Appeal Court Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme, who was abducted in Benin City last month and recently regained her freedom after about 14 days in captivity, has narrated how six “uniformed policemen”, who parked their Hilux vehicle on bad stretch of a road in Benin City, abducted her and killed her police orderly, according to a report in The Source Magazine.
Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme was abducted on October 30, 2019 at about 11.30am in Benin City. Her security detail, a police inspector, was killed in the incident.
In a report in The Source Magazine on Thursday, Justice Nwosu-Iheme also dispelled initial insinuations that her abduction may be connected with the cases she was handling. She said her abduction was not pre-planned.
She said she was at the right place at the wrong time.
Speaking when a group of women, mostly choristers from the Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Lord (CATOL), Anglican Communion, Owerri, visited her at her residence in Owerri, Justice Nwosu-Iheme recounted her ordeal in the hands of her abductors, revealing how she was abducted.
According to the report: “The abduction scene was a stretch of bad road in the city. Every motorist usually slowed down there. As her car was approaching the spot, there were ‘uniformed policemen’ there. Well-kitted, they packed their double-decked Hilux vehicle, stood by, AK 47 guns in hand.
“They were kidnappers. She didn’t know. Nobody knew. They had already, earlier, kidnapped four people, including mother and daughter. There was also a young ex-FUTO student, an engineer, who wept like a baby as soon as she recognized Nwosu-Iheme. He was classmate with her son at FUTO. The judge was in the habit of feeding all of them fat, and giving them pocket money each time they visited.
“The kidnappers were waiting to kidnap more people when her lordship’s SUV, bearing an FG plate number and judiciary, approached. They saw a policeman sitting in front, and knew that whoever must have a kidnap value. They smiled and readied themselves for action.
“As her vehicle slowed down, they saluted her. She raised her hand and took their compliments. That was when they struck.”
According to the report, before she could bring down the hand she had just raised to take the compliments, a volley of gunshots rained on the vehicle.
“Confused, she wondered where the shots came from. Momentarily, she was relaxed, thinking she was in the midst of policemen. But instinctively, she bent her head down. And so did her orderly, or so she thought. She didn’t know that he had been fatally shot. He was wearing a bullet proof vest. They knew and, so aimed at his forehead.
“Before she could comprehend what was happening, scores of bullets rained again, this time, shattering her car’s two back tyres.”
The report said the judge immediately told her driver to drive since they were in the city and it was in broad daylight, hoping that help would come.
According to the report, she thought of two options: To feign she was dead, or to allow them take her.
Weighing both options, she discarded the former over fears that if she feigned she was dead, “they may in anger, for losing a high profile price pump bullets into her. She opted to be brought out from the car, and put in the Hilux. That was where she met the others earlier kidnapped.”
Dispelling other insinuations about her abduction, the report quoted Justice Nwosu-Iheme thus: “I was not a target. I was not trailed. Nobody double-crossed my car. I was not on the Benin-Agbor road. It was in Benin city. I ran into them. Four people had been kidnapped before me. If I had delayed anywhere by 20 minutes, that would have saved us. They would have driven off before our arrival.”
Giving graphic details of what followed, the Source Magazine report said: “As soon as they put her in the Hilux, the first thing they did was to grab her wrist watch. They looked at it, they screamed. Their joy knew no bounds. These guys knew the make. Then, they grabbed her rings and her bangles and screamed some more. They went back to her car, took her handbag, saw the quality and knew they had hit a jackpot. Then, they went back and grabbed her suitcase. They took their time. Yet, the thousands of security personnel in Benin – military, police, civil defence, para-military – were nowhere near! God has buttered their bread, the abductors exclaimed. They, therefore, discarded the idea of waiting for some more victims. Justice Nwosu-Iheme was more than enough. They drove off, unconfronted. And this was inside Benin City!”
The report said all through the journey to their final destination, there were no police or military checkpoints, suggesting that the abductors knew their route.
According to the report, by the next morning, her abductors had known her identity fully from information on the internet, as the social media was awash with her rich curriculum. A judge of the Court of Appeal, which they ignorantly or derisively referred to as judge of the Appeal Supreme Court, was in their den.
“Madam justice, you have broken the internet. We thank God for providing you for us. We are happy you are in our midst. After you, we will not embark on any other job for the next six months. God has blessed us with you in our midst”, the report quoted her abductors as saying.
The report also said that immediately her abductors confirmed her kidnap value, they knew they had to protect their high profile victim.
“They treated her with respect and reference. She was neither blindfolded nor molested in anyway. For her sake, they extended same to the other abductees. Madam Justice, they called her. At times with a bow.
“They provided her with a new mattress. ‘Madam Justice, see it, it is a new mattress”, the report said.
Even though she was kidnapped on October 30, her abductors did not make any contact with the family until five days after, when they called and named their price. It was huge and ridiculous – A billion naira, which was later reduced to N500million, and then Trader moni -a social intervention fund of the federal government.
“Then the kidnappers called. They asked for a ransom of, wait for this, One Billion Naira. The haggling began. They came down to N500 million. Every offer made was rejected. They said the Federal Government should bring the money. She told them she was not working for the Federal Government but the Judiciary. ‘Your car plate number bears FG’, they countered. Then, they told her that Vice President Osinbajo should pay them Trader-moni. President Buhari should order him to do so. When she told them it doesn’t work that way, they rained curses on both men. The day the NASS expressed concern over the new trend of abducting judges, using her case as a peg, and asked for adequate protection for judiciary officers, they called them useless people. ‘It is now that they know they need to protect them. Useless people”, the report said.
At the end, a compromise was reached. The report said: “At the appointed time they brought the five of them out, asked them to sit down. Then, the abductors called for prayers – prayers for God’s protection as they depart. They asked their victims if they were shocked that they too pray. To support their behavior, they quoted the bible, and told the story of Saul, who persecuted Christians, to no end, but later repented, and even became a Saint –St. Paul.
“The harrowing journey to freedom began. It was through a tunnel. To go through it, they had to bend down. Guided by their abductors. It was a long stretch. At a point, her strength failed. She had not eaten for days. But God intervened. She trudged on . When they got to the end of the tunnel, there was a steaming vehicle, waiting for them.
“They entered, and drove off at a break-neck, suicidal speed. Fear gripped them. “they had their heart in their stomach” what if a trailer crushed them. But God was in charge.
“They gave them N2000 each, for transportation, and dropped them in the middle of nowhere. Three roads confronted them. One to Lagos, another to Benin, and the other to another town. They told their victims’ motorcycles usually took that route. So they stood there. Soon motorcyclists began to drive-by.
“Justice Nwosu-Iheme took the first one. She was wearing a boo-boo, not comfortable for such a ride. ‘This is my first time of taking an Okada. Please, take it easy’, she appealed. He asked what they were doing at that lonely stretch. She told him they were kidnap victims, and asked to be dropped where she could get a taxi.
When the motorcyclist learnt that they were kidnap victims, he declined to receive payment for the ride.
“Nwosu-Iheme was so touched by the man’s kindness that she asked him to write his phone number somewhere for her. ‘For your kidness to me, when I get back to my family alive, by the grace of God, you will not be an Okada rider again. I will help you in life’, she told the motorcyclist. She is sticking to that promise.”