Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of a Special Offences court in Ikeja, Lagos has heard how a businessman, Mr Sylvanus Ahamonu was kidnapped and made to pay $420,000 ransom by alleged kidnap kingpin, Chukwudimeme Onwuamadike alias Evans and his gang.
Ahamonu who gave his evidence online via the Zoom App was testifying as the third prosecution witness during the trial of Evans and a dismissed member of the Nigeria Army, Victor Aduba.
While led in evidence by the state prosecutor, Mr Yusuf Sule, the businessman said his ordeal began on the evening June 23, 2014 while heading to his residence from work in his car .
He said his driver were waylaid by two or three men in police and military uniform claiming to be men of the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police.
“Evans came into my car brandishing an AK-47 rifle. He wearing a three quarter jeans trouser. I saw his face, he cannot deny it. The men in army and police uniforms were beating me. They said I was wanted by SARS.
“Their bus was parked close by and they took me into bus, put me on the floor and covered my head. They placed their feet on my head throughout the trip.
“After about two or three hours they transferred me to a Sienna and took me to a building where they handcuffed my hands and legs and began interrogating me about my personal life and business”.
The witness said that three weeks into captivity, the kidnappers contacted his wife and asked her to pay a $2million ransom or he will be murdered.
He said that his spouse in order to meet up with their demands, sold their properties and contacted family, friends and well wishers. She raised $200,000.
“The money was given to them and they said that it was not complete and they said she must provide the complete money or they will kill me.
“She sold some things in the village and gave him another $200,000 and he said the money wasn’t complete.
“My wife raised another $20,000 to give him. We gave them a total of $420,000,” Ahamonu said.
He told the court that Evans had also threatened to kill Dominic his immediate older brother who had dropped off the first tranche of $200,000 because he had reported the abduction to the police.
The businessman alleged that Evans also kidnapped a relative named Onyebuchi who had gone to pay the the final tranche of $20,000 ransom.
He said that he was released alongside Onyebuchi who drove them away in his (Onyebuchi’s) car when they were both freed.
He noted that their paths crossed again after he was captured and was held in police custody.
“The police announced that anyone who has been kidnapped by Evans before should come to identify him.
“When I saw him, he started begging for forgiveness, he told everyone the amount of money he received from me, how he treated me.
“My hands and feet were handcuffed for two months and I was blindfolded for that period. I nearly died.
“Evans told my wife to take me to the hospital and that if I should die, he will kill her. I had to be flown abroad for treatment,” Ahamonu said.
While being cross-examined by Evans’ defence counsel Mr Victor Opara (SAN), Ahamonu said that he never met Evans prior to his ordeal.
He said when he was accosted by the gang and told that he was wanted by SARS/authorities, he initially did not panic because he is a law abiding citizen.
On raising the funds for the ransom, he said that he has a very large family as well as a lot of friends who were fearful and anxious for his wellbeing and that they provided funds.
“They were interacting with my wife for the ransom almost every night. Evans asked her to keep her phone on at midnight,” he said.
While being cross-examined by counsel to Aduba, Mr Emmanuel Ochai, the businessman said that the abduction occured on Kara Road off Osolo Way, Ajao Estate, Lagos.
Corroborating the businessman testimonies, his wife, Mrs Chimebere Ahamonu, narrated how she raised a ransom of $420,000 to secure her husband freedom.
She said had spoken to her husband in the morning of the day of the alleged abduction but did not sense anything amiss until evening when he was not answering his phone.
“Then I was not living in Lagos, I was in Onitsha. I started calling everyone we knew that I did not hear from him.
“A week later a man called my line with a hidden number that my husband was kidnapped.
“Another week later the same man called me and demanded $2million for his release. I shouted because I have never seen that kind of money before.
“I started calling family and well wishers for help,” she said.
Chimebere said another week later, the same man called her demanding for the ransom and she told him that she could only raise N5million.
“He said that I was not serious and that if I do not come up with the $2million, I am not ready to see my husband alive. He said even if it is $100,000 I should bring it,” she said.
The businesswoman said that she sold properties, sought donations from family and friends and managed to raise $200,000 which she sent to Lagos to her brother-in-law, Dominic who delivered the ransom.
She said that she received a phonecall a week later demanding for more money and warning her never to send Dominic to deliver any ransom because he had reported them to the police.
Chimebere said that fearing for the safety of her spouse, she raised another tranche of $200,000 and came to Lagos to deliver the ransom herself alongside a relation who escorted to the drop-off site.
“After dropping the $200,000 he called me again to demand for more money.
“I told him I have no more money people were even calling me a scam because of the way I was appealing for funds.
“I managed to raise $20,000 and it was after that that my husband was released.
“He instructed that my husband must be taken immediately to hospital so that he would not die,” she said.
While being cross-examined by Evans’ counsel, Mr Victor Opara (SAN), Chimebere narrated the circumstances surrounding the delivery of the second tranche of $200,000 ransom.
She said she was unfamiliar with Lagos and had to be accompanied by a relation named Onyebuchi to drop off the ransom under the cover of darkness.
“I was communicating with the person on the phone throughout the process. I recognised the voice. It was the same voice that had been calling me,” she said.
After her testimonies, the prosecutor announced that the state will be closing its case against Evans and Aduba.
Subsequently, the judge, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo adjourned the case until February 4, 2022 for Evans and his accomplice to open defence.