IFEANYI Ezinwa, a notorious fraudster currently cooling his heels at the Kuje maximum prison, Abuja, has reportedly continued his nefarious activities from within confinement. The police accused him of orchestrating and coordinating a series of frauds which culminated in the loss of millions of naira by his victims. Ezinwa was apparently not hamstrung by the lawful limitations to freedom ordinarily imposed by incarceration. He broke free, as it were, from the expected regimented life in jail to perpetrate crime in the outside world. Indeed, the prison seemed to have accorded him recourse to a seemingly fire-sure alibi that would not allow anyone to trace crimes committed outside to him. However, the intervention of the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, through the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), would appear to have smashed the unrepentant recidivist’s criminal syndicate. The veritably unsettling angle to the police’s discovery is the alleged connivance of the Nigeria Prison Service (NPS) officials. It is really troubling that while the country is still smarting from the arrest and the litany of atrocities committed by Evans Onwuamadike, the billionaire kidnapper believed in many quarters to have been protected by the law-enforcement agents at some point, Nigerians are now contending with an alleged super fraudster operating right from Kuje prison. This is grossly embarrassing and it puts a question mark on the NPS’s claim to professionalism.
What seems to be novel about Ezinwa’s fraudulent activities is not only the seat of the plan of his strategy to swindle unsuspecting victims but also the negative deployment of sophisticated Information Communications Technology (ICT) to execute the plan. Investigations by the police revealed that he had been going about in Abuja making purchases and paying with spurious Short Message Service (SMS) bank alerts. And he was reportedly escorted by prison officials on his buying trips under the untenable and unverifiable excuse that he wanted to get medical treatment. It is a gross breach of the code of conduct and a denigration of their mandate for state officials to escort a confirmed criminal. It is most unfortunate that a complete nuisance whom the law had rightly put away from the rest of the society is allegedly being aided by officials of the state to continue to inflict pain on his victims. The motive which is usually selfish, notably pecuniary gain and filthy lucre, seems to be so strong that some unscrupulous officials ignored the dire consequences of their morally and legally reprehensible conduct which included bringing a governmental institution like the NPS into disrepute.
Surprisingly and sadly so, the felon who is an inmate in a maximum security prison reportedly had a smart phone connected to the internet through which he visited the websites of major online sellers to negotiate the prices of expensive items, mostly luxury automobiles and auto parts. And upon conclusion of negotiations, he usually contacted and instructed his criminal gang members to confirm the state of the items before requesting the sellers to forward their bank account details for bogus online payments. And to ensure that the payee could not go to the banking hall to confirm the fake SMS alert, Ezinwa reportedly conducted his phoney transactions on Fridays. That way, the earliest time the seller would know he had been conned would be the following Monday. Quite a lot of businessmen in different parts of the country were said to have fallen victims of this fraudster and his syndicate until recently when their scheme was burst by the IRT.
The question on the lips of many Nigerians are legion: why was a convicted criminal given so much latitude that he owned a smart phone connected to the internet in a maximum security prison where it is illegal for an inmate to have access to such items? If Ezinwa was not being officially shielded, why was he never caught using the phone in the prison? Why would officials of the state escort a criminal? Is it appropriate or legal for NPS officials to give special privileges to rich inmates, especially liberties that vitiate the reformatory purpose of their incarceration? We ask these questions because Ezinwa reportedly lives large in Kuje prison where he has an apartment furnished for him. If an outlaw held in penitentiary is being accorded all manners of privileges just because he has his ill-gotten wealth to throw around, the purpose of deterrence is defeated.
We commend the IRT for a job well done thus far. We nonetheless urge them to go further and do a thorough investigation to unearth the atrocities of Ezinwa and his criminal gangs so that can be promptly and easily brought to book. In the same vein, those behind the super fraudster, allegedly giving him official protection, must be fished out and punished. It is a sad, humiliating commentary that innocent Nigerians are hardly free from the vicious activities of criminals whether they are in or out of prison.