Men of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) are on the trail of a fugitive electrician popularly known as Indongesit.
Indongesit, an indigene of Akwa Ibom, is wanted for leading a three-member gang of kidnappers to abduct a 74-year old woman, Mrs Grace Bassey (JP) from her residence at Use in Uruan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
The reason for the abduction of the septuagenarian is still hazy as at press time but all indications pointed towards criminal economic reason.
However, the gang’s operation was not smooth as men of the Akwa Ibom Command of the Nigeria Police Force intercepted the criminals, mowed down two of them while the third and suspected leader of the gang, Indongesit, escaped with wounds sustained from various gun bullets.
Although, the police were able to abort the plans of the kidnappers to move Mrs Grace to a hidden location, she could not be rescued alive. The police found Mrs Grace dead inside a not-too-spacious booth of the car where she was roughly packed like sardine.
Mrs Bassey’s corpse could, however, not be retrieved from the kidnappers by officers of the Akwa Ibom Police Command until after about a 30-minute gun duel between them (the kidnappers and the police) at Idu-Uruan.
Although one of the kidnappers escaped from the scene of the gun battle, the identity of the escapee who is suspected to be the ring-leader was exposed by his phone which probably fell off his clutch while fleeing from the locus in quo (the scene of the incident) with injuries.
Other exhibits recovered from the car used for the operation included the mobile phones of the two other kidnappers (now late) and their rifles which the police are presently working on to get to the root of the matter.
It was learnt that no document was recovered from the car by the police ostensibly to shroud the identity of the kidnappers and their masterminds.
Indigenes of the village who spoke with The Authority on Saturday said that the incident was unprecedented in the history of the village.
According to one of them who simply described himself as Inyang, he said kidnapping is alien to the village.
“Although kidnapping is no longer new in the Niger Delta, at least for some time now, no one has ever been kidnapped in this village. This incident is unprecedented.
“But it is clear the criminals are not regular armed robbers because when they gained entrance into Mr Bassey’s residence, they did not ask for money from the couple.
“All they did was to bundle the woman out of the house which showed that it was pre-planned.
“Some neighbours though saw the kidnappers when they came but nobody suspected their mission.
“In fact, those who saw the kidnappers said that they thought they were the children of the old woman who usually visited their parents with different cars.
“Again, the woman is not a politician neither are the children.
“She had five children: Emem, Dominic, Prince, Lawrence and Maureen. They are all doing well to the glory of God but none of them is into politics,” he said.
Continued he: “it is also clear that the criminals are not hired killers. Were they hired killers, they would have murdered Mrs Grace if she were to be their target and left the premises without going away with the corpse.
“I can, as well, attest that Mama is a very kind woman. Though not an indigene of this village but she is a Cinderella of the neighbourhood because of her good heart.
“Like I said, the children are well to do by the grace of God and until Mama’s death, were taking good care of her and the husband.
“The couple are living together with a 7-year old girl. The woman was very nice. There is nothing she can not give out to people.
“Given this picture that I have painted, one could only hazard a guess as to why this happened even though the police are yet to make available the details of their investigations.
“I am of the view that the gang wanted money, maybe from the children whom I learnt are well to do.
“But even if money is their target, what bothers one is the suffocation of the elderly woman by the gang.
“That is the mystery. But we believe that the police would get to the root of the matter soon,” he added.
How it happened
According to an eye witness who did not want her name in print, she narrated to The AUTHORITY on Saturday that on the fateful day, the kidnappers drove an unregistered 1999 model Toyota Corolla (golden colour) car to a point very close to Elder Bassey’s house at about 6:47pm on that fateful day and stopped few metres away from the residence.
“Nobody came down from the car neither did anybody join the occupants of the car for some minutes. The car was so parked and from all indications, its engine was left running.
“At about 7:02pm, the car moved and headed to the residence of Mr Bassey before it stopped.
“Although it was not yet dark, none of the occupants of the car came down yet. Mr and Mrs Bassey were, however, inside the house.
“Suddenly, Mrs Bassey opened the entrance door and came out with perhaps the intention to welcome her visitors into the house.
“It was not clear whether she opened the door because she heard the sound of the car or whether she was called out on her phone. But what was clear was that she came out.
“But on sighting the car and discovering that nobody came down from it, she perhaps realised that it did not belong to any of his children and therefore attempted to retreat into the house.
“But in a speed of lightning, two of the car occupants went after her and bundled her into the waiting car and sped off.
“It was at this point that everybody watching from a distance knew that something unfortunate had happened.
“Of course, urgent calls were made to the children who are very nice to the community members to alert them about the incident.
“We later heard that the police who were quickly alerted of the incident came in and urgently too to rescue the woman.
“Unfortunately, however, it was learnt that Mama died not of gun shot but of suffocation.
“The old woman, at age 74, was thrown inside the booth of the Toyota Corolla with her height and perhaps died of rough-handling and suffocation.
“We later learnt that a neighbour who had access to the family 24/7 was on the gang that abducted the old woman.
“He is on the run, so we learnt. But as far as God liveth, he can only run, he will not escape justice,” she added.
The eldest son of the late Mrs Grace Bassey, Dominick, confirmed the eyewitness account even as he told The AUTHORITY on Saturday that the deceased was scheduled to travel out of the village in less than 72 hours to the time she was abducted to keep an appointment with her doctor in Abuja for what he called regular medical check-up.
He said the information he was waiting to hear was either that she had left the village for airport or that she had arrived Abuja. He said he was, however, shocked to hear that kidnappers had abducted his mother.
Hear him: “It was on January 15, this year, around 7:15 in the evening that they called us from the village in Akwa Ibom State.
“They told us that three people came to our house with a vehicle and our mother thought that it was her children that came home to see her.
“Unfortunately, when she opened the door, the two men then bundled her and threw her into the booth of their vehicle and kidnapped her. In that process, she died.”
He further narrated: “Immediately we were informed about the incident, we then called the Commissioner of Police of Akwa Ibom State and he directed his Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) operatives to run after them.
“The police discovered that there were three of them but two died in a gun battle with the police while one escaped with bullet wounds.
“The one that escaped is the suspected mastermind of the operation because he is the one that is a friend to the house.
“My mother usually invited him to the house if there was any electrical fault because he has a shop in our village.
“She used to give him money and because of the relationship, he was a family friend that could freely come into the house.
“This is the identity of one of those who abducted our Mama.
“But after the police ran after them and caught up with them, the police then saw that our mother had already died due to suffocation because they bundled her and threw her into the booth of the car,” he said.
He told The AUTHORITY on Saturday that though his mother was a devout Christian and lived a fulfilled life, he would not want her dead even in 20 or 30 years to come.
“This woman suffered so much on us. She was terminated at the time she was supposed to be reaping the fruit of her sweat.
“It is more painful because of the rough manner her life was snuffed by the three-member gang.
“Mama must not die in vain. Her living killer must be found. Her living killer must be brought to justice. There is no alternative to this. They made her go through trauma,” he appealed to the government.
The last born of Mrs Grace, Maureen, who just lost her husband, Sylvester Ekanem, could not control her emotion when she spoke with The Authority on Saturday on the issue.
Tears cascaded down her cheeks freely.
According to her, “this is the hardest and toughest phase of my life.
“In less than two months, the two most important people in my life were taken away from me.
“First was my husband, Sylvester. Sylvester is the joy of my life, my closest friend and my confidant. I lost him in a circumstance that still looks phantasmagoric.
“I lost my weight, my charm, my essence and became a shadow of myself.
“While trying to contend with the reality, then, my mother too; the one that stood behind me like the Rock of Gilbratha, pacifying me, when I lost the love of my life.
“She was killed by a gang of callous criminals who came to kidnap her just because they wanted money from us,” she said. As if addressing her mother, Maureen started again: “Mama, the only JP in Use’ Uruan village as I used to tease you.
“Words are not enough to describe you. Even the people that met you briefly haven’t stopped telling me how wonderful a mother I have got.
“You brought us up in love and we will not depart from it. You were just the perfect mother-in-law to all your daughters-in-laws and I have been the one consoling them.
“At 74 years, you were full of life even that fateful Saturday, we spoke.
“Your grandchildren missed you so much. How I wish you were able to carry mine.
“In my times of trouble, your words were the only food I fed on. Words can’t explain how I feel but am assured you are with God.
“Mama! I love you now and will always do.
“You were God-sent to us. You were the umbrella that shielded us from the rains. You guided us in the right path and we are all pleased that you reaped the fruit of your labour.
“I promise you, we must get to the root of this for justice to be done for you Mum. Adieu, my All…,” she sobbed.
The Authority on Saturday reports that although incidents of abduction or kidnapping are relatively infrequent compared with other types of crimes, the crime started in the Niger Delta region few years ago.
According to a scholar, Nseabasi Akpan in a study titled “Kidnapping in Nigeria’s Niger Delta: An Exploratory Study,” he argued that kidnapping as a phenomenon started as a liberation struggle, though criminal but with no intent to extort, before it was hijacked by deviants to perpetrate all manners of atrocities.
“This struggle had historical roots in Isaac Adaka Boro and Ken Saro Wiwa”s earlier concerns and struggles for resource control and environmental justice.
“Apart from the ‘Twelve Day Revolution’ that was led by Isaac Boro against the FGN in 1966, it is popularly believed that the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa by the FGN on November 10, 1995 has played a key and fundamental role in fostering MEND’s strength and determination for such liberation fights.
“But these days, some financial demands are made before release could be effected.
According to Tsanelli, “kidnapping is a social enterprise. Kidnappers are just businessmen.
“They just happen to be on the illegal side of it. If you deprive them of the demand, then there is not going to be any supply.
“The beginning of 2007, however, saw the emergence of various other deviant groups by various names who hide under liberation struggle to commit economic crimes.
But before 2007, when the evil act began, with the abduction of white oil workers by youths from the creeks of the Niger Delta, some people hailed the boys, particularly opinion and political leaders from the region. It was then to draw the attention.
However, because the boys were recruited with cash to execute the jobs, they also demanded for cash to release their victims. After the election of 2007, some highly placed criminals entered the scene
“It takes few persons to organise somebody’s kidnap.
“In this case, somebody would be snatched and taken to a safe location” as it appeared to be in Bassey’s case.
“Such operation is always well planned and well executed.
“The family of the victim is then contacted and a ransom demanded which is subject to negotiation.
“In this category, there is heavy financial motivation and the victims are always from well-to-do class who may belong to certain political class, foreign workers, men and women and people of very rich background.
“Kidnap of this dimension cuts across boundaries but the common denomination is immediate and lucrative pay-off. This explains why they opt for the rich,” he said.
Studies have, over the years, however, revealed that one common factor that supports this form of kidnapping is the incidence of endemic poverty and unemployment mostly in the midst of abundant resources.
The malaise had however made many state governments particularly those in the Niger Delta region to review their laws on kidnapping. In Enugu, Rivers, Edo and Akwa Ibom states, whoever is found guilty of the crime is liable to death sentence while in states where their laws have not been amended to recommend the strictest penalty, life imprisonment is the penalty for the offence.
Indongesit who is on the run is expected to face trial as soon as he is caught.