A Lagos monarch has told a court that his family paid N15.1 million to kidnappers who held him captive.
“My abductors demanded N500million ransom but my family paid N15.1 million to free me” the traditional ruler of Iba Town, Goriola Oseni, told a Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere.
Mr. 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 charge bordering on conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, robbery, armed robbery, stealing and kidnapping preferred against them by the Lagos State Government.
The monarch’s kidnap in July drew widespread condemnation at the security situation in Lagos. The police and the state government sprung promptly into action to help secure Mr, Oseni’s release.
At the commencement of hearing, the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem, 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, Mr. 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.
Selowei Baidi was for the first and second accused, 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 Mr. 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 Mr. Kazeem, Mr. Oseni, 73, testified as first prosecution witness and narrated how at about 8:00 p.m. on July 16, he was kidnapped while watching TV in his palace.
Mr. 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.
“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,” Mr. Oseni told the court.
He said the gunmen dragged him out of the palace and shot sporadically; in the process, killing his security guard and a motorcyclist.
He said they demanded N500 million ransom but his family paid N12 million and then another N3.1million to another group of the kidnappers, totalling N15.1million following which he was released.
The Oba’s son, Kazeem, who testified as the second prosecution witness, said he delivered both ransom money of N12 million and N3.1million to the abductors at a canal near Igbehinadun in Iba.
He said they negotiated the ransom from N500 million to N40 million 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 November18, following a request by the prosecution for time to present more witnesses.