N15.1m ransom paid for Iba monarch’s freedom, witness tells court

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By Onozure Dania

Lagos—A prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of four men arraigned for kidnapping the traditional ruler of Iba Town in Lagos State, Oba Goriola Oseni, yesterday, told an Igbosere high court that a ransom of N15.1 million was paid to the kidnappers.

The witness, Sergeant Dele-Ojo Odunayo, an Investigative Police Officer, IPO, attached to the Inspector-General of Police Force Headquarters, Abuja, who was assigned to investigate the case, said this while testifying before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo.

Oniba of Iba, Oba Goriola Oseni

He said that the family of the monarch had paid the ransom to the kidnappers before he was moved to Lagos to investigate the case.

Odunayo also said that the family were about to pay another ransom to the kidnappers when his team swung into action.

The traditional ruler was kidnapped at his palace at Iba on July 16, 2016.

The defendants are Duba Furejo, Ododowo Isaiah, Reuben Anthony and Yerin Fresh. They were arraigned on October 24, 2016, on an eight-count charge bordering on conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, and kidnapping.

The police had alleged that the defendants murdered a security guard, Sunday Okanlawon, a commercial motorcyclist, Joseph Okeke, and also robbed the monarch’s wife of her mobile phone before shooting her several times.

The offences are punishable under Sections 233, 230, 299, 297 (2) (b) and 411 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, Mr. Jide Martins, an Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions, introduced Odunayo as the seventh prosecution witness.

Odunayo said his team ambushed the first defendant, Furejo, at the creek, where he was arrested.

According to him, “Furejo was carrying a nylon bag containing N200,000 at the time of his arrest and he confessed that the money was part of the ransom.”

He said Furejo linked the second defendant, Isaiah, to the crime and said Isaiah was escaping to Abeokuta.

He added: “We arrested Isaiah at Iyana Ipaja garage, as he was boarding a bus to Abeokuta.”

The IPO also told the court of how the third and fourth defendants were arrested.

He said that Isaiah had confessed to his team that the third defendant was given N800,000 from the ransom money, which the fourth defendant got a share from.

He added that the statements of all the defendants were taken and a video recording was taken during their interrogations.

After the testimony of the witness, the prosecutor tendered the statements of the defendants, the video recordings, the photographs of the scene of crime and the N200,000 cash found with the first defendant.

The defendants’ counsel, Mr. S. W. Baidi, Anthony Onwueze, and G. O. Egwuaroje, all objected to the admissibility of the documents.

Justice Taiwo, however, admitted the other documents in evidence, but said that the video recordings must be viewed in the open court to ascertain its contents before it would be admitted.

She adjourned the case to March 3 for continuation of trial.

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