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Billionaire Kidnapper, Evans would have died — Former Police Commissioner, Bello

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Alhaji Amusa Bello, Commissioner of Police in Anambra State from 2006 to 2010 and incumbent Special Adviser to Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State on Security Matters, says suspected kidnap kingpin, Evans, currently being tried for serial abductions from which he allegedly made a fortune, would have died while he (Bello) was overseeing the police in Anambra. The former CP, who served under the administration of Governor Peter Obi, also speaks, in this interview, on the investigation of the murders of a top military officer, Vice Admiral Babatunde Elegbede, and Dr Harry Marshall, a leader of the defunct All Peoples’ Party (APP), which he oversaw. Excerpts:After serving in the police, what are you doing now? I retired on October 1, 2009. I stayed in Lagos up till June 2010 when I was appointed the CEO of Kwara State Road Transport Management Authority (KWARTA). I was the CEO of KWARTA for four years before I was appointed the Special Adviser to Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed on Security Matters in February 2014. Since then I have been the SA.

Evans, a suspected kidnapper said to have made a lot of money from abductions, was reportedly chased out of Anambra during your time as CP. He reportedly confessed to running away from the state during the Peter Obi administration of the state. What do you say?

Many armed robbers and kidnappers relocated from Anambra and Evans must have run away at that time because if we had spotted him, I don’t think he will still be alive. He was lucky to have relocated because if he had stayed back, he would have died. But without the full support of Mr Peter Obi, we wouldn’t have done much. He gave us the desired funding and wanted to know the minute-by-minute efforts to combat bank robberies and kidnapping in Anambra State which we stopped and, from 2009 till about 2014, nothing like that happened as I heard in the news because I left as CP in 2010. We did our best to support the state and Obi appreciated it and stood by us all the time.

What are your high and low points in the police?

My career in the police started with my deployment to the police mobile force in 1980 when I was transferred to Awkunano in Enugu State. From Enugu, I was moved to Mopol 8, Jos. I was the most senior there. While in Jos, I used my mobile men without anyone directing me to make sure that all black sports in Jos were covered.

I remember December 4, 1986. Lawrence Anini, the notorious armed robber, had just been arrested the previous day, December 3, at Benin and the officer I took over from, Kayode Nwaroro, had just been transferred to Mopol 5, Benin and it was him who led the operation that captured Anini. The day after the arrest of the notorious robber in Benin, a vicious gang of robbers came to operate in Plateau. That time, radio communication was superb. As usual, my team went to Barkin Ladi and mounted a road block. The gang of robbers was operating in a Santana car, which happened to be the fastest vehicle at that time. We tried to stop them as they approached the road block but they refused to stop, so we pursued them to the boundary between Plateau and Kaduna. There was a forest there. We pursued them up to Kuru, where we engaged in gun battle. We killed all of them and recovered the arms they were carrying. I later called the CP and told him about our successful operation. We towed the gang’s vehicle to the police headquarters. The operations in Jos gave me the experience on how to combat violent crime. My knowledge of combating violent crime actually started in Enugu and continued in Jos and it was on that premise that I was transferred to the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS), Lagos in 1990. Some of the officers who worked with me were also transferred to FSARS. One of them is Ben Ohazulike Osita. He was very knowledgeable, intellectually sound and professionally superb. Then – Lagos State CP called me and said he liked the way we were operating in Jos.

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Meanwhile, then – military president, Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, said that something needed to be done to address the insecurity in the FCT because robbers were operating there from Kaduna, Suleja and other neighbouring communities.

I became the pioneer OC of the Federal Anti-Robbery Task Force. Haruna John, who later became my boss, was my 2ic for eight years. We knew that the robbers were not based in Abuja. What I did was to move my men to Kaduna to arrest the robbers. How did we source the information that helped? We went to the police cell in Kaduna because we thought some of the people being incarcerated could know everything that was happening in town. We cultivated them and they provided the information that helped us to arrest the criminals that were terrorising Abuja.

In another era of my career, in 1992, Lagos was very hot and we were asked to move there by the IGP to restore order. I went with my men; we gathered intelligence from informants and recovered a lot of vehicles.

In 1994, Kanuri Merchants, operators of a bureau de change, were robbed of 1.3 million US dollars. They were taking the money to Maiduguri when a gang of robbers attacked them at the foot of the 3rd Mainland Bridge on their way to the airport.

I took over the investigation and we were able to arrest those behind the robbery and recovered more than 700, 000 US dollars. We went to a hotel along Badagry road where they shared the money. We recovered from them up to 15 vehicles including a house bought by one of the robbers in Umuahia. We handed over everything we recovered to Alhaji Kaka, the man who was the Chairman of the bureau de change in a ceremony.

I was also instrumental to the arrest of the killers of Vice Admiral Babatunde Elegbede in Lagos in 1994 and we took them for re-enactment.

In 2002, Dr Harry Marshal was killed in Abuja. I was on a special operation in Owerri when IG Tafa Balogun recalled me to say one prominent politician had been killed and that my attention was needed to resolve the case. I immediately returned to Abuja. I went to the man’s house, and from interviews, I knew that the assailants were looking for money because they raided the Boys Quarter (BQ) and searched all the occupants and they were not in a haste to go up. They took one of the residents to his vehicle and opened his car and took the money he kept in the pigeon hole.

When they eventually entered the main building, they raped one girl and went upstairs where they met the door to the room of Harry Marshall locked. They perforated the asbestos and entered through the ceiling and saw the prominent politician with his daughter, holding his double barrel gun but he did not fire. The one that fired said that when they saw him, they opened fire on him and he slumped. They entered the room and began to search for money.

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Vital information

You may wonder how we got the information that led to the arrest of Marshall’s suspected killers. The truth is that we never underrated any information that came our way. We were in Force CID at Area 10 when I got information that someone who wanted to sell a pump action rifle was arrested after the police went as buyer. I got the information and sent a signal to the DPO in charge of Garki to hand over the suspect to me. I didn’t know he was involved in the murder of Harry Marshall but I just needed him to keep ourselves busy.

When we eventually got him, we started investigation on how he procured the rifle. He confessed that he was a robber and told us all his escapades right from the time he was initiated into robbery. He narrated how he was in a room with his friends when he saw on television a news flash that a chieftain of the All Peoples Party, APP, had been killed. His friends’ reaction, according to him, showed that his friends killed the man. He gave us the friends’ names. That was how we apprehended them.

It pains me each time I hear that Dr Harry Marshall’s murder case is one of the unresolved murders in Nigeria. This was a case we investigated and charged suspects to court. When the suspects were arraigned in court, Justice Bello, who is now the Chief Judge of Abuja, was the judge that handled the matter. The confessional statement of one of the accused persons who allegedly opened fire on Harry Marshal was to be admitted in evidence through his lawyer, but he denied making the statement voluntarily and, because of that, there was trial-within-trial on the admissibility of the statement.

One of my detectives, Don, was the one giving evidence; he was the one that was supposed to tender the confessional statement because he was the one who recorded the statement. During the trial-within-trial, I was called upon to testify because the confessional statement made by the accused person was done under my authority.

In the law of evidence, whenever there is a dispute as to the admissibility of a confessional statement, there will be trial-within-trial. If at the end of such trial the judge is convinced that the statement of the accused person was made voluntarily, and not under duress or threat, the statement will be admissible in evidence. That was only time I gave evidence in the case. In the main trial, I was not called to give evidence.

Reconstruction

So, the question is, has the case of the killers of Dr Harry Marshall been dismissed in court? And I as a key actor, why have I not been called upon to give evidence? That is the question we need to ask the Ministry of Justice, the police and the judiciary. Find out what actually went wrong. Or was the case concluded without my testimony? If I was called upon to testify in the main case, I would have taken the accused persons and the court through the reconstruction of the scene of crime to demonstrate what happened.

I believe that whatever investigation you carry out, when you reconstruct the scene, you will never forget. The facts of the case will remain fresh in your memory. Anytime I sit down, I think of innovations that will enhance the performance of the police and that is why there is no case assigned to me that I never succeed in resolving.

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