Kennedy Ucheagwu, Dr. Omololu Bello, Fidelis Esang and trainer Olalere Olawale, as well as Toyosi Aboderin, Ogechi Maku, Toju Amorighoye, and six-month-old Funniyi Tayo Lawal were freed by their abductors in the wee hours of yesterday.
Although the gunmen, suspected to be Niger Delta militants had allegedly demanded N1.2 billion for the freedom of the four Isheri victims, it was learnt that they eventually collected N16million ransom.
The Nation learnt that the ransom was paid at about 10pm by a group of men, who went close to the island where the victims were held and deposited the amount at a designated spot.
It was learnt that the victims were then dropped off at a place near the estate as agreed by the kidnappers at about 12am, while the Epe farmers, were said to have returned home into the waiting arms of their family members around 1:30am.
The Nation gathered that the operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), the Nigerian Army and the Air Force have been combing the bushes and gathering footages of the kidnappers. It was learnt that the service provider (Etisalat) whose simcard was used in contacting relatives for ransom was tracked and the name, pictures and other vital information of the leader of the gang was revealed.
He was said to be a young man buy with affluence as he allegedly owns a huge mansion with several exotic cars.
Also revealed was the identity of the lady who ran errand like buying food and other basic things for the gang and hostages.
It was however learnt that the security operatives were unable to use force on the kidnappers since the victims were still in their custody.
At the estate yesterday, residents rejoiced over the safe return of the victims, urging that security be beefed up in the area to avoid recurrence. They said the victims were sighted at about 11:45pm near the creek by vigilantes who thought they were criminals.
“The local vigilantes wanted to shoot but the victims told them that they were those kidnapped last Saturday. The vigilantes then used their motorcycles to take them to their homes one after the other,” said a resident. They urged the police to equip its marine unit, as well as establish a post within the neighbourhood, expressing fears that they gunmen could strike again.
The Nation gathered that the victims were taken to an isolated island, where the militants ensured that they were ‘comfortable’.
A resident who refused to be named, said victims and all those aware of the ransom were warned by the police to not mention it, adding that they were told that admitting to it could attract more danger to the estate.