A three man gang of kidnappers that orchestrated the kidnapping of two Reverend sisters at Onipetesi along Ore-Lagos expressway and collected a ransom of N1 million before their release are to face the hangman’s noose.
This verdict followed their conviction by a high court judge, Justice Ademola Adegoroye.
The Hope newspaper reports that Initially, a couple and five others were arraigned before the court namely Reuben Akinbehinje (a.k.a Chairman), Saheed Oyewo (a.k.a Olaoluwa), Seun Lajuwomi (a.k.a Ebile), Abimbola Akinbehinje, John Imoleayo Uche (a.k.a Uchenna), Seun Iseoluwa Akintan (a.k.a Egbegbe) and Lateef Fayemi Hammed.
They were dragged to court on an eight count charge of conspiracy, kidnapping, armed robbery, aiding and abetting kidnapping and accessory after the fact.
One of the defendants, Saheed Oyewo had died in prison before the determination of the case.
While delivering judgement, Justice Adegoroye had found the first defendant, Reuben Akinbehinje, 5th defendant, John Imoleayo Uche and the sixth defendant, Seun Iseoluwa Akintan guilty of all the charges and sentenced them to death by hanging.
The wife of the first defendant, Abimbola Akinbehinje facing a charge of being an accessory after the fact was fined N50, 000 as she had already spent two years in prison custody before she was released on bail.
The court had shown leniency on her after her defense counsel, Felix Afe during allocutus told the court that the wife was a first offender and they had little children as issues in the marriage.
The third and seventh defendants; Seun Lajuwomi and Lateef Fayemi Hammed were let off the hook as the judge said that the prosecution had no evidence against them.
According to the prosecution led by Babatunde Falodun of the Department of Public Prosecutions, Ondo state Ministry of Justice, the accused persons had allegedly conspired together and kidnapped Reverend Sister Perpetual Idowu Apo and Reverend Sister Bukola Roseline Familade along with their driver Yohanna Zibai and held them hostage for eleven days in the bush, tied together with chains and under lock until the N1 million ransom finally agreed upon by both parties was paid to the kidnappers.
The accused persons along with other gang members who were said to be at large and armed with offensive weapons such as guns and cutlasses had robbed the Reverend Sisters of their valuables such as bags, internet modem and flash, power bank and a total sum of N70,000 naira while they stripped one of them of her veil.
In the same process, they also robbed their driver, Yohanna Zibai of his Techno Handset, a sum of N5, 000 and the car keys to their vehicle.
One of the accused persons, Seun Lajuwomi was alleged to have collected two ATM cards belonging to Reverend Sister Perpetual Idowu Apo from one Likeman who was currently at large and used the cards to withdraw money from her account at an Automated Teller Machines at United Bank of Africa, Ore branch and Sterling Bank, also in Ore while knowing that those ATM cards were forcibly taken.
Abimbola Akinbehinje, the 5th accused person and also the wife to the first accused person was said to have removed a gun kept in the ceiling of a house at Itamo, Akure by the first accused person, Reuben Akinbehinje alias Chairman and took the gun to her mother in law’s house at Mile 49 along Ore-Lagos Expressway to keep.
One of the Reverend Sisters, Bukola Roseline Familade of St. Louis Convent, Zonkwa, Kaduna State while recounting their 11 day ordeal in the kidnapper’s den before the court stated that the kidnap took place when they along with their driver had to stop along the road because their car developed fault around 7 p.m. in the evening.
She stated that it was in the process of waiting for someone that would repair the vehicle that they were abducted by heavily armed gunmen.
She stated that one of the gunmen nearly killed her in the process and that they were tied together with chain and padlock throughout the period of their stay in the kidnappers den.
She testified that the leader of the gang came to them to speak with their sisters twice on phone and at first demanded for a ransom of N20 million before they would be released.
She said at all the time they were held hostage, there were three members of the gang watching them so that they could not escape and threatened them at intervals with guns and cutlasses.
She stated that they were released 11 days later and the case was reported to the DSS office where she later identified two men as part of the gang that kidnapped them out of suspects brought out to her and wrote a statement there which was almost three weeks after their release.
The driver also testifying before the court corroborated the testimony of the Reverend Sister and narrated how he was severely beaten and threatened with being shot by the gang members during the kidnapping.
He stated that he too was able to recognize two members of the gang that kidnapped them at the DSS office where he also volunteered his statements.
The prosecution also called to the witness stand, Johnson Siunu of the DSS office, Akure who stated that a case of kidnap was reported to their office and that the case was referred to his team for investigation.
He stated that it was the phone number used by the kidnappers to negotiate and monitor the delivery of the ransom sum which was tracked and analyzed that led to the arrest of John Imoleayo Uche, Seun Iseoluwa Akintan, Saheed Oyewo, Seun Lajuwomi and Lateef Fayemi Hammed at Ore.
He stated that further investigation led to the arrest of their kingpin, Reuben Akinbehinje and his wife in Itamo Village in Akure North Local government.
While being led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, he certified the printouts of the Atm transactions made by the kidnappers on the victim’s ATM cards and it was tendered and admitted as exhibits before the court.
He stated further that the crime scene was visited while the statement of all the arrested persons were obtained.
The prosecuting counsel also tendered the various statements of the accused persons before the court and they were admitted and marked as exhibits too.
In the recording, the first accused person was seen sitting unfettered in an arms chair in one angle of a large room while he made his confession at the DSS office with an officer sitting about five feet away from him in a similar looking chair and guided him through an interview as he orally made his confession in English language.
The accused told the court that he is a Christian and attended both primary and secondary schools in Bolorunduro –Owena in Ondo state while he obtained a National Certificate in Education, NCE in a college of Education in Osun state.
He confessed that a friend introduced him to kidnapping and subsequently he was the one who would be asked to recruit boys that would carry out the criminal act.
He said that they were going along the express way looking for victims to kidnap on the fateful day when they saw the reverend sisters along with their driver stranded on the highway when their vehicle, a Carina E broke down and that they had decided to kidnap them for ransom.
He stated that along with his gang members such as John Uche and Seun Lajuwomi and the rest had abducted the reverend sisters while they beat up their driver and also took him along.
He confessed that he brought a chain and a padlock with which he tied them up together and covered them with tarpaulin so that they will not be exposed to rain throughout their 10 days detention in their custody.
He admitted to have also threatened to kill them with a gun which belonged to him as it was passed on to him from his father who he claimed was a hunter during his life time.
He said that when their ransom were eventually paid, he gave them transport fare back to their destination and released them.
The judge said that at the point of adopting final written addresses, the defense had raised the issue of whether the prosecution had discharged the burden placed on it and proved all the ingredients of the case against the defendants beyond reasonable doubt.
He however held that the prosecution had proven the case of conspiracy, armed robbery and kidnapping against three of the defendants and sentenced them accordingly.