But Nigerian authorities are hoping that the risk has been significantly decreased after they captured alleged kidnapper Chukwudi Dumem Onuamadkie, also known as Evans, over the weekend.
Evans, 36 and a native of Anambra State in Southern Nigeria, has been described as “most wanted, vicious and highly notorious.” He has been implicated in a series of high-profile kidnappings in the country in recent years, according to an emailed statement from Nigeria’s police; his victims included foreign nationals, traditional chiefs and wealthy businessmen. Evans also has become one of Nigeria’s wealthiest alleged criminals: Police said he owns two mansions in an upmarket district of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub, as well as two properties in Accra, the capital of neighboring Ghana.
According to Nigeria’s police force, Evans would use two separate gangs to conduct kidnappings: one to carry out the abduction and another to transfer the victim to a safe house. The gang leader extracted million-dollar ransoms from the families of his victims, whom he would keep in captivity for months at a time. In one case, Evans’ gang allegedly attempted to double a $1 million ransom because the victim’s family were rude during the negotiation process.
Police raided a Lagos property belonging to Evans on Saturday and engaged in a gun battle with the suspect and his associates. Security forces eventually overpowered them and arrested seven people in the operation, while also seizing 10 guns and more than 1,000 rounds of AK-47 ammunition.
“This is a huge success for the Nigeria Police Force. The Force will build on this success and continue to prevent kidnap cases and criminality generally in the country,” said Jimoh Moshood, police public relations officer at the force’s headquarters in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.
Moshood said that Evans and his gang members had “confessed to all the kidnappings linked to them” and would be charged following an investigation.
Nigeria is facing a wide range of security issues. Boko Haram, a jihadi group with ties to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), continues to launch attacks in the northeast, though it has been substantially weakened by military offensives. Tensions remain high in the oil-producing Niger Delta, where militants slashed oil production in 2016 by blowing up pipelines. And clashes between settled farmers and pastoralists in the country’s Middle Belt resulted in more deaths in 2016 than the Boko Haram insurgency, according to a report by Nigerian consultancy SBM Intelligence.
But Evans’ capture marks the second high-profile advance in tackling the kidnapping problem in recent months. In March, police shot dead an alleged kidnapper and serial killer, Henry Chibueze—popularly known as Vampire for the brutality of his killings—after he escaped detention in January and went on the run.