For years, many cringed at the mere mention of his name. Thoughts of him got instant trepidation sweeping through the minds of the rich and the affluent. Many terrified hearts would begin to palpitate wildly. To many men and women of means and might across the South East and South West, Chukwudumeje Onwuamadike, known to his foot-soldiers as Evans, was terror personified. His very name connoted trouble. In Lagos, where he built the headquarters of his kidnapping kingdom, Evans was a dreaded name. Many wealthy men and women, it is said, quickly developed immediate high blood pressure as soon as his name was mentioned.
But, an instant relief ran through many minds on June 10, 2017 when the notorious billionaire kidnapper who had made life hellish for scores of wealthy and not-so-wealthy people, was paraded before the world by police operatives in Lagos. He had been captured by a police team led by operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT), led by Mr. Abba Kyari, in his mansion in Magodo, Lagos State where he lived like a king. After the arrest, Evans had no choice but to tell the police about his life of crime.
The sighs of relief weren’t unjustified. In his confessions to the police, Chukwudumeje (Evans) admitted to having made a great fortune from his ignoble trade. The man known as the king of kidnappers reportedly told his interrogators that his usual ransom from the families of his victims was a princely sum of one million United States dollars. With the money, he bought and cruised about in exotic automobiles, adorned himself with expensive jewelery and owned several magnificent mansions within and outside the country.
Born in Akamili community in Umudim, Nnewi, Anambra State in 1980, Chukwudumeje Onwuamadike attended Emmanuel Anglican Primary School in the community. Investigations by Sun News in the community revealed that the kidnap kingpin was not a particularly promising pupil, academic-wise, in his elementary school days. An elderly woman living within the community informed the reporters that when he was a kid, the suspect could hardly hurt a fly.
“He was a quiet boy, and he went about his way without troubling anyone. He never looked for trouble. He was an easy-going boy. I know the family well. In fact, the one that was heady among his siblings was Nnaemeka. That’s the younger brother,” the woman informed.
It was gathered that a major cause of Evans’ undesirable venture into the world of crime might have been the crisis between his father, Pa. Stephen Onwuamadike and his mother. According to Sun News, it was learnt that the marriage of his parents had not been a particularly smooth one. Before the woman suddenly left home many years ago, it was gathered that Pa Onwuamadike had married his second and third wives. It was also learnt that the three wives and their children lived together with their husband in the man’s expansive house at Akamili community in Nnewi.
“His mother is the first wife, and Evans is the first son. I believe there are about three boys and four girls in the family,” the neighbour informed. “But after their parents separated, Evans stopped going to school. By then, he was through with primary school. I believe he stopped after junior secondary school (JSS) Three. He attended one secondary school at Oba. I can tell you authoritatively that he did not continue his education after JSS Three.”
Chukwudumeje’s journey into crime wasn’t sudden; it was one despicable step at a time. The newspaper gathered that he was never known as a petty thief while living in the area. But neighbors recalled that he would sometimes disappear from the community only to reappear much later. Not too many people knew where he went, neither were they bothered about his disappearing habits. A middle-aged man who claimed to be close to the family told the reporters that there was a time Evans made a sudden appearance at Akamili weeks after an equally sudden disappearance.
“That was before he relocated finally from Nnewi,” the man informed. “At that time, he suddenly came home, and we discovered that his left arm was almost chopped off. He was treating the injury locally. We did not know how he sustained the injury. Some said it was a bullet wound while some said it was a machete cut. We were also told that he sustained the injury at a community known as Ozubulu where he had gone stealing. We never knew he would survive the incident.”
“Although people here will not like to talk about it, the truth is that, many people knew a long time ago that the man is a criminal. Everybody in this area knew that his hands were not clean, so we were not surprised that he was caught. What is surprising is the gravity of the crime he has been committing, a kidnap kingpin who collects his ransom in dollars. Before he finally relocated from Nnewi, there were times you would not see him for a long time. Then after a while, he would suddenly resurface. Nobody knew where he was always traveling to at that time, and no one knew what he was doing for a living.”
“Then he finally left Nnewi. But anytime he visited home, he would never sleep in the family house at Akamili. He was always sleeping in hotels. And he was always coming in different cars. The car he brings today would be different from the one he would use next time. He has not been coming to Nnewi for a long time. I learnt he was in South Africa at a time, but of what he was doing there, I have no idea. His father married three wives, although I can’t say if that was responsible for what became of him. His mother was the first wife, but she left his father a long time ago.”
The newspaper also gathered from various sources that Evans’ sudden wealth never elicited instant celebration from his kinsmen. In fact, not a few of the people were quite astonished at the inexplicable prosperity of the young man. Another woman who once lived at Akamili, told Saturday Sun: “The villagers were surprised at the way he suddenly became wealthy. Some people were surprised that he might have become rich through some criminal pursuits, but there were some other people that believed he had prospered through some legitimate means. Such people opined that if he was a criminal, the law would have caught up with him. It was not clear to everybody.”
“At that time, he used to visit our provision store, and my sister would call his attention to the kind of rumors making the rounds about him, you know, things that people were saying about him that were not complimentary. My sister would even advise that he should be careful, so that people would not have a bad impression about him. But at a point, many people advised my sister to stop giving him such information and to stop advising him. They said he might get uncomfortable with the insinuations from my sister and might decide to harm her. After some time, he left Nnewi and relocated to Lagos.”
No one in the community seems to have much information about Evans’ immediate family. Even as some media platforms have said Evans relocated his wife and her children to Ghana, many people at Nnewi claimed they have no information on where the family lives. Sun News also reported that Evans had no house at home, in spite of his wealth. But he is said to own landed properties in the area.
Speaking to journalists while he was being paraded, Evans said he was into spare parts business. He said the sudden confiscation of his goods worth N20 million by operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service drove him into kidnapping in 2015. He also said he was at a time, dealing in illicit drugs. The police noted, however, that he had been into the kidnapping business for longer than he admitted. He acknowledged, however, that he collected a million dollars each from some of his victims, even as he admitted that he had lost count of the number of people he and his group had kidnapped.
He told the journalists: “I can’t figure out how much I have collected so far or how many people I have kidnapped, but I have kidnapped up to 10 since 2015. I chose to collect ransom in dollars to be different, and the maximum I have collected as ransom so far is one million dollars. I work in two groups. A team moves with me to kidnap the victims while we hand over to the other team that takes the victim to the hideout. Kingsley introduced me to kidnapping, but I usually get my ammunition from one Chinedu and Ehis whom I met at Ago-Iwoye. I also do drug business that enabled me to buy my properties.”
Indeed, with the proceeds of crime, Evans said he bought two houses in Magodo, Lagos and one in Ghana. He is a self-confessed collector of luxury and pricey wrist-watches and mobile phones. He reportedly bought one wrist watch for $170, 000 and three phones for $6000 dollars each.
The kidnap kingpin is married to his wife Uchenna Onwuamadike with whom he has five children. His wife and children were once resident in Accra Ghana. The wife who claimed she initially had no knowledge of her husband’s shady dealings was said to have found out about it a few years ago when she discovered some amunitions and bags of money in their Magodo house. According to her, series of confrontations with him had yielded to nothing but continued kidnap operations by Evans and his team. This caused her to flee with her children to their house in Ghana. And from Ghana, they relocated to Canada.
Evans’ victims were many. Among them is Mr. Mbarikatta William Uboma, a 35-year-old man. According to reports, on June 16, 2012, Uboma had just arrived in the country from Hungary and was on his way from the airport. His brother was driving. At 11 am, somewhere close to his house, the car they were riding in was blocked by another car. The gunmen seized Uboma, blindfolded him and took him to an unknown destination. They later demanded N10 million ransom, but N2 million was accepted eventually. The kidnappers also collected personal accessories from the victim before he was dropped off at Okota on the third day.
Another victim was Paul Cole. The 34-year-old man from Ohafia in Abia State was a director with Ocean Glory Commodities, Apapa. He was kidnapped on August 3, 2012, at Festac Town, Lagos together with Jude Ugoje, the company’s general manager, and another staff, Piriye Gogo. The kidnappers demanded N10 million, but collected N5 million from the victims. They released them somewhere in Mazamaza on August 6. His group also kidnapped 22-year-old Mohammed Jamal, a Lebanese, on August 19, 2012, in Ajah. The kidnappers later collected N7 million and released the victims.
Another victim, Kingsley Nwokenta, 34, who was kidnapped on September 19, 2012 at Mile Two, was released after paying N1.5 million. But his car, a black Toyota Venza, as well as other accessories were taken away by the kidnappers. 41 year old Anthony Ozoanidobi was also kidnapped by Evans’ men on October 10, 2012, on Marwa Road, Satellite Town, Lagos. He was released at Apple Junction, Amuwo-Odofin a few days after his abductors had collected N1.5 million from his family members.
Mr. Leo Abraham, 58, was another victim. He was kidnapped on August 20, 2012 and had to cough out the ransom of N5 million before he was dropped off along Badagry Road, Lagos. A businessman and dealer in auto spare parts at Trade Fair, Lagos, Ojukwu Cosmas, 45, was also kidnapped on January 21, 2016, at Festac town. The gang took one million dollars from the family of James Uduji who they kidnapped at 7th Avenue in Festac Town late last year. The man was held for six weeks.
Chief Raymond Okoye, Odu-Na-Ichida, was kidnapped in 2015. His family paid Evans’ group one million dollars as ransom. The man was with his abductors for two months. Another kidnapped businessman whose family was forced to cough out one million dollars for Evans and his group was Uche Okoroafor, a trader at Alaba, Lagos. He was kidnapped in 2015 and was with the group for three months. Elias Ukachukwu, who was kidnapped in November 2015, was also released after his family had paid one million dollars.
Another victim, Francis Umeh, was also a spare parts dealer at Aspanda. He was kidnapped in July 2016, at Raji Rasaki Estate in Lagos. He was released after two months in captivity. Donatus Dunu is the owner of a pharmaceutical company at Ilupeju, Lagos. After he was kidnapped, his abductors demanded an incredibly huge ransom. After negotiations, Dunu’s family members rallied one another together and paid N150 million. It was said that Evans’ boys had insisted on N500 million.
Evans, the kidnap kingpin succeeded in joining the likes of Clifford Orji and Anini, who were known to be the greatest notorious kidnappers in the history of Nigeria, through his evil kidnap escapades and exploits. Many Nigerians danced and jubilated to the news of his arrest and those who had been living in constant fear not knowing who his next victim(s) would be were finally able to sigh in relief. Evans sure caused a lot of individuals and families tears and pains, but ever since his arrest and detention, there has been relative peace in the areas he attacked and no elite or wealthy person has been reported kidnapped, since those were his major targets. Even though there have been a lot of kidnap reports and cases carried out by bandits, Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram insurgents and the likes.