By Chiemelie EzeobiThere was uproar on the social media sphere after some Nigerians launched a campaign to clamour for the release of notorious kidnap kingpin, Chukwudubem Onwuamadike, alias Evans.Creating a hashtag #FreeEvans, the movement has since gathered momentum as many people are calling on the police to release the suspect they arrested on Saturday, June 10, 2017.Championed by Evans’ wife, Uche, the campaign for his release was based on the premise that if he is released, he will help the police in cracking other high profile cases.According to their reasoning, Evans should not be jailed while some corrupt politicians who have been accused of embezzling funds are still walking around free.As at Saturday, the hashtag had garnered over 51,000 tweets and retweets, while the figure skyrocketed to about 70,000 Tuesday and however shocking it might be, has since clinched the third position on the trends list in Nigeria.From the absurd tweets to the absolutely ridiculous ones, the hashtag #FreeEvans has definitely set the Twitter sphere ablaze for three days in a row and from the look of things, will not be abating anytime soon.According to one Idowu Bello Johnson, “Is he (Evans) worse than most politicians who have been killing and wasting lives of both opponent and masses during elections for political office?”The first tweet that launched the hashtag came from one @carxsan, who wrote, “Are you sure this Evans story was not created to distract us about the whereabouts of Buhari?“Evans deserves a second chance, Buhari already has his second chance. The hashtag is not rodiculous. #FreeEvans.“I am sure those be offended already forgave him long before now. Forgiveness is a favour you do yourself. #FreeEvans.”Abiola Kazeem wrote, “If we could be as mad at our thieving leaders as we are at Evans, we would be on our way to fixing Nigeria.”However loud the voices of those clamouring for his release were, those baying for his blood kept drowning it.Of those against the clamour for his release was one Ogbeni Dipo, who was one of the most vocal about his exasperation about the movement, especially those who said Evans’ arrest was an ethnic vendetta against the Igbo tribe.He said: “We live in a country where some are beginning to feel sympathy for Evans the kidnapper. All of you are mad. Kidnappers deserve no mercy.“#FreeEvans? Free someone that killed citizens, police officers and destroyed families? Your family members might be next. Continue. If you want your life to be unfortunate, please turn this Evans kidnapping to ethnic issue.”Rights activist, Debo Adeniran, said: “All those who made it possible for Evans to escape justice for so long and those hiding behind professional calling or activism to seek a cut of proceeds of crime should be treated as accomplices!”According to Japheth Omojuwa, a social entrepreneur, the Evans media machine is running on the canvas of mercy using the wife and children as the cross of mercy.Twitter user @ayourb said: “This Evans new tactics is baffling, but seeing PR agents working to free a man who might harm them tomorrow if freed, is truly very scary.“Something is definitely wrong with us. Kidnapping and armed robbery are heinous vices we all hate but suddenly some want mercy for a kingpin?“If Lawrence Anini were alive today and caught I swear some idiots would come out to beg for him. We seem to have lost every sense of decency and shame.“Little wonder crime is getting worse in our society seems we now celebrate wealth. See known yahoo boys flexing yet we all turn blind eye.”Addressing the suspect’s wife who began the plea for his release, he said: “When your wicked husband was making other families cry, destroying lives and livelihoods you were living large on his proceed of crime weren’t you?”Tweeting from @ebuka_akara, another Twitter user said: “Which one is ‘Free Evans’? So you mean he hasn’t been hanged or electrocuted by now? Nigeria is not a sane country.”Feeling a need to remind those clamouring for his release on Evans’ ruthless streak, Mina Nnajwa said: “Evans charged a family an extra $1m for being rude to him. Let that sink in.”Also, one Nonso Ani said: “Everybody partaking in #freeevans may kidnappers locate you. Evans destroyed families in Festac. My goodness.”There were yet others like Nedu Ekeke, who bayed for Evans’ blood. He said: “Evans should be executed publicly. I, Chinedu Ekeke, typed these words myself.”He was supported by one Osaro Ikhimwim, who said: “It will serve as an example to those who are negatively motivated by this story.”Chima Obinwa who went for the jugular said: “Quick execution will be too easy. His eyelash should all be plucked, his fingers and toes burnt.”Evans, who was arrested alongside six of his gang members, has kidnapped several people with ransom for their release running into millions of naira and dollars.One of his victims was Mr. Mbarikatta William Uboma at Festac Town, whom he abducted on June 16, 2012, and collected N20 million as ransom.
He also kidnapped Mr. Paul Cole from Ohafia in Abia State on August 23, 2012, at Festac Town and collected N20 million as ransom.
On August 19, 2012, at Ajah, he abducted Mr. Mohammed Jamal, a Lebanese, who paid N17 million at Ojo area of Lagos to regain his freedom.
The gang also kidnapped Mr. Kingsley Nwokenta on September 19, 2012, after he left Lebanon Bar in Festac Town and he had to pay N15 million in addition to his black Toyota Venza car that he forfeited to the gang before he regained his freedom.
In another scenario, they kidnapped Mr. Anthony Ozoanidobi on October 10, 2012, along Marwa Road in Satellite Town where N15 million was paid before he was released.
The gang also kidnapped Mr. Leo Abraham in Lagos on August 20, 2012, and dumped him at Badagry Road in Lagos after he paid N15 million.
Another victim, Ojukwu Cosmas, who sells Toyota parts at Aspanda Trade Fair, was kidnapped on January 21, 2016, at Festac Town and he paid $1 million to secure his release.
James Uduji, who was kidnapped by the gang at Seventh Avenue, Festac Town late last year, paid $1.2 million after being held for six weeks before he was released.
Chief Raymond Okoye Odu-Na–Ichida, who was kidnapped in 2015, also paid $1 million to regain his freedom after two months in captivity.
Uche Okoroafor, a trader at Alaba International Market, Lagos, was kidnapped by the gang in 2015 and held captive for three months before he was released after paying $1 million.
Also, Elias Ukachukwu, who was kidnapped by the gang in November, 2015 also paid $1 million for his release.
Francis Umeh, a spare parts dealer at Aspanda, was kidnapped in July 2016, at Raji Rasaki Estate and released after paying $1 million to secure his release.
In Edo State, the gang kidnapped Mr. Ohunyon Ernest in November 2011 and he had to pay N85 million, just as Mr. Dan Odiete who was also kidnapped by the gang in Benin City in 2013, paid N100 million to regain his freedom.
The owner of Uyi Technical, who was kidnapped by Evan’s gang in Benin City in 2013, paid N100 million before he was released, while Tom, kidnapped in Benin in 2012, paid N100 million to the gang.
The owner of Kings Paint was also kidnapped in Benin City in 2010 by the same gang and had to pay N40 million to regain his freedom even as Mr. Randeki, who was kidnapped by the gang in 2010 paid N30 million for his release.
The gang, however, recorded a fatal loss when in 2013, in its attempt to kidnap Chief Vincent Obianudo, the owner of Young Shall Grow Motors, met with stiff resistance from the policemen attached to the chief. The police opened fire and killed two members of the gang.
Though the gang also killed a policeman and some of its members escaped, Chief Obianudo, who sustained bullet wounds during the attack, survived after several surgeries.
The last known victim of the gang in Lagos before it was smashed is Mr. Donatus Dunu, a pharmacist and importer of drugs, who was kidnapped on February 14, 2017, in Ilupeju area of Lagos. The sum of N150 million was paid by the victim’s family to secure his release, but Evans collected the money and refused to release the victim, insisting that an additional N300 million must be paid.
The gang regretted that Dunu escaped from Evans’ detention camp in Igando on May 12, 2017, without paying the additional ransom.
Evans, who was nabbed by a combined team of police officers and men from the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) and the Technical Intelligence Unit (TIU) at his private residence in Magodo, Lagos, on June 10, was described by the police as a very intelligent suspect.
Other members of the gang that were also arrested at different locations include Felix Chinemerem, 36, from Arochukwu in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State, and Nwosu Chikodi Chukwuma, aka Sudo, 42, and is said to have over 20 years experience in armed robbery and about eight years experience in kidnapping.
Other arrested members of the gang are Uchechukwu Amadi from Anambra State who the police described as the head of Evans’ detention camp, a female, Ogechi Amadi, said to be the woman that rented the house and cooks for the kidnappers and their victims in the camp.
The rest are Suoyo Paul, aka Nwana, 42, a native of Bayelsa State, and is said to be the one supplying the gang with rifles and ammunition, while Ikenna Emeka, 28, from Anambra State, said he participated in four kidnappings in Festac Town with Evans before Evans sacked him from the gang for stealing an expensive wrist watch and a ring from a victim without informing him.