Dousing all the controversies that surrounded the payment of ransom for his eventual release four months after his abduction, the traditional ruler of Iba Town, Oba Goriola Oseni told a Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere on Friday that his “abductors demanded N500 million ransom but my family paid N15.1 million to free me.”
Oseni made the revelation while giving evidence at the commencement of trial of the four men accused of kidnapping him.
The Court also heard startling revelations from two witnesses how the abductors allegedly obtained the N15.1 million ransom.
The accused are: Duba Furejo, Ododowo Isaiah, Reuben Anthony and Yerin Fresh, who were first arraigned before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo on Oct. 24.
They are standing trial on an eight-count charge bordering on conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, robbery, armed robbery, stealing and kidnapping preferred against them by the Lagos State Government.
At the commencement of hearing, the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem (SAN), who led a team of lawyers for the state, obtained the leave of court to exclude the public from the trial.
In an oral application, Kazeem told the court that the accused were part of a criminal enterprise, therefore, it would be in the interest of justice and the safety of the witnesses for the case to be closed to the public.
The court granted his request despite the objections of Chief Selowei Baidi for the first and second defendants, Mr. J. O. Egwuaroje for the third defendant and fourth defendant counsel, Anthony Onwueze.
Justice Taiwo ruled there was nothing prejudicial about the application and assured the defence of fair hearing. She ordered all journalists in court to identify themselves by their official Identification cards in order to be allowed to cover the proceedings.
Led in examination by Kazeem, Oseni, 73, testified as first prosecution witness and narrated how at about 8pm on July 16, he was kidnapped while watching TV in a room at the palace and held in captivity for three weeks in an unknown riverine camp.
He described his abductors – about nine in number – as shirtless, heavily armed men wearing only black trousers and said they accosted him as he went to investigate a noise from his sitting room.
“‘This is the king,’ the gunmen said. I said, ‘what can I do for you?’ Then they grabbed me. I was putting on only a boxer short because I was preparing to take a bath. My Oloris (Queens) came in and asked them where they were taking me to but they fled when the gunmen released bullets into the decking of the room,” Oseni told the court.
He said the gunmen dragged him out of the palace and began shooting sporadically as they left the main gate, killing his security guard and a motorcyclist in the process. They also shot at one of his Oloris, he alleged.
“They started pushing me and shouting ‘trek, trek’, till I fell and injured my arm. My toe nail was also forcibly removed, so they carried me,” Oseni said.
The men, he continued, took him to a speedboat where he was driven away to a riverine camp with about 50 militants. The next day he was driven in another boat to a bigger camp with six houses and more of the militants.
He pointed at the first, second and third defendants in the dock as being part of his alleged abductors, but explained that the fourth defendant was one of those that used to visit the camp.
He said they demanded N500million ransom but his family paid N12million and then another N3.1million to younger group within the kidnappers, totaling N15.1million following which he was released.
The Oba’s son, Prince Kazeem, who testified as the second prosecution witness, said he delivered both ransom money of N12m and N3.1m to the militants at a canal near Igbehinadun in Iba.
He said they negotiated the ransom from N500m to N40m but they couldn’t raise that amount, especially after the government refused to pay any ransom.
The militants, he added, gave him directions to the drop off point on phone after warning him not to tell anyone.
Justice Taiwo adjourned the case till November 18, following a request by the prosecution for time to present more witnesses.
The defendants and others at large were accused of conspiring to commit the alleged offences on July 16, at the traditional ruler’s palace in Iba.
They allegedly murdered a security guard, Sunday Eniola Okanlawon, and a commercial motorcyclist, Joseph Okeke and also attempted to murder the monarch’s wife, Olori Abosede Oseni.
According to the charge, they also robbed Abosede of her mobile phone while armed with guns.
According to the prosecutor, the offences contravened Sections 233, 230, 299, 297 (2) (b) and 411 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State C17, Vol 3 Laws of Lagos State, 2015.