Three men in a kidnap gang have been sentenced to death by hanging for the 2016 kidnap of two reverend sisters.
They were among seven suspects—including a couple—arraigned for the kidnap of Reverend Sisters Perpetua Idowu Apo and Bukola Roseline Familade, along with their driver Yohanna Zibai, at Onipetesi along Ore-Lagos expressway in 2016.
They were charged for conspiracy, kidnapping, armed robbery, aiding and abetting kidnapping and accessory after the fact.
The seven arraigned at the start of the case are Reuben Akinbehinje (a.k.a Chairman), Saheed Oyewo (a.k.a Olaoluwa), Seun Lajuwomi (a.k.a Ebile), Abimbola Akinbehinje, John Imoleayo Uche (a.k.a Uchenna), Seun Iseoluwa Akintan (a.k.a Egbegbe) and Lateef Fayemi Hammed.
Akinbehinje, Uche and Akintan were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.
Oyewo died in prison before the case was determined, and Akinbehinje was fined N50,000 and released on bail after spending two years in custody.
Lajuwomi and Hammed were let off the hook as the judge said that the prosecution had no evidence against them.
This verdict followed their conviction by a high court judge, Justice Ademola Adegoroye in Akure, the Ondo state capital.
N1m ransom, 11 days in captivity
According to the prosecution led by Babatunde Falodun of the Department of Public Prosecutions, Ondo state Ministry of Justice, the accused persons held the sisters and driver hostage for eleven days in the bush, tied together with chains and under lock until the N1 million ransom finally agreed upon by both parties was paid to the kidnappers.
They along with other gang members who were said to be at large and armed with offensive weapons such as guns and cutlasses had robbed the Reverend Sisters of their valuables such as bags, internet modem and flash, power bank and a total sum of N70,000 while they stripped one of them of her veil.
In the same process, they also robbed their driver, Yohanna Zibai of his Techno Handset, a sum of N5, 000 and the car keys to their vehicle.
One of the accused persons, Seun Lajuwomi was alleged to have collected two ATM cards belonging to Reverend Sister Perpetual Idowu Apo from one Likeman who was currently at large and used the cards to withdraw money from her account at an Automated Teller Machines at United Bank of Africa, Ore branch and Sterling Bank, also in Ore while knowing that those ATM cards were forcibly taken.
Abimbola Akinbehinje, the 5th accused person and also the wife to the first accused person was said to have removed a gun kept in the ceiling of a house at Itamo, Akure by the first accused person, Reuben Akinbehinje alias Chairman and took the gun to her mother-in-law’s house at Mile 49 along Ore-Lagos Expressway to keep.
One of the Reverend Sisters, Bukola Roseline Familade of St. Louis Convent, Zonkwa, Kaduna State while recounting their 11-day ordeal in the kidnapper’s den before the court stated that the kidnap took place when they along with their driver had to stop along the road because their car developed fault around 7 p.m.
She stated that it was in the process of waiting for someone that would repair the vehicle that they were abducted by heavily gunmen.
She stated that one of the gunmen nearly killed her in the process and that they were tied together with chain and padlock throughout their stay in the kidnapper’s den.
She testified that the leader of the gang came to them to speak with their sisters twice on phone and at first demanded a ransom of N20 million before they would be released.
She said at all the time they were held hostage, there were three members of the gang watching them so that they could not escape and threatened them at intervals with guns and cutlasses.
She stated that they were released 11 days later and the case was reported to the DSS office where she later identified two men as part of the gang that kidnapped them out of suspects brought out to her and wrote a statement there which was almost three weeks after their release.
The driver also testifying before the court corroborated the testimony of the Reverend Sister and narrated how he was severely beaten and threatened with being shot by the gang members during the kidnap.
He stated that he too was able to recognize two members of the gang that kidnapped them at the DSS office where he also volunteered his statements.
The prosecution also called to the witness stand, Johnson Siunu of the DSS office, Akure who stated that a case of kidnap was reported to their office and that the case was referred to his team for investigation.
He stated that it was the phone number used by the kidnappers to negotiate and monitor the delivery of the ransom sum which was tracked and analyzed that led to the arrest of John Imoleayo Uche, Seun Iseoluwa Akintan, Saheed Oyewo, Seun Lajuwomi and Lateef Fayemi Hammed at Ore.
He stated that further investigation led to the arrest of their kingpin, Reuben Akinbehinje and his wife in Itamo Village in Akure North Local government.
While being led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, he certified the printouts of the Atm transactions made by the kidnappers on the victim’s ATM cards and it was tendered and admitted as exhibits before the court.
The judge said that at the point of adopting final written addresses, the defense had raised the issue of whether the prosecution had discharged the burden placed on it and proved all the ingredients of the case against the defendants beyond a reasonable doubt.
He, however, held that the prosecution had proven the case of conspiracy, armed robbery and kidnapping against three of the defendants and sentenced them accordingly.
Image Credit: OSRC