Five days after three-year-old Margaret Hill was freed by unidentified gunmen who had kidnapped her, a three-year-old son of a traditional ruler, Prince Samuel Ovunda Amadi, was yesterday morning kidnapped on his way to school in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
This is the fourth case of abduction of 3-year-olds in the last two months. Before Hill, two kids had been kidnapped although with less media coverage.
The prince was being taken to Princess International School in the city when a red Volvo 244 blocked the Mercedes Benz Jeep bearing him, forced the driver to take the East-West road before they stopped at a lonely spot. They ordered the driver to go back and disappeared with the boy.
They later called the father, Eze Francis Amadi, the paramount ruler of Iriebe, Rivers State, to demand N50 million ransom.
They threatened to kill the boy if the father failed to pay the ransom.The kidnappers directed the royal father to pay the money into Dyke Otuonye’s account with a bank in Port Harcourt with account number 301450821807.T
he Eze became agitated when one Isaac Owode, who claimed he was from Lagos State and a student of University of Science and Technology Port Harcourt, said he recognised the voice of the people asking for the ransom. Owode allegedly said it was the voice of one Kelvin who lives at 298 Ikwerre Road.
Amadi said he became suspicious because the Isaac had not come to his place for over six months after he had told the king that some people had hired him to kill the Eze and demanded for money.
Also, the driver of the car, Mr. Kenneth Akubueze, was alleged by the royal father to have constantly contradicted himself on how the boy was kidnapped. “He first told me that the kidnappers used a gun to break the side glass of the jeep before he stated that they used a stick to break it,” Eze Amadi said.
Because of these contradictions, he called in the police from Oyigbo police station. The two men were immediately arrested and taken to the police station. Before then, both Isaac and Akubueze had pleaded their innocence before pressmen.
“The same Isaac had threatened that some people said they were going to kill me and that unless I gave them money, they would kidnap my son. Now they have done it. My driver has been working with me for five years but how come he is unable to say how the incident happened? He first said they used stick to break the glass and now he is saying they shot at the glass.
“Immediately I sent some of my chiefs to go back and ask people around where the thing happened and immediately they were driving out of the compound, the people called to ask me to leave the driver alone that he does not know what happened.“Again, when the police arrested the two of them, you are witnesses; they are calling me again to say that I should leave two of them because they do not know about the kidnap. So what I feel is that these two people (pointing at Isaac and Akubueze) know where my son is, they should go and bring him,” he said.
Akubueze said that he was driving when the Volvo blocked him and two of the people, who took away the child, jumped into his vehicle. He said they were armed but did not fire.
“They commanded me to drive along East-West road until we got to a lonely spot on Uniport [University of Port Harcourt] road and they asked me to turn back and they took the boy away. I could not shout because there was nobody around there,” he said.Asked if he did not lock the car from inside when the incident took place, he said he did but that one of the doors was open from where the gunmen accessed the inside to take the child from him
.Isaac said he recognised the voice of Kelvin when he heard it as they called the king to demand for the ransom and he called his number which he answered but said he was in Lagos and not Port Harcourt. He however said the same voice which called the Eze was the one he heard on his phone.
The royal father was further rattled when some people assured him that since the militants used a bank account to demand for the ransom, they would be caught but it did not take a minute before they called back asking for cash and instead of the initial N50 million, they asked for N5 million.
“Chief, how much will you pay? I said you should bring N5 million cash in crisp N1,000 notes and make sure you will not involve the police or we will kill your boy,” the voice reportedly said. When the king asked him where he would personally bring the money to and take his child, the voice warned him to return the driver and Isaac from the police station and that he would get back to him to tell him where he would deliver the ransom.
Later on, they called the royal father again to demand for “a minimum” of N8 million before releasing the boy. This prompted the father to exclaim that he no longer knew who to trust as those giving information on what was happening were obviously “within”.
All through the phone discussions, the suspected militants used mobile phone number 07035255667 to discuss while the person who made the demands stammered a bit. In all the discussions, he showed knowledge of all actions taken in the palace.
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