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Merchants of death …Police hunt for Taraba’s most wanted assassin, arrest 5 gang members

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Okezie-Okeh

His hands drip with blood. He reigns in the forest. He is just 27 years old and heavily armed. He is today the most wanted assassin in Taraba state. He commands deadly gangs of merchants of death. He is Joe Agrema.

Late last year when Jukun and Tiv ethnic groups in southern Taraba mobilized arms to fight themselves over land disputes, little did they know that the young men they armed to defend them would metamorphose to different militia groups that will continue to hunt all.

Desperate to restore sanity, the Jukun and Tiv communities in a petition to the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed begged the police to help mop up arms and stop several criminal gangs operating in the area. After weeks of intelligence gathering, operatives of the IGP Intelligence Response Team, IRT, led by DCP Abba Kyari arrested five members of one of the notorious gangs alleged to have carried out several assassinations in the area.

The suspects include Daniel Ihyar, Saheed Yakubu, Felix Agrema, Teitase Nyenkwa and Lukman Musa. According to police sources, a 27-year-old man, who was identified by his gang members as Joe Agrema, heads one of the most vicious gangs, which were formed at the wake of the crisis. Joe who is still at large is said to have over 10 AK47 rifles in his amoury and he commands a large number of boys working for him.

The suspects who are his active members confessed to the police that they have carried out countless number of kidnappings, armed robbery and assassinations within Southern Taraba.

Crime notes

Daniel Ihyar during his confession claimed that Joe marked him for execution when he decided to form his own gang. “I am from Gassol area in Taraba and I joined Joe’s gang during the Jukun and Tiv crisis which broke out last year. Although Joe is from Dan Ananacha area but we all came together to defend our territory. Joe who is a Tiv by tribe was one of the commanders during the crisis and was feared by the Jukun people.

After peace was restored, Joe decided to form a kidnapping gang with all the AK47 rifles that we used to fight during the crisis. He is based in the forest and only comes out if there is contract given to him to kidnap or assassinate someone. He was feared because he regularly intimidates both communities into paying security money to him.

“I became his enemy because I refused to allow him terrorize people in my village. I was asked to tell them to raise N300, 000 and I refused. Somehow, my people heard about it and raised N150, 000 for him. The day he planned to attack them for disobedience, I learnt about it and alerted the community. Policemen and our local vigilance group fought back and killed most of his men that he sent on that deadly assignment.

I was fed up and decided not be part of them again since I cannot guaranty the safety of my people. Few days later, he still came to my community and kidnapped several persons including a businessman from Cross River and the man paid him N250, 000 before he was released.

Joe is too deadly and I hate the rate at which he was killing people. My own interest was to kidnap and make some money. The bloodshed was too much because he was killing his victims even after collecting ransom. His excuse is that they can identify him easily since he does not wear mask. But the truth is that everyone knows Joe because of the role he played during the crisis. I started my gang and some of his boys who were fed up also decided to join me. He learnt about it and gave order to his boys to kill me. I would have been dead if police had not arrested me,” he stated.

On where Joe could be found, Daniel said that the wanted killer is in Taraba’s forest and can only be caught any day he dares to come to town “It might be difficult for police to arrest him because the forest is very big and he has a lot of informants. Even if police decide to enter the bush, he will hear about it and run away.”

The second suspect, Saheed Yakubu confessed to the police that his main responsibility was to provide accurate information about any person that has been marked for assassination.

I am 20 and a Fulani by tribe, but I was born in Gassol Local Government Area of Taraba. I did not have the opportunity to further my education because my parents are poor. I was advised to become a tailor and Joe is one of my good customers. He normally pays double for any cloth that I sow for him. I was happy at his generosity and we became friends. I allowed him to entertain his friends in my shop; this was how I knew that they are criminals.

Since he was very generous, I decided to help him out by becoming his informant. I normally attend any event that his target will be and confirm their position before he will come and strike. Even after killing the person, I will use my contact at the mortuary or police station to confirm that the person that was shot is indeed the target.

“We have several cases where innocent persons were killed. I can remember a recent situation when Joe sent his boys to kill one man at the General Hospital. After the attack, I was sent to confirm if the target was dead and I was told the body was taken to the nearest police station. I was able to get the identity of the person that was killed at the police station and Joe said that it was not the original target.

Joe was sad because he knew the wrong man that was killed. It was when I got the information that his boys confessed that the man saw their faces and they had no choice but to kill him. He was asked to lie face down but he refused. I assisted Joe to get the phone number of a family member of the dead man. He called them and confessed that it was his boys that killed their son. He promised to pay for his burial and support the family financially.

The last assignment he gave me before I was arrested was to monitor one businessman known as Menassara. He wanted to execute the man because he refused to pay us an agreed amount to stay alive. Joe also killed three of my friends who are also Tiv. Their names are Moses, Avarume and VC who was the vice chairman of youths in our area. He ordered the execution of Avarume because he supported Jukun people during the crisis and killed the other two because they were saying bad things about him. He said that they were planning to betray him by giving police information about him. He only pays me N10, 000 for each successful mission except I join them for any kidnap operation. I have lost count of the number of persons that Joe killed.”

In his own account, Joe’s younger brother, Felix Agrema claimed that he took part in only one kidnap operation with his brother. “I am a student of Adamawa State Polytechnic and Joe is my elder brother. I discovered that my brother was a criminal last December when I came home during the Christmas celebration. I used to see so many bad boys around him whenever he comes home and there was a time he sent me to pick some of his guns from his girlfriend. In March 2020, I joined him in kidnapping some Tiv delegates who were on their way home after visiting the Taraba Governor in Jalingo. We blocked the expressway using army uniform and we abducted the delegates and the sum of N7million was paid for their release. I bought a car with my own share of the ransom.

This was the only time that I participated before police arrested me,” he narrated.

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End Of The Road For 9 Billionaire Kidnappers In Lagos

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After the arrest of the notorious kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, popularly known as Evans in 2017 following his seven years of high-profile abductions across the country, during which he collected millions of dollars in ransoms, nobody knew that another dreaded gang would spring up soon after.

New tactics

This time around, this gang of daring kidnappers took over from him and concentrated more on the Centre of Excellence, Lagos. The gang members operated freely for over a year and specialised in targeting their victims who are usually stupendously rich and they end up collecting ransom in both naira and dollars.

Their areas of operation included Ago Palace Way, Isolo, Okota, the popular auto spare parts market, Ladipo; Festac and other environs. Police sources said they always disappear through the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, meander through the ever-busy Second Rainbow Bus stop and Apple Junction and end up in a yet-to-be-known enclave.

From here they will negotiate the ransom for their victim before relocating out of the city. The difference in their mode of operation is that apart from being based outside Lagos, they always insist in collecting not less than N1 billion or their victim will be killed. They also threaten to kill their victims should information about them leak to the police.

Waterloo

The good news at the moment is that the gang last week met its Waterloo in the Ladipo area of Lagos. This was after the gangsters targeted a very rich international businessman and were on the verge of kidnapping him. Their evil plot was foiled by eagle-eyed policemen from the Commissioner of Police Special Squad who confronted them and killed nine of them.

Recovered from them were four AK-47 rifles, four locally-made semi-automatic pistols, nine AK47 magazines, three walkie-talkies, one POS machine and a loudspeaker. Two of their operational vehicles: a black Toyota 4Runner and a blue Lexus RX350, were also recovered. However, two of the suspects narrowly escaped by disappearing into the large crowd keenly watching the shootout that ensued between the heavily armed kidnappers and the police.

Intelligence report received

The scenario which played out like a Hollywood movie was clinically executed by detectives from Police Command Headquarters, Ikeja who were reportedly drilled and selected by the Commissioner of Police, Adegoke Fayoade.

They had embarked on the assignment after receiving intelligence reports about the deadly operations of the gang of kidnappers in and around Lagos for a long. Remarkably, three Commissioners of Police during their respective tenures in the state also raised police teams to confront and neutralise the same gang but did not succeed in rounding them up. Rather, they only succeeded in curtailing their activities.

Records of kidnap cases

Police records showed that the gang made up of trigger-happy shooters kidnapped a businessman on April 10, 2023, in the Ikotun area of the state around 4 pm and the victim paid $8000 as ransom. The gang which in most cases, carried out its operations with a Lexus 350 SUV and 4 Runner jeep kidnapped another businessman same date around 11.30 pm at Ago Okota using the same vehicles and later collected a ransom of N5m.

On April 23, 2023, the gang struck again and this time, they went for a popular millionaire who sells assorted drinks at Ago Okota and kidnapped him.

He reportedly paid not less than a billion naira, but the family hid it from the police on account of threats from the kidnappers. The same thing happened to another rich businessman at Ikotun the same day as they were fleeing from the scene with their victim. The businessman was returning from his farm in Ogun State when they accosted and kidnapped him.

They later collected ransom in three tranches of $6000 and $3,600. They wrapped up their operation that day by abducting another businessman man few metres from the same area in Ikotun and he paid N8m as ransom.

Ransom payments galore

It was also gathered that on August 18, 2023, at Ago Palace Way, members of the gang kidnapped another businessman and collected N120m; the following day they struck at Gowon Estate and their victim paid an undisclosed huge amount of money before he was released.

Then, on November 29 same year, around 8.45 pm, they kidnapped another businessman at Apple Junction and collected N6m as ransom. Three days later, they abducted another businessman at Ikotun with the same operational vehicles and collected a ransom of N24m.

From there, they moved to Isolo and abducted another victim who reportedly paid a huge amount of money as ransom also.

Xmas bonus

While preparing for Christmas that year, they also struck at the popular Ladipo Auto Spare Parts market and collected N100 million from their male victim. The gang opened the New Year in 2024 by striking at Ikotun and collecting N120m from their victim.

Notably, while they were freely carrying out their operations, the police were on their trail and all efforts made to round them up failed. However, police sources said they continued to follow up on their trail and they discovered that they always carry out operations with a Toyota $ Runner Jeep and a Lexus 350 SUV.

It was also discovered that they always carried out their operations dressed in camouflage military uniform, and once they picked their victims, they took them out of Lagos and when they wanted to release them after payment of ransom, they dropped them at any point in Ogun State or in some cases at Governor’s Road, Ikotun.

Sources said that this trend continued and police were oblivious to their operations until an intelligence report informed detectives that the gang that left Lagos a long time ago was back and was using the same vehicles.

The source said they thought the coast was clear for them to operate after disappearing from Lagos for long. Their last criminal rendezvous took place at the ever-busy Ojekunle street inside Ladipo market where they had perfected plans to kidnap a very rich businessman in the market with the hope of collecting not less than N1b from him.

How the bubble bursts

Vanguard learned that a friend of the rich businessman was earlier kidnapped and he paid a huge amount of money. He reportedly confided in his friend that they were also planning to abduct him and their target is N1 billion.

Based on intelligence information, it was gathered that the Commissioner of Police personally mobilised specially trained operatives with skills in operational shooting and detailed the officer in charge of his special squad, CSP Kehinde Oni, to swing into action and confront the daredevil kidnappers frontally, banking on the concept of Silence, Speed and Surprise, SSS.

The showdown

Sources said as expected, the kidnappers arrived at the scene in their usual vehicles and on seeing a decoy placed by the detectives, they started shooting frantically, not knowing that the whole area was cordoned off by heavily armed policemen. The first shot they fired, according to sources, made detectives to identify them with their vehicles and a shootout that lasted for over three hours ensued.

During the intensive shooting that reverberated all over the area, nine of the kidnappers were neutralised while two escaped with bullet wounds by disappearing into the crowd. Reports said detectives avoided gunning the fleeing gang members so as not to hit the wrong targets. Bullets from the kidnappers’ weapons hit the engine of one police vehicle and also hit a policeman in the jaw. He had since been treated and discharged.

So far, detectives are on the trail of other fleeing members of the gang and they have concluded plans to raid their hideouts, including the homes of their dead kingpin whom information revealed was married to four wives and built mansions for them in one of the states in the South-Eastern part of the country.

SOURCE

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Gunmen Abduct Two Journalists, Family Members In Kaduna

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Gunmen have abducted Abdulgafar Alabelewe and Abdulraheem Aodu, journalists with The Nation and Blueprint newspapers respectively, in Kaduna.

The abduction occurred on Saturday at Danhonu community, in the Millennium City area of Kaduna, around 10pm.

Alabelewe, chair of the correspondents’ chapel of the Nigeria Union Journalists (NUJ), was abducted alongside his wife and two children.

Aodu was also taken with his wife. Both journalists are neighbours.

Taofeeq Olayemi, a relation of the Blueprint journalist, confirmed the incident on Sunday.

Olayemi said the gunmen forced their way in by breaking through doors and windows to take their victims.

“Initially, they picked Alhaji Abdulgafar, his wife, three of his children and a girl staying with him,” he said.

“But the girl was later asked to return with one of the children and they went away.

“They entered Abdulgafar’s house through the fence, forced his bedroom open and picked him, his wife and two of their children and left immediately.”

Mansir Hassan, spokesperson of the Kaduna police command, is yet to comment on the incident.

 

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Bandits Demand N300m To Free Abducted Kaduna Judge, Kill Eldest Son

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Suspected bandits, who kidnapped a female judge identified as Janet Galadima, and her four children in Kaduna State, have demanded for N300m, after killing her eldest son.

The judge and her sons were reportedly abducted at their residence in the Mahuta area of Kaduna on 23 June.

The kidnappers, numbering up to 15, stormed the residence of the judge at night when her husband, Dr. Musa Gimba Dutse, a medical doctor, was away on duty.

However, a human rights lawyer, and Chief Executive Officer of the House of Justice, Gloria Ballason, on Wednesday, confirmed in a statement that the kidnappers have threatened to kill her remaining sons if the ransom was not paid in time.

Ballason said the abductors killed the 14-year-old son of the judge in captivity when the family couldn’t pay the demanded ransom.

According to her, the boy, identified as Victor Gimba, the first son of the judge, was shot dead on July 2.

“The abductors, reported to have been about 15, took their captives hostage and demanded a huge sum as ransom.

“On Tuesday, July 2, 2024, the terrorists shot dead Victor Gimba, the first child of the judge, when the ransom demanded could not be obtained,” she said.

She also called for the protection of the judge and her family, urging the government, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), and security agencies to take urgent action and ensure the judge and her children are rescued.

Similarly, the state chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association has issued a statement condemning the incident, while urging the security agencies to rise to the occasion.

NMA’s Public Relations Officer, Dr Shuaibu Joga, expressed shock that the first son was killed to force payment of the said sum.

He said the NMA would be calling for an emergency SEC meeting on Thursday and a press conference to further call on the authorities to expedite action on securing their immediate release and also for the release of their other doctors kidnapped 6 months ago.

“Following the incident, we visited the husband and interacted with him and he informed us that the kidnappers had made a demand of N300 million to secure their release.

“While the security agencies had been informed and negotiations with the kidnappers were ongoing, we received the shocking news today that the first son was killed to force payment of the said sum.

“In response, we are calling for an emergency SEC meeting today and a press conference to further call on the authorities to expedite action on securing their immediate release and also the release of our other doctor kidnapped 6 months ago.

“We call for calm from members and request all to stay safe while we engage the necessary security organs to end this needless wanton evil,” he said.

As of the time of filing this report, there was no official statement from the state government or the state police command.

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