A 45-year-old pastor, Ndifreke Udo Amos, has been arrested by operatives of the FIB Intelligence Response Team (FIB-IRT) for allegedly helping a kidnap gang in the abduction of an 80-year-old man, Pa Anthony Ugbuzor Idornigie.
The octogenarian victim was said to be sitting in his house at No 7, Garage Street, Itoki, Lagos on November 14 last year when Amos walked in with a bible in his hand and started preaching to him.
In the middle of Amos’ sermon, another stranger was said to have walked into the compound and claimed to be in search of accommodation. Pa Idornigie was said to have offered him one, but the stranger said he should follow him to collect the amount demanded as rent because he did not have the money on him.
While Pa Idornigie was said to have been reluctant about following the stranger, Pastor Amos allegedly urged him to do so. In the process of following the stranger, however, Pa Idornigie was abducted by some people the police now believe were working in cahorts with the pastor.
Three days later, Pa Idornigie’s abductors were said to have called the family, demanding N20 million as ransom.
The police was said to have become curious about Pastor Amos’ involvement in the kidnap saga on realising that a POS account belonging to him was being used by the gang to receive the sums paid in installments as ransom.
FIB-IRT operatives were said to have swung into action immediately they learnt about Pa Idornigie’s plight, rescuing the octogenarian from his abductors and tracing Amos to Agbado/Crossing part of Lagos State where his POS kiosk was situated.
The police source said investigation into the matter revealed that Pastor Amos was a member of the gang with the specific role of going to the houses of would be victims to prepare the ground for their abduction.
A female member of the gang was also said to be assigned the role of making friends with people believed to be well doing and could be kidnapped for ransom, while others were saddled with the task of taking custody of the gang’s victims until their ransoms were paid.
Members of Idornigie’s family were said to have paid various installments beginning with N850,000 on November 17, 2020. Other payments made to the gang, according to the police source, include another N850,000, N250,000, N50,000, N50,000, N200,000, N650,000, N350,000 and N150,000.
The last payment of N150,000 to the said account was said to have been made by the police themselves and tagged “payment for ransom” after the matter had been reported by the family; a development said to have made Amos very uncomfortable.
A visit the FIB-IRT operatives made to Amos’ kiosk was said not to have yielded any result as they met Amos’ absence. They were, however, told upon enquiries that Amos was the pastor in charge of a nearby church where a service was going on.
The operatives then joined the congregation for service during which they monitored the suspect and planned how to arrest him without causing a steer or disrupting the service.
They were said to have allowed the service to end before they started following Amos to his house without him suspecting that they were on his trail.
He was eventually picked up in a dramatic manner as he was about to enter his house.
The operatives were said to have stopped him as he was about to get into his compound, flashed their identity cards and told him that he was under arrest. Thereafter, they told him to lead them to his POS kiosk where they recovered some vital documents, including those that were used in transactions involving the kidnapping gang.
Amos was said to have admitted ownership of the account number into which the ransom of N150,000 was paid, and upon interrogation at the Southwest office of FIB-IRT headed by Joel Igbinazaka Ugowe, a Superintendent of Police, he was also said to have confessed that he removed the female attendant at the POS kiosk, and conducted the transaction himself because he feared that the secret deals could become known to the young lady.
Speaking with the reporter in an interview, Amos, who described himself as an indigene of Akwa Ibom State, said: “I am a pastor with The Will of God Gospel Mission church in Agbado/Crossing, a suburb of Lagos State, and my residence is very close to the church.
“I became a pastor in 2015 and I have been with the church since then. I was not on salary, but the General Overseer pays me a monthly stipend as upkeep money and also pays my children’s school fees.
“Rich men and women as well as others who God has blessed in one way or the other also give me money, especially when they are giving testimonies and thanking God for what He did for them.”
Asked why he displayed his account number on his POS kiosk, he said it was so that his customers who had need of it would have access and not for criminal purposes.
He added: “I was riding a commercial motorcycle to augment the upkeep money my General Overseer was giving me.
“In 2019, my General Overseer and founder of the church gave me N300,000 to start a POS business and I started it between September and October.
“I reside very close to my church, so I put a female operator there because I would not be able to do the two works at the same time.”
On the allegation that he sacked the lady attendant at his kiosk because he feared that she could leak his deals with kidnappers, he said: “I did not sack the girl. I only told her that I wanted to manage the POS by myself because from what was happening, I felt she would not be able to manage the problems with the operation of POS.”
He also denied being the one that gave the kidnappers his account number, saying: “Yes, it was my account details that were sent to the victim’s family to pay in the ransom. But I was not the one who sent it and I did not know who sent it.
“I pasted my account details in front of my POS kiosk for easy access by my customers who might have need for it. I did not paste it there for criminal purposes.
“Eight hundred and fifty thousand naira (#850,000) was paid twice through my POS. They had started paying in money when my girl was still operating the POS for me. They were paying bit by bit: N25,000, N50,000, N50,000, N100,000, N200,000 and so on.
“The one of N150,000, I was in the church when she called me and said the customer was in a hurry and asked me whether the money had entered and I said yes I saw an alert with ‘ransom demand’.
“I had to call her back to explain more because I suspected that something was fishy with the tag ‘ransom demand’.
“I later went to the nearest police station to report the strange occurrence. When I got there and reported the matter, the police gave me a sheet to write a statement.
“After writing my statement, they asked me to go home and relax and see it as one of the troubles one usually experiences in that kind of business.
“But to my greatest surprise, on the 24th February, 2021, the same police officer who asked me to go home and relax was the person who came and arrested me.
He took me to the police station and handed me over to plain-clothed operatives who had been there waiting for my arrival at the police station.
“They were very happy to see me, and that was how I was arrested.”
@ The Nation
Leave a Reply