As the bandits terrorising the Federal Capital Territory and neighbouring states of Kaduna, Nasarawa and Niger get more daring, has gathered that the hoodlums are camped in the Kajuru forest in the Southern Kaduna area of Kaduna State.
Highly placed security sources confided in one of our correspondents that the forest was being used by the military for training of its personnel, but had been abandoned, thus making it a haven for the terrorists.
One of the military sources told Saturday PUNCH on Friday, “Kidnappers and other criminals terrorising the Federal Capital Territory are presently camped in the Kajuru forest. Kajuru is the headquarters of the Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State. The forest has become a haven for bandits and kidnappers.
“In fact, the military had killed and arrested scores of these criminal elements in the area in the past. But you see, the more they are arrested, the more they return since the military has abandoned their camp in the town.
“If you can recall, many people were killed here during the reign of former governor Nasir El-Rufai. In fact, there was a day when militants killed 32 civilians in four villages in the Kajuru Local Government Area.
“Kajuru was carved out of Chikun Local Government Area in March 1997 by the military administration of General Sani Abacha.”
The source added, “The numerous killings forced the military to have a temporary camp there, where they were strategizing on how to dislodge the criminals and actually did well for the people. But since their departure after the initial return of peace to the area, terrorists, kidnappers and bandits have taken over the area.
“They move freely in the town and other forests within the area. You know Southern Kaduna has a lot of forests. The bandits, having known that the military is waging a serious war against terrorists across the country, have now moved to Kajuru, where they live and meet to strategies before moving to the Federal Capital Territory and other towns to kidnap people for ransom. They are heavily armed with the intention to kill anyone who obstructs them from getting to their targets.
“Troops just come here once in a while but disappear as soon as soon as they are done with their operations. They come there to plan or when they have operations to conduct in places not too far from here.”
However, the Defence Headquarters said it was still using the Kajuru camp to train troops and launch special operations.
“Indeed, the Nigerian Army still makes effective use of all its training areas. The specific nature of training is conducted on terrains that meet the requirements of such training. Accordingly, the Kajuru training area is still very much in use and currently serves as a staging area for our Forward Operating Base in Kajuru,” the Director, Defence Media Operations, Major General Edward Buba, said.
Bandits, gunrunners informants nabbed
Meanwhile, men of the Nigeria Force have arrested four bandits, two gunrunners, and a bandits’ informant in connection with the recent abduction of 23 persons, including a family of six girls, in the FCT.
Saturday PUNCH gathered that the arrests were made between Wednesday and Friday by operatives of the FCT Special Intervention Squad and the Intelligence Response Team.
This is as the Nigerian Communications Commission, working in tandem with the NPF, has intercepted the bandits’ communications, allowing the police to monitor their conversations and movements.
The scourge of abduction, which has crippled social and economic activities in the North-West, has spread nationwide as bandits and other criminal elements have moved their operations into major cities across the country.
The hoodlums, who hitherto operated on highways and in rural communities, have in recent times escalated their attacks on residents of Lagos, Abuja, and other urban centres.
The killing of four victims abducted from the Sagwari Estate Layout in Dutse-Alhaji area, Kawu, Bwari Area Council of the FCT, Abuja, ignited a groundswell of anger on Monday, as the bandits, who kidnapped seven family members, demanded N700m for their release.
The hoodlums had last Friday killed Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar, a 400-level student of Biological Science, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and three others, over alleged delay in providing the ransom, generating anger across the country and on social media.
As of Friday night, Nabeeha’s remaining five sisters, including Najeebah, a 500-level Quantity Surveying student, and Nadherah, a 300-level Zoology student, and 14 others, were still in captivity.
The Al-Kadriyar sisters were kidnapped alongside their father, Mansoor, from their home in Zuma 1 on the outskirts of Bwari on January 11.
The captors released Mansoor and him to pay N60m for the release of his daughters.
It was learnt that the bandits later raised the ransom to N100m for each captive, which they insisted must be paid by Wednesday.
However, in a bid to secure the release of the hostages, the Al-Kadriyar family sought financial support from Nigerians.
A source privy to the development confided in our correspondent on Friday that the police had frozen the ransom paid into the bandits’ account in a bank in Kogi State to free the six girls.
The source revealed, “The police have frozen the ransom paid into the bandits’ bank account to free those girls. The family paid the money into a bank account in Kogi State, and the bank immediately contacted the police, and the account was frozen. It is the N100m raised to free those six girls whose sister was killed by the bandits alongside three others.
“The police also now know where the bandits are, how they’re communicating, and how they’ve been moving around unsuspectedly. They’re communicating with the phones of their victims. They bury the phones in the ground and move far away from the spot, then come back to dig the phone out and make calls whenever they want to communicate with their victims’ relatives for ransom.
“The Nigerian Communications Commission is assisting the police to apprehend the bandits. The NCC had intercepted the bandits’ communications, and the police have been tracking them with that and also with other intelligence-gathering devices.”
Another source revealed that the Al-Kadiryar sisters and other abductees would have been rescued by the police a few days ago, buy the operation was botched following the launch of a Twitter fundraiser for the victims, and an announcement by a former Minister of Communications, Isa Pantami, that his friends donated the sum of N50m to complete the ransom.
The source noted, “The girls and other abductees would have been rescued on that night if people started announcing that they were raising N100m for the ransom of the girls. It was made worse when former minister Pantami announced on Twitter that his friends had donated N50m.
“Anti-kidnapping and intelligence police officers were about one hour close to the bandits’ camp to rescue the victims and arrest the bandits in the forest of Kaduna, but they started moving away from the location while the fundraising was trending on Twitter. So, we had to withdraw our operatives and start re-strategising.
“The commander had to write Pantami and warned him against such unguarded comments, and how it affected the rescue operation by the police.”
The Force Public Relations Officer, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, in a tweet on Friday, confirmed the arrest of four bandits and two gunrunners terrorising the FCT by the SIS and IRT operatives.
Adejobi stated, “Behold, the new commander, IRT, DC Mohammed Sanusi. His team has arrested many kidnappers and recovered arms and ammunition, many of which were displayed recently.
“Just two days after the launch of the Special Intervention Squad in Abuja by the IG, the IRT has picked two gunrunners and four suspected kidnappers, who terrorise the FCT and neighbouring communities. “The operations are still on. Details to come soon as we intend to brief the media and Nigerians on these developments. We count on your support to do more.”
He also disclosed that the police had deployed 600 personnel to prosecute special anti-terror operations.
Meanwhile, the Commander of the FCT Special Intervention Squad, CP Bennett Igwe, in an exclusive interview with one of our correspondents on Friday confirmed that SIS operatives arrested an informant working with the bandits, who abducted 23 persons in Kawu, Bwari area of Abuja on January 3.
When our correspondent asked about the arrests made so far as disclosed by the FPRO, the SIS commander, who noted that his operatives were combing the FCT borders, said he could only confirm the arrest of a bandits’ informant at the moment.
Igwe said, “We have arrested one of the bandits’ informants in connection with the Bwari abduction. At the moment, I can only confirm the arrest of their informant by our operatives. We’re currently moving along the FCT borders in Niger, Kaduna and Nasarawa states, so I don’t have details of some recent updates.”
Military deploys troops
The Nigerian Army Headquarters on Friday deployed troops, Armoured Personnel Carrier, and several Hilux vehicles in and around the Nigerian Army Housing Estate in the Kurudu area of Abuja, following the abduction of three residents.
One of our correspondents, who visited the estate on Friday, observed that soldiers surrounded the large estate, with several of them combing every nook and corner of the estate and the surrounding area.
The soldiers also searched some houses in the estate as they intensified patrol of the area on Friday.
Kurudu is one of the border communities with Nasarawa State and is located in the Abuja Municipal Area Council.
Kidnappers had on Thursday night stormed the estate and abducted three residents, including the wife and an in-law of a lawyer, Cyril Adikwu.
The Nigerian Army Housing Estate, Kurudu, Abuja, is owned by the Nigerian Army Post Housing Department under the Nigerian Army Welfare Holdings Limited, and it is being co-managed with the Nigerian Army Housing Estate Residents Association.
The estate is occupied by serving and retired military personnel, especially those of the Nigerian Army, as well as some civilians.
A resident, who spoke to one of our correspondents on Friday on condition of anonymity, revealed that it was the first time that abduction was carried out in the estate.
She said, “The kidnappers attacked the estate around 9pm on Thursday. We thought only two people were abducted, but the estate management later confirmed that the abducted persons were three. The victims are a lawyer’s wife and his in-law, and one other person, who has yet to be named. The attack was shocking because we felt that we were safe here.
“As you can see, soldiers are here from the Army Headquarters. They’ve been here since the news broke, and they’ve blocked every entrance to the estate and are searching everywhere. No one can go in except you’re a resident, and you will be thoroughly checked.”
Another resident, Austine John, who spoke to journalists, recounted the harrowing experience, stating that Adikwu managed to escape.
John noted, “It all started around 10pm. We suddenly started hearing gunshots, and immediately we knew that something was wrong. I quickly went out to ensure that my gate was bolted.
“Then we heard gunshots in the barrister’s house, and then we alerted the estate’s management, which immediately swung into action. In a short time, soldiers came around and started shooting too, but before they came, the kidnappers had taken the wife and one of the in-laws of the barrister.
“This is really traumatising because we could not sleep throughout the night due to fear of the kidnappers coming back. President Tinubu should please help Nigerians put an end to this barbaric act by the kidnappers.”
Meanwhile, the estate association in a statement obtained by Saturday PUNCH confirmed that three residents were abducted on Thursday.
The statement read, “Dear all, you are no doubt aware of the recent security breach in our estate that led to the unfortunate kidnapping at Barrister Cyril’s house at the hilltop.
“Meanwhile, excos have been duly informed that three persons were kidnapped. Thus, the excos are communicating and receiving cooperation from NAHERA’s security apparatus to ensure safety within and outside our estate.
“There is an urgent need to redesign and strengthen our security architecture. We all have to jointly proffer preventive security measures to checkmate menacing marauders.
“Last night’s experience was horrific and disturbing, but then, appreciation must be given to all residents for staying calm, while the military did their combing job. We therefore request and advise all residents to kindly remain calm, and avoid panic mode while awaiting further information on this matter.”
The spokesperson for the FCT Police Command, SP Josephine Adeh, declined comments on the development and asked our correspondent to contact the Nigerian Army.
The spokesperson for the Nigerian Army, Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, did not respond to inquiries by one of our correspondents on Friday over the development.
However, he confirmed to journalists on Friday that the incident happened in the estate around 9pm on Thursday.
He also stated that troops had responded to a distress call from the estate and were currently on a search and rescue operation.
Al-Kadriyar family hopeful
The family of the late Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar has said it remains hopeful that the remaining sisters will be released by their abductors safely and unharmed.
Sheriffdeen Al-Kadriyar disclosed this to one of our correspondents in a telephone interview on Friday.
He said the family was hopeful that the girls would be released unharmed soon, adding that the family could not reveal certain details to ensure their safety in captivity.
Notorious kidnapper nabbed
The Kaduna State Police Command on Friday handed over a suspect it claimed to be a notorious kidnapper in Abuja, Phillip Chinaza, to the FCT Police Command.
The Kaduna Command’s Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Mansir Hassan, said Chinaza was arrested in Kaduna on Thursday when operatives swooped on him and his gang members (now at large) while they were taking a victim, Segun Akinyemi from Abuja to Kano State.
The spokesperson for the FCT Police Command, Josephine Adeh, confirmed the receipt of Chinaza, alongside some arms and a mobile phone, and said more details would be revealed soon.
Adeh said, “The FCT Police Command wishes to confirm the arrest of one Chinaza Phillip, a notorious Abuja kidnapper, by police operatives of the Kaduna State Police Command on Thursday, January 17, 2024.
“The suspect has been handed over to the FCT Police Command, today, being Friday, January 19, 2024, and he’s currently in police custody. More details will be communicated soon.”
The PUNCH had reported that there was a heated gunfire exchange on Thursday, as police officers rescued an Abuja resident, Akinyemi, who was kidnapped just as he was driving out of his home.
The kidnappers were taking Akinyemi from Abuja to Kano State when the police swooped on them, according to Hassan.
He said on Thursday operatives attached to Kawo Divisional Headquarters, Kaduna, received a distress call about a kidnapping incident from Abuja.
He noted that they were alerted that the culprits and their victim were transiting through Kaduna.
Hassan said, “The operatives, at about 0010 hours, blocked a grey Toyota Hilux van with number plate Abuja RBC 90 DC, conveying four passengers, the driver inclusive, suspected to be the vehicle conveying the kidnappers and their victim.
“On sensing danger and in an effort to escape, one of the kidnappers fired at the policemen, and they responded accordingly. In the resulting gun duel, the victim, a certain Segun Akinyemi of Block 10, Flat 2, FCDA Quarters, Area 3, Garki, Abuja, was rescued, and one of the kidnappers, 28-year-old Chinaza Philip of Life Camp, Abuja, was arrested.”
The police further noted that the three other suspects who escaped were being trailed, adding that the vehicle belonging to the victim, two Retay G17 model pistols, one Beretta pistol, 10 pieces of 9mm P.A.K ammunition, and five pieces of 9mm special ammunition were recovered from the kidnappers.
Hassan said the fleeing suspects are Chidibere Nwodibo of Life Camp, Abuja; one Auwal surname unknown, and the gang leader whose identity is yet to be ascertained.
The Commissioner of Police, Kaduna State Police Command, A. D. Ali, while commending the operatives for the brave feat, tasked them to continuously go after criminal elements in the state.
Exclusively Culled from the Saturday Punch