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23 Jun 2017 00:00
‘King of kidnappers’:Otherwise known as Evans
Chukwudi Dumeme Onua-madike has forgotten how many people he has kidnapped, or who they were. The infamous crime boss, who goes by the unglamorous nom du guerre of Evans, gave the names of 15 of his victims to police in Lagos.
Those were the ones he could remember, he apparently told them.
Nor can he remember how much money was extorted during the seven years in which he allegedly presided over Nigeria’s most notorious kidnapping ring.
“I am the king of kidnappers in Nigeria,” he told TV cameras this week, as police escorted him around several of the Lagos houses where his victims were kept.
Kidnapping is big business in Nigeria. Last year 51 cases were reported in Lagos alone, although many more are thought to go unreported.
In gripping detail, Evans described the mechanics of his business. “I have just three camps in Lagos where I kept some of the victims I kidnapped … I collected $1‑million from one of the victims, while the other two paid me $300 000 and $250 000 respectively. Whenever I noticed policemen were after me, I will move the victim to a different camp so as to prevent policemen from tracking me.”
Like all effective managers, Evans knew how to delegate.“I don’t come to the camps; I have my boys on the ground and they give me information on a daily basis,” he said.
Evans’s empire crumbled when his most recent victim, pharmaceutical boss Donatus Dunu, managed to escape after being held in one of the Lagos houses for several months.
Dunu crawled over the wall of the compound, and was nearly lynched by neighbours who assumed he was a thief trying to make a quick getaway. It didn’t help that after three months in captivity he was filthy, unshaven and wearing only a pair of a boxer shorts.
“I was looking like a mad person,” he said.
Eventually, Dunu managed to convince the neighbours to take him to a nearby police station. Later that day, he returned with police to the compound where he had been held. From clues gathered there, police were able to roll up Evans’s criminal network — and, after a few weeks, they nabbed Evans himself.
The high-profile arrest of one of the country’s most wanted men has been a public relations coup for Nigeria’s police force, which has not been afraid to milk the attention. Evans has been paraded in front of journalists at every opportunity and the story has dominated local headlines.
“This is a huge success for the Nigeria Police Force. The force will build on this success and continue to prevent kidnap cases and criminality generally in the country, and ensure prompt detection of those crimes that cannot be prevented, and also ensure that perpetrators are arrested, investigated and prosecuted,” said a police spokesperson.
Evans, meanwhile, is hoping to use his newfound celebrity status to keep him out of jail. “If I am given a second chance, I would be the most grateful person on Earth and I promise to be an advocate of anti-kidnapping in the country,” he said in yet another statement.
Public sympathy may even be on his side. #FreeEvans is trending on Nigerian Twitter, with some commentators pointing out that Evans is no worse than many Nigerian politicians, who are on their second and third chances already.
But not everyone is convinced, and there has been a growing backlash against much of the media coverage, which treats Evans as a celebrity rather than a criminal.
“Recently, we’ve been reading about the billionaire kidnapping felon. His life sounds like a bad Danielle Steel novel. It’s a sob story if there was ever such a thing. But the thing here is, he’s a kidnapper,” wrote YNaija, an influential online publication, in an editorial.
“He used the anguish of other people to enrich himself and build that terrible excuse for a billionaire’s house in Magodo. As sad as his life was, it should not be presented without the allegations that have been made against him. He deserves no sympathy. We shouldn’t have to read stories about him wanting to become an anti-kidnapping ambassador before he’s been convicted of his crimes. If anything, he should be doing his advocacy from prison,” the editorial concluded.
Read more from Simon Allison
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