Govt. denies paying ransom to kidnap gang


…but report in Nigeria says otherwise

July 15, 2016 By Alusine Sesay

Leader of the gang who abducted Sierra Leone’s Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Alhaji Rabiu Yusuf, Tuesday told reporters that the sum of N1. 5million (equivalent to US$5,500) was paid by the Sierra Leone High Commission before the Nigeria Police swooped on them and arrested the gang, according to the Vanguard.

But Presidential Spokesperson, Abdulai Baratay yesterday maintained the Sierra Leone Government position on the non-payment of ransom, emphasising that “As a government we don’t approve payment of ransom for our officials who would be under abduction. We worked with the Nigerian Government and the police mount pressure on the kidnappers, which subsequently led to the release of the Deputy High Commissioner.”

The Deputy High Commissioner, Retired Major General Alfred Nelson-Williams, was kidnapped on Thursday, 30 June, while on his way to attend a military graduation ceremony in Kaduna State, Nigeria. He was released on 5 July, after intense diplomatic moves by the Sierra Leone Government, which dispatched a high level delegation to Nigeria.

According to report, his kidnappers demanded a 40million Naira ransom, although the government has emphatically denied paying ransom to secure his release.

Addressing journalists immediately after the release of the Deputy High Commissioner, Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Bangura said: “We had no correspondence on the payment of ransom. The most important and sweetest news for now is that our Deputy High Commissioner had been released and all other information would be communicated to you later.”

Also, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Samura Kamara, who led a government delegation to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, told a presser at State House in Freetown this week that no ransom was paid to secure the release of the Deputy High Commissioner.

But according Vanguard newspaper, the Nigerian Police Force on Tuesday paraded 11 kidnappers, including gang leader Alhaji Rabiu Yusuf and his 2nd in command Garba Abubakar, both dressed in Nigeria Army camouflage.

A police source told Vanguard that the special team of investigators sent by the Acting IGP on the operation could not strike while the money was being paid because it might have jeopardised the operation and lead to fatality. Hence, police went after the criminals days later, reports the newspaper.

Asked how the gang came about the military camouflage they were using for the criminal operation and the AK 47 rifles which look exactly as military weapons, the gang leader said one Musa, who provided it for them, was killed in a shootout with the police, reports Vanguard.

The police source told Vanguard that the gang extorted a huge ransom for the executive director of Dangote Group, kidnapped just before Eid celebrations, and that it was after they had exhausted the ransom shared that they re-assembled to kidnap the Deputy High Commissioner.

A Police Public Relations Officer, DCP Donald Awunah, was quoted by the newspaper to have said that “In a coordinated operation based on intelligence and technical support, the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) of the Nigeria Police smashed an eleven man kidnap gang that had for some time terrorized Kaduna State, the FCT and other North-Central States of Nigeria.

“This dare devil criminal gang was responsible for the abduction of the Sierra-Leonean Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Maj. Gen. Alfred Claude-Nelson on June 30, 2016, the Executive Director of Dangote Group and many other high profile kidnap for ransom in recent times.

“The modus operandi of these criminal elements includes mounting road blocks on highways in Military uniforms, surprise attack on unsuspecting motorist and relocating from one point to other in the forest with their victims to avoid detection and arrest.”

The paper also quoted the police PRO to have said that Ag.IGP Ibrahim Idris had re-organised the tactical operations teams to tackle crime and criminality throughout the country, adding “To this end, the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) of the IGP Monitoring Unit and the Nigeria Police force on July 2, 2016 carried out tactical surveillance of the Abuja-Kaduna axis and all the adjoining States.

“This coordinated operation led to the arrest of eleven members of the notorious gang that has been terrorizing the North-Central States of the country with arms and ammunition recovered from them.”

The police operation reportedly recovered three (3) AK 47 rifles; three (3) AK 47 rifle magazines loaded with ninety rounds of ammunition and two (2) sets of military camouflage uniforms.

The suspected kidnappers are in Police custody, although they are expected to be charged to court presently.