Eight weeks after three clergy men from Kaduna State were abducted at Dutse Village in Kadua State, the Inspector-General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team has conducted a raid on hideouts used by suspected kidnappers in the state leading to the arrest of men now believed to have masterminded the abduction.

On March 21, news broke that kidnappers had abducted Rev. Emmanuel Dziggan, Rev. Illiya Anto and Rev. Yakubu Dzarma of the United Church of Christ in Nigeria. The kidnappers demanded N100m for their release.

The police said since the abduction of the pastors, the police high command had received many other complaints about the activities of the gang within and around Kaduna, forcing the Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, to deploy members of the SIRT to track down the criminals.

For instance, the same gang was said to have kidnapped a member of staff of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, who was later released after ransom was paid for him.

The members of the gang were identified as Kashimu Shehu (aka Baliago, said to be the leader of the gang), Aliyu Haruna, Muhammedu Mamman, Hassan Bello, Bala Mohammed and Ishiaku Kabiru.

 Saturday PUNCH learnt that two of the suspects, Haruna and Bello, were arrested at the naming ceremony organised by their gang leader, Shehu, at Gidan Kasimu, Mai-Yahsi Village, in Dutse-Wai Kubua Local Government area of Kaduna State.

They later provided information with which the police tracked down other members of the gang.

Before the police finally caught up with them, it is believed that the gang members had raked in millions of naira in ransom money along with money made from robberies within Kaduna and along the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway.

In his statement to the police, Haruna, 30, said he is a Fulani man born in Katsina State but raised in Kaduna State.

He said, “I rear cattle and also engage in farming. I have a motorcycle that I use for commercial purposes. On April 24, 2016, I was arrested by some policemen from Abuja at a naming ceremony organised by Kasimu (Shehu), aka Babajo.

The suspected kidnappers
The suspected kidnappers

 “I joined the gang that same April 2016. We were six members in the gang. We had just one AK47 rifle, which was always in the possession of our gang leader, Kasimu Shehu. In April, he called me and said I should bring food for them saying he, along with other members of our gang, had kidnapped a man at Auden Jangwan Village off Kaduna-Abuja Expressway.

“When I went to deliver the food on my motorcycle, I saw Kasimu with an AK47 rifle in the bush. He promised to pay me N200,000 once the ransom  had been paid, but I was given just N1,000 when I delivered the food.  I know I committed a crime.  Muhammedu (Mamman), who is a cousin to Kasimu (Shehu) was the one guarding the hostage in the camp at the time.”

Bello, on the other hand, told the police that on April 14, he went with his gang members to kidnap a member of staff of the Presidential Villa, whom they later found praying on the side of the road.

“I don’t know who gave Kasimu (Shehu) information about the man. But after some days, we were paid a ransom of N1m before we released him.  I got N200,000 as my share and the only thing I did was to escort him when he was kidnapped to our camp,” he said.

But surprisingly, despite statements by other members of the gang identifying Shehu as the leader of the gang, the 27-year-old Fulani herdsman denied all the allegations.

He said, “I am a native of Mai-Yahsi Village in  Dutse-Wai Kubua Local Government Area of Kaduna State.  I attended an Alamajiri School at Peleke-Tasher Tsamya Village, Zaria, Kaduna State. I am married with two wives and I have two children.

“I have over 40 cows, which I rear at Audu Jangwan Village along the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway. I am not part of any kidnapping gang as my friends alleged.  I am not the leader of any kidnapping gang. I was not involved in the kidnapping of the pastors or the employee of the Presidency. I don’t have an Ak47 rifle as alleged. I only have locally made gun, which I bought from one late old man for N600,000.  I only use the gun to protect my cows.  I don’t have a licence for the gun. The gun is currently with one Matthew for repairs.”

One of the clergymen kidnapped by the suspects, Rev. Dzarma, told the story of their ordeal in the hands of their abductors.

He said, “We had gone to clear a church site for a seminary around 4pm that day. When we finished, we were about to enter our vehicles when the boys surrounded us.

“They were holding AK47 rifles as they shouted at us to surrender all our valuables including cash. They collected N64,000 cash from me including my mobile phone worth 78,000 and also my shoes. They ordered us into the bush and told us to start trekking.

“After trekking for one hour, one of us, Rev. Ilia Anto, who was sick, told them that he could not go any further and he complained about his health. They started beating him and when they saw that he still would not move, they used his phone to call his last dialled number and gave the person the location where to find him. They left him there and told us to continue trekking.”

The body of Anto would later be found almost decomposing in the bush.

Rev. Dzarma said they trekked the whole day and finally got to the kidnapper’s camp where he noticed that they had four separate camps in the same area.

According to him, each of the camp was guarded by at least 10 men armed with AK47 rifles.

He said the next day, they used his mobile phone to call his wife and gave her three phone numbers which she was directed to call.

“They said if they didn’t get the ransom for our release in five days, they would kill us. They were later paid N4m before we were released. When we left, there were four kidnapped women in the camp, one of them was pregnant. I can confidently identify one of those who took us as Kasimu Shehu arrested by the police,”  he said.

Another victim of the kidnappers, 40-year-old Muhammed Dan Azumi, a Nassarawa State civil servant, said he was abducted on April 14 at about 5.30pm in Kaduna.

He said, “I was with my wife and one other woman, Hajara , praying at Audu Jangwan, when some hoodlums suddenly came and surrounded us.  They told my wife to go because she was heavily pregnant. They then ordered Hajara and me into the bush.

“While on our way, one of them took Hajara on a bike and took her to the camp but I was forced to trek. They were six and one of them held an AK47 rifle, others wielded machetes and sticks. They claimed to be Boko Haram members.

“We trekked for about 18 hours inside the bush before we got to an uncompleted building that was used as their camp.  When we arrived, they asked Hajara and me to cooperate or they would kill us.

“They said they needed N10m for our release. Later, they reduced it to N3m. But they collected a ransom of N1m from my boss before Hajara and I were released. We spent three days in the bush. They also collected the sum of N20,000 that was on me when I was kidnapped and they inflicted a deep cut on my head.  When I heard that the hoodlums had been arrested, I went to Metro Police Station in Kaduna and I was able to identify Aliyu Haruna.”

The Police Force Public Relation, Olabisi Kolawole, said the suspects would be arraigned soon.