On September, 2016, Margaret, the wife of the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, was one of about six people abducted by gunmen. Emefiele was kidnapped along Benin-Agbor Road on a Thursday after the gunmen chased her police detail into a bush. The gunmen later demanded a ransom of N1.5 billion.
Less than 24 hours after her abduction, the woman was released. Emefiele’s release stunned Nigerians. It’s still on record as the fastest release in the history of series of abduction for ransoms in Nigeria.
Police denied that ransom was paid. Later, it was heard that some people, including two serving soldiers, were arrested in connection with the abduction of the woman.
The rescue of Emefiele and eventual arrest of the kidnappers was said to have been a joint operation between operatives of the Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team and operatives of the Department of State Services. The IRT operatives were led by Assistant Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari.
The serving soldiers were identified as Musa Maidabara, a Corporal attached to the 322 Artillery Regiment; and Edwin George of 371 Artillery Regiment.
The suspects, both of whom are students of the Nigerian Army Institute of Technology and Environmental Studies in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, had nearly N15 million with them during their arrest.
George, a Lance Corporal, was arrested in his hometown in Otukpo, Benue State, while Maidabara was arrested along Benin-Asaba Road. Maidabara visited his brother, also a soldier, at 14 Field Engineer Regiment, Onitsha, Anambra State, with whom he kept all the money. The operatives later recovered the money. The suspects had two Honda Accord cars with them at the time of their arrest.
Almost a year after their arrest, the soldiers had finally decided to open up and revealed the part they played in the abduction of Emefiele.
According to them, they were just victims of circumstance. They explained that they were not part of those that abducted Emefiele.
They claimed to have stolen the money from those that abducted the woman. According to them, when they were stealing the money, they didn’t know it was proceeds of kidnap.
The riddle, that had now become the story of their lives, started after Maidabara went to visit his friend, Ernest Anthony. Anthony, a father of three, from Delta State, said he resides at Igbukwu Community, Ndukwa East of the state.
He obtained a diploma in Commuter Operation from American University of Nigeria, Adamawa State in 2009. He would later secure a job with a nongovernmental organisation, based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The NGO used to organize poverty alleviation programmes for oil companies within the Niger Delta. Anthony was in charge of the NGO’s Computer Department. He was there for four years, on a monthly pay of N50,000.
According to him, it was from his salary that he saved and bought a car. He started using the car as a cab to argument his salary.
It was while he was on his cab business that he met Mohammed. Mohammed was one of those that abducted Emefiele.
Anthony said: “I bought a car, which I used for taxi, so as to support myself. In one of my trips, I met Mohammed. He told me that he sells cows within Benin City. I picked him along Ring Road and took him to Upper Sakpomba area of Benin.
“During our trip, he discovered that I could speak Hausa fluently, because I was born and raised in Gombe State, so he opened up to me. He said he was a big time cattle dealer; he buys and sells cows in large quantities. He requested for my phone number, saying he would like to engage my services whenever he was in Benin City.”
On October 1, 2016, Anthony received a call from Mohammed. The call came around 6:20am. Mohammed asked him to come and meet him around the Benin bypass.
Anthony recounted: “But before Mohammed’s call came, I was expecting a friend, Musa Maidabara. He was a serving army personnel. He was coming from Markudi, Benue State to Delta State, to visit me. I rushed out and drove to where Mohammed asked me to meet him. Mohammed said that he wanted me to drive him to his house at Upper Sakpomba, but I told him that I couldn’t. I told him that I was expecting my friend from Markurdi. In a blink of an eye, he stuffed wands of money into my hand. I didn’t count it, but later, I realized it was close to N2 million. I became scared because I had also sighted a bag containing money. I drove back home.”
The money that Mohammed gave him and the bag he saw that contained large quantities of money preyed on Antony’s mind. He was still preoccupied with the thought when Maidabara knocked and walked into his apartment. But Maidabara didn’t come alone. He came with another soldier, Edwin George.
Anthony said: “My friend, Maidabara and one of his friends, Edwin George, also a serving soldier, came and I told them what transpired between Mohammed and I. I was still telling them about Mohammed when he called again, begging me to come and drive him and some of his friends to their homes.
“Maidabara asked to speak with him; he told Mohammed that he was a soldier and was with one of his friends, who were also a soldier. Mohammed said that he didn’t matter. He said they could come with me. Mohammed promised to pay us good money. When we got to where Mohammed was, Maidabara asked me to remain inside the car. He stepped out and went to meet Mohammed and the other men with them. Maidabara asked Mohammed friends not to enter the vehicle. It was only Mohammed that entered. He said that he needed clean clothes. We drove him to Agbor, which was where he said he wanted to buy the clothes.
“Immediately Mohammed stepped into the shop to buy the clothes, we drove off with his money. We went to my house in Ndokwa and shared the money. The three of us got N6.5 million each. The next day, I took N2 million from the money to Onitsha and bought a Honda End of Discussion for N1.5 million. I used N200,000 to buy some home appliances, which I needed urgently. I also invited one of my girlfriends to meet me in Benin City. It was while I was with her that police came to arrest me. My friend, Maidabara, later told me that he was going to his brother’s house at the army barracks in Onitsha when he was arrested. I didn’t know where George went with his money. Sincerely, I didn’t know that the money was proceeds from the abduction of the CBN Governor’s wife. It was after I was arrested that I found out about the abduction and ransom. But I suspected that Mohammed might have stolen that money. I knew it couldn’t have been genuine money.”
Maidabara, 29, from Gombe State, studied Quantity Surveying at the Nigeria Army Institute of Technology and Departmental Studies, Benue State. He enlisted into the Nigerian Army in 2010, but was dismissed in January 17, 2017 after he was alleged to have participated in the abduction of Emefiele.
He further narrated: “Before I was dismissed, I was serving at 3 Division, Jos, Plateau State. My journey to my dismissal and subsequent arrest began on October 1, 2016. My friend, Ernest, from secondary school, invited me over to his house. He said that I should come and celebrate the independent day with him. I called one of my friends, who also attended the same Nigeria Army Institute of Technology and Departmental Studies with me. His name is Edwin George. I told George to follow me to see Ernest. George was also doing his Industrial Attach at Oko Polytechnic, so I asked him to follow me so that we would enjoy the celebration together.
“We got to Benin and I met Ernest; he told me that one of his friends, Mohammed, gave him a huge amount of money, just to escort him out of a bush. He showed me the first money the man gave to him. George and I put on our uniforms and asked Ernest to take us to the guy. When we saw Mohammed, he looked dirty and was carrying a bag. One of his friends also came out of the bush, carrying a bag. I told them that I couldn’t carry the bags for both of them. So Mohammed’s friend begged us to assists him carry his bag out of the bush, since we couldn’t take him in our car. He asked Mohammed to keep the bag for him. We drove Mohammed and the two bags out of the bush.
“On our way, I asked Mohammed why he looked so dirty, he replied that we shouldn’t worry. He promised to explain everything to us. When we got to the cloth shop, Mohammed, George and I came down from the car, leaving Ernest in the car.
“When we discovered that Mohammed was busy buying the clothes, Ernest called us and said that this was an opportunity. He said that we should take advantage of the opportunity. He said that he suspected that Mohammed stole the money. We all entered the car and zoomed off. We drove down to Delta State, where we brought out the two bags and shared all the money. I took my share to my brother’s house in Onitsha. Ernest and I planned to travel to Gombe State where our parent lives. While we were planning on how to move to Gombe State, one of Ernest’s girlfriends called. She said that she wanted to see him. When he went to see her, police arrested him.”
George, 29, joined the army in 2010, 332 Artillery Regiment, Shangam, Plateau State. He was later asked to go to school at the Nigerian Army Institute of Technology and Environmental Studies, Markudi Benue State.
He was on his industrial attachment at Oko Polytechnic when Maidabara called and invited him to follow to visit Ernest in Delta State.
He explained that after they ran away with the two bags of money, they shared it. He got N6.2 million. He said that he went back to his own town and bought a car for N1.5 million.
He added: “I didn’t know that we would be arrested. It was Ernest, who urged us to run away with the money. All along, I thought I stole money of a cow dealer. I thought it was the money, which Mohammed wanted to use, to buy cows; I didn’t know it was proceeds of abduction. My conscience troubled me after we stole the money, but I couldn’t help it. It was after I was arrested that I knew the money was proceeds of kidnapping.”