By Dipo Olowookere
“My abductors demanded N500m ransom but my family paid N15.1m to free me” the traditional ruler of Iba Town, Oba Goriola Oseni, told a Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere.
Oseni said this on Friday while giving evidence at the commencement of trial of the four men accused of kidnapping him.
The accused are Duba Furejo, Ododowo Isaiah, Reuben Anthony and Yerin Fresh, who were first arraigned before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo on October 24.
They are standing trial on an eight-count 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 all the three counsel for the accused.
Mr Selowei Baidi was for the first and second accused, Mr. J. O. Egwuaroje for the third accused while Anthony Onwueze represented the fourth accused.
Justice Taiwo, in her ruling, said that there was nothing prejudicial about Kazeem’s application and assured the defence counsel of fair hearing.
She ordered all journalists in court to identify themselves with their official identification card in order to be allowed to cover the proceedings.
Led in evidence by Kazeem, Oseni, 73, testified as first prosecution witness and narrated how at about 8:00pm on July 16, he was kidnapped while watching TV in his palace.
Oseni told the court that he was held in captivity for three weeks in an unknown camp.
He described his abductors, about nine, as shirtless, heavily armed men wearing only black trousers.
He said, “This is the king, the gunmen said. I asked them, ‘what can I do for you?’ Then they grabbed me. I was in only a boxer because I was preparing to take a bath.
“My Olori (Queens) came in and asked them where they were taking me to but they fled when the gunmen released some bullets in the decking of the room.”
He said the gunmen dragged him out of the palace and shot sporadically, in the process, killed his security guard and a motorcyclist.
He said they demanded N500m ransom but his family paid N12m and then another N3.1m to another group of the kidnappers, totalling N15.1m, 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 abductors 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.
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