle and took him away cleanly in an operation that lasted only for a few minutes.
As usual, big ransom was demanded
and a heavy sum allegedly paid. A man of such status should not be allowed to
rot in the den of dare-devils. The Prince was released in good health and fine
spirits to a group of relieved friends and loved ones.
Dr Ifeanyi Okoye is a billionaire extraordinaire.
A friend of state governors, a pal of kings, a close confidants of Senators, an elder brother to several honourables, the owner of several successful businesses and the MD of Juel Pharmaceuticals Plc., Dr Okoye is certainly one of the most influential personalities in Igboland.
He was loved and respected by many but a handful devised a plan to squeeze a few millions out of his wallet.
First, they kidnapped his mother and the business tycoon promptly settled them without much fuss. But like Oliver Twist, they wanted more. Much more.
Two months after his mother was seized, the abductors reappeared and made away with the ultimate prize- Dr Okoye himself.
No matter how unsafe a place or area is, the Chief Security
Officer of that place and members of his household are expected to enjoy better
security. And when that CSO happens to also be the president of the entire
country, any attack on him and his family should first take down an entire army
before it is successful.
However, when unknown gunmen abducted President Goodluck Jonathan’s adopted father, Chief Inengite Nitabai, in Otuoke, Bayelsa State, the operation was so easy not one single shot was fired.
In case you are wondering, Otuoke is the home state of President Jonathan.
10 suspected kidnappers wielding sophisticated weapons stormed the residence of the 70-year-old Nitabai, forced their way into the house, and terrorised the man, his wife and his children for a couple of hours. They later left the house, their aged captive with them.
Millions of naira was demanded as ransom. But as dirty as things with the government are when they are meant to be kept hidden from the people, no one was told how much was negotiated or paid.
Almost three weeks after he was captured, Nengite Nitabai, President Goodluck Jonathan’s uncle, regained his freedom. Normalcy and a little beefed up security returned to Otuoke.
On Saturday 11 December 2012, only two weeks to Christmas, 8
notorious criminals gained access into the palace of the Obi (king) of
Ogwashi-Uku kingdom and made away with the wife of His Majesty, Prof Chukwuka
Aninshi Okonjo Agbogidi.
The kidnappers had caught a big fish.
The abducted woman was not just another queen of a Nigerian people, she was Mrs Orkamene Okonjo, the 82 year old mother of Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Prof. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
It was a taboo to lay hands on the queen. The gods of the land frowned against such ignoble acts but the kidnappers defiled tradition just to lay hands on money.
13 million naira they demanded. 13 million naira they were given. The queen was later released. But one after the other the police picked up the kidnappers until all 8 were arrested, among them a cousin of the Minister.
Chelsea star, John Obi Mikel reportedly earns thousands of
pounds per week in London playing for one of the richest football clubs in the
Many Nigerians know that fact. And so do a few unscrupulous individuals who wanted a share of the largesse. Well, more than a fair share, really.
An armed gang kidnapped John Obi Mikel Senior in Jos, Plateau state and informed the football star that he’d have to part with N2billion if he ever wanted to see his old man again. Even 2 billion kobo is no small money and Obi Mikel Jr went on to plead for his papa’s unconditional release.
Concrete actions were taken and ten days after Mikel Obi Sr was abducted, he was found 180 miles away from the place where he had been snatched.
But the police didn’t like how the story had ended and continued investigations. Days later, the armed gang that carried out the kidnapping operation was rounded up and arrested, among them were two ex-soldiers of the Nigerian army.
This talented actor needs no introduction to lovers of
African and, mostly, Nigerian movies. He has featured in countless films and
won numerous awards to the point where he is more popular than most executive
governors of states.
Nollywood is a multi-billion naira industry and its star performers likely would be billionaires too. Kidnappers must have thought along that line to have considered it viable to pick up one of Africa’s most talented actors.
Pete Edochie was on his way to an event in Anambra when he was kidnapped. About 10 million naira was demanded in exchange for the movie star.
Surprisingly, 24 hours after he was abducted, Edochie resurfaced without as much as a scratch on his body. You do the math.
Christian Obodo quickly rose to prominence as an energetic
central midfielder with Udinese in Italy and in no time received a call up to
the national team, the Super Eagles. His popularity ratings increased from
Nigerians took to him like a poor man to gala. His work rate and commitment endeared him to many football fans. But it was fattening wallet that attracted him to the most notorious kidnappers in Delta state.
On 9 June 2012, during one of his visits to his homeland from his base in Europe, Obodo was abducted in Warri and a short message was left for his family: pay US$200,000 or we’ll kill him. That was a ransom of over N30 million!
Unfortunately for Obodo’s captors, the police in Delta state had only recently declared a total war on kidnappings. Quickly, the force swung into action and tracked the kidnappers to Isoko, a neighbouring town to Warri.
The policemen did exactly what they were trained to do, Christian Obodo was rescued the very next day and the suspects were arrested. Not a kobo was given as ransom.
On Friday 23 August 2013, Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate
of Nigeria (SAN), was kidnapped at the Ehor stretch of the Benin-Auchi motorway
and held for ransom.
Several policemen immediately responded and attempted to thwart the kidnapping. It ended sourly for the cops as four of them were killed by the dare-devil gunmen.
Nigerian masses don’t have too many champions who fight for them, watch out for their well-being and protect their interests. Genuine champions in the mould of Gani Fawehinmi, Festus Keyamo and Adams Oshiomole who put the masses as top priority and look not towards monetary gains. The people’s champions: they were few and quickly growing extinct.
Human rights activist and constitutional lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, had earned his place as one of the people’s champions.
It was therefore no surprise when his kidnapping garnered considerable media attention and public outrage.
The masses plea and cries fell on the captors’ deaf ears. The criminals wanted money, not crocodile tears. Ransom was negotiated with the kidnappers and several weeks after he was seized, Ozekhome was released, returning home on 12 September 2013.
His return sparked widespread jubilation. He noted that he had been trapped along with approximately a dozen others in what he described as a well-organized camp.
Two weeks later, wanted crime lord Kelvin Prosper Oniarah was arrested by a combined security team of the Nigerian Army and DSS operatives for the respected lawyer’s kidnapping.
Nkem Owoh is known worldwide by watchers of Nigerian movies
as Osuofia. Funny, charismatic and a witty talker, Osuofia is an actor with a
distinct style and a comedian of unmatched talent.
At a point, he was adjudged to be thrice as popular as the president of Nigeria and twice as loved. It was about the same time that kidnappers estimated him to be worth millions and planned his abduction.
Sometimes in November 2009, they struck like lightening. Nkem Owoh was picked up along Enugu- Port Harcourt Expressway on his way to a movie set. The news jolted Nollywood. But even more stunning was the ransom of 15 million naira slammed on his balding head.
His family cried that the money demanded was too much. Even his colleagues begged. Their message was clear: Osuofia had incredible fame but not as much fortune. The kidnappers too must have been secret fans of the Igbo born star because they showed pity and lowered their asking price significantly.
After 1.4million naira exchanged hands, Nkem Owoh was released to the delight of his loyal fans.