• Family paid N15.1 million ransom for Oniba of Iba, says kidnap suspect
• Monarch’s abduction a sacrilege, Ambode says
It was stranger than fiction, so says the Oniba of Iba, Oba Yushau Oseni, after the traditional ruler regained freedom three weeks after he was kidnapped from his palace.
It would be recalled that gunmen abducted the 73-year-old monarch on Saturday, July 16, killing at least, three persons including a palace security guard, 72-year-old Sunday Okonlanwo.
The kidnappers subsequently contacted the family and demanded N500 million ransom for the release of the monarch.
Narrating his ordeal, Oba Oseni said: “I thank God for sparing my life in the hands of the kidnappers. My family, indeed, paid ransom to the kidnappers but I don’t know the exact amount. I was released around 7:45p.m. on Saturday. They left me alone in a canoe in one of the creeks.
“Because I know how to paddle a canoe, I was able to navigate my way to Iba area. After paddling for awhile, I saw a man standing by the bank, who told me I was in Iba and from there I located my way to the palace in boxers and singlet.”
When asked how he was treated, he responded: “I was treated well and well-fed.”
The palace has turned into a ‘Mecca’ for community leaders and well-wishers, who have thronged the place to felicitate with the king on his safe return. Family members have also engaged in series of prayer sessions, in gratitude to God for the monarch’s safe return.
A family source, who preferred anonymity, claimed the state government did not assist with the payment of ransom running into several millions of naira.
It was also gathered that the monarch suspected an insider’s link with the kidnap saga as there was acrimony between him and some people of the community over certain issues. Meanwhile, one of the two suspects paraded yesterday for participating in the kidnap, Isaiah Ododomu, has revealed that N15,100,000 was paid in installment before they were apprehended.
Speaking at a press conference at the Lagos State Government House, yesterday, Ododomu, who said he is an Ijaw man from Ondo State, revealed that N12 million was the first payment, while the second tranche of payment was N3,100,000.
Ododomu, who was paraded along with Toba Forejo, said he helped the king back to the community when his other gang members wanted to abandon him at the creek. He claimed this was even after he pleaded that the king should be released after the second payment, as his other gang members felt what had been paid was minimal to what they initially demanded.
He also claimed that he was not part of those who went to kidnap the Oba in his palace. He said the role he played was just to watch over the monarch in the creek, disclosing that he only got N100,000 each from the two payments.
Ododomu claimed that after the first payment was made, the real kingpins in the kidnap travelled, including himself, leaving the king behind with Toba Forejo, with the intention of releasing the king to his family. He further said Forejo felt cheated and betrayed in the sharing formula, and as a result said he would not release the king unless the family paid an additional ransom.
He revealed that their operational base is at Gegemo Creek within the Ikotun axis of Lagos and that he was into oil bunkering until their syndicate were crushed by security agencies.
The governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, in a statement read by the state Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem, commended the police and other security agencies for their all-round efforts in securing the release of the king as well as effecting the arrest of the kidnappers.
Ambode said the kidnap of a king in Yorubaland is a sacrilege and a complete desecration of the cultural values of the Yoruba people that must not go unpunished.
“That is why the investigation has been painstaking and purposeful to ensure that the kidnappers were apprehended.”
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, said the release of the king was not about ransom, when he was earlier asked how much was paid. He also said the king was in good health when he visited him in his palace yesterday morning.
Owoseni thanked his family members for their cooperation and calmness throughout the period of the kidnap. He also thanked the people of the state for the support given to the police and other security agencies in the state.