“Jesus is Alive”, reads an inscription on the gate of 21, Prophet Asaye street, Igando, Lagos, the place where Chukwudumeje Onwuamadike, better known as Evans, kept his victims.
Evans does not need much introduction as he has dominated news headlines in the last one week.
Although he tucked himself in a magnificent mansion at 3, Fred Shoboyede street, Magodo, a highbrow domain in Lagos, his cash cow is devoid of opulence — Evans’ residence at Shoboyede is one of the two houses he owns in the area.
From LASU-Iba expressway, which is the access road to the camp of the gang while coming from the town, there are at least four streets before the place. None of the streets is tarred. The houses on Asaye are like those in any area occupied by the middle-class in Nigeria.
There are two churches on the street: a Foursquare Gospel Church and Celestial Church of Christ, which is a few meters from the camp of the kidnappers. Evans’ den is a bungalow in between two houses. But for the different colours of gates, the three houses look so similar.
The victims of the billionaire kidnapper were kept there, with some members of the gang watching after them.
When TheCable visited the area on Saturday evening, no one was willing to speak. Many residents feigned ignorance about the activities of the syndicate.
Adjacent the camp is an unpainted house where grocery items are sold inside a small shop. Three women surrounded a meat seller, bargaining the price of some pieces of meat placed on a well-carved wood inside the tray of the seller. The reporter interrupted their discussion but the attention paid to him ended when the short conversation drifted towards the activities of the gang.
THE FEAR OF EVANS
“I was not around when that incident happened and the woman with me here is new. She just moved in here,” a dark chubby woman said before gesturing to the meat seller.
All attempts to prolong the discussion were like squeezing water out of a stone, hence the reporter turned elsewhere.
This time around, to a young man right in front of the Celestial Church; he also would not speak about the criminal gang.
The middle-aged man, who identified himself as a commercial transporter, was fixing one of the front tyres of his bus when this reporter approached him.
“Well, the truth of the matter is that I go out early and return late. I don’t really have information on what you are asking from me. You may speak with someone else,” he said in response to a question.
Still discouraging responses from residents until the owner of one of the buildings beside the compound where the gang operated walked pass.
FINALLY, SOMEONE SPEAKS
He was also unwilling to divulge information but having heard his accent, the reporter switched to Yoruba language. The trick worked a bit.
“This is one of my houses; I live in the other house I have around this place. My tenants informed me on the day operatives of the State Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) came to this area,” he said.
“I learnt it was my house that the policemen first entered, thinking that was the place where the people were operating from. They broke some windows and shot into the air to scare people, but they were later directed to the place. That’s all I can say.”
Findings revealed that the owner of the fortress used by the dangerous group died three years ago. One of the neighbours of the deceased woman told TheCable that the tenant who rented the place after the demise of the landlady sublet it to Evans’ team.
“That was how these criminals brought trouble into an otherwise peaceful community. Only God knows the number of people that they had tortured in the house,” a slim young man who simply identified himself as pastor said.
Funsho Akomolafe, the owner of a provision store located at the entrance of Asaye street, is a man of courage. Or how else does one describe an individual who gave his identity, spoke at length, but only declined to have his photograph taken.
“We know only two occupants of that compound, and you won’t believe how they were friendly with people in this community,” Akomolafe opened up as he signalled a boy around to help him attend to one customer.Akomolafe spoke about the activities of two members of the gang and how a captive: Donatus Dunu, a pharmacist and owner of Maydon Pharmaceutical Company, Ilupeju, Lagos, helped the police to end the manhunt for Evans.
“I noticed that they had interest in politics. On a number of occasions, they have engaged me about the situation of the country. ‘People have been complaining about hardship under this government’, ‘Light is bad in this our area’. ‘This our area is very peaceful.’ Issues like these were what we discussed.
“One of them has a bald head. He was always on short knickers and Tshirt. He buys bags of sachet water from me, but there is a shop there where he buys fish. The owner of the shop said the least amount of dry fish he has bought from her is N5000.
“He greets me whenever he passes. Even if it’s 10 times that he walks past my shop, he would greet me. I never knew I was relating with a crook. Sometimes he would even tell me that he was going to get things on the next street. You won’t ever believe he could do such a thing. He jokes a lot. He would show me the gallon of petrol he bought from a filling station.
A VISIT TO THE LION’S DEN
Akomolafe also spoke of how he had the cause to visit the stronghold of Evans some three months back.
“The water in this area is very bad, but there are places where one can get good water. Sometime in March, the owner of one of the buildings beside their camp asked me to help her get someone that could dig a borehole. I was able to help her get a professional and they negotiated. After the negotiation, the person handling the project said he would need to inspect the house where the gang was operating from before he could dig the borehole.
LIST OF SOME OF EVANS’ VICTIMS
|Mbarikatta Uboma||2012||N20 million|
|Paul Cole||2012||N20 million|
|Mohammed Jamal||2012||N17 million|
|Kingsley Nwokenta||2012||N15 million|
|Anthony Ozoanidobi||2012||N15 million|
|Leo Abraham||2012||N15 million|
|Ojukwu Cosmas||2016||$1 million|
|Raymond Odu-Na–Ichida||2015||$1 million|
|Uche Okoroafor||2015||$1 million|
|Elias Ukachukwu||2015||$1 million|
|James Uduji||2016||$1.2 million|
|Francis Umeh||2016||$1 million|
|Donatus Duru||2017||N150 million|
“So, on this particular day, we went to the house and knocked for over 20 minutes before the gate was opened. When the gate was opened, the person handling the project just inspected the side of the house and said he could dig the borehole because there was no soak away on that side. Immediately we left, they closed the gate but we didn’t suspect anything.”
THE CAPTIVE THAT BROKE THE CAMEL’S BACK
“The day Dunu escaped, that Celestial Church was holding a vigil. The man escaped around 3am when his captors were far asleep. He scaled the fence and jumped into the next compound but he was too weak and afraid to leave the place. So, he remained there. When his captors woke up, they must have thought that he had gone far and would give them out… they fled through a narrow path on the left that side of the street (he points towards the direction).
“In the morning when some women in the compound Dunu saw him, they took him for an armed robber and raised the alarm. He was almost lynched but he explained to people that he was kidnapped. That was when I joined the crowd that gathered and we went to infrom of the chairman of the landlords’ association. The landlord was not at home when we got there, so we managed to take him to the police station. He was wearing only boxers and singlet with bruises all over his body.”
A woman, who refused to disclose her identity, corroborated Akomolafe’s account on Dunu’s experience and how members of Evans’ gang were able to conceal their evil acts from the people in the area
“We didn’t even know that we were living with lions. They play with us; they come to fetch water opposite my house. We know them very well, but we didn’t even know that that was what they were doing in that compound,” she said.
“We only see two of them around. One dark, and the other fair. They greet us very well. Any little thing, you hear: ‘Madam, good evening’, we didn’t know they were lions.
“On the fateful day that their victim escaped, I saw the man as I was going to work. I heard him speaking Igbo language with someone on the phone. He told the person that ‘I heard that they are taking me to the police station, but I don’t know the station’. When he ended the conversation, I asked him if he was an Igbo man and he said yes. I asked him where he hails from and he said Ichida in Anambra state. I said ‘What brought you here?’ And he narrated what happened.
“He said he was picked up at Ilupeju, that they kidnapped him up as he was leaving his office around 7pm on February 14. That they abandoned the car they came with and took him in their own car. Along the road, they blindfolded him.”
THANK GOD OUR CHILDREN WEREN’T USED FOR RITUAL
The woman said she had lived in the community for 10 years and had not experienced anything close to a criminal gang operating uninhibited.
She imagined what could have happened if the gang had continued operating in the environment.
“It was God that helped us push these demons out of this place. We have a lot of children in this area. Only me, I have eight. Imagine if these criminals could kidnap adults and hold them hostage for months, what can’t they do to children? They might have gone as far as using our children for money ritual.”
As this reporter left the area at sunset, he could not but wonder how many neighbourhoods in not just Lagos but across the country are harbouring people who should be in the place where Evans is cooling off at the moment. One thing is clear: the arrest of the kidnap kingpin is worth rejoicing over.