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‘We engaged in kidnapping because we needed money to cushion effects of COVID-19’

Five suspected kidnappers had told their police interrogators they went back to crime to escape hunger they said the Covid-19 pandemic forced on them. The…

Five suspected kidnappers had told their police interrogators they went back to crime to escape hunger they said the Covid-19 pandemic forced on them.

The police said that all the suspects had been in and out of cell, at least, four times in the last eight months.

The suspects were identified as Umaru Abdullahi,  Majuba Mohammed, Aliyu Alhamajo,  Mohammed Umaru and Shehu Malami.

The suspects were arrested by detectives from the Anti-Kidnapping Unit of the State Command, who went after them following information they had abducted a 17-year-old boy, identified as Salisu Mohammed, at Epe, Lagos, on June 9, 2020.

Abdullahi, who the police described as the gang leader, told interrogators, “We decided to stay away from crime after we were released from police custody in March 2020. Those of us with little offences were charged to court and granted bail. This was done to check the outbreak of Covid-19 inside police cell.

“When we came out, we discovered that things were not the same again.

The few places we used to go for small jobs had been shut as a result of the lockdown. After weeks of battling hunger, we decided to go back to robbery.

“We broke into small shops in the area to survive but the proceeds were not enough. We slept in open shops in markets and waterside. It was on one of those nights that the thought of kidnapping came into my mind. I sold the idea to other members, who bought into it. We decided it would be our last crime as we would split whatever amount we realize into five and disappear from the area.

“One afternoon, we saw this young boy sleeping alone in an isolated area where cows are fed. We jumped at him and took him away into the forest in Epe. The next day, we called his parents to pay us N10 million ransom.”

The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana, said that the Epe police station received a complaint that one Salisu Mohammed, 17, had been kidnapped, while he was sleeping in a cattle ranch in Epe, by kidnappers numbering about five and taken to an unknown destination.

“The kidnappers established contact with the family and demanded the sum of N10m as ransom. The Command’s Anti-Kidnapping team was promptly deployed to Epe. The victim was rescued unhurt on June 13, 2020 inside a thick forest in Epe without payment of ransom. All the suspects were arrested. They confessed to the commission of the crime,” Elkana said.

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