BAYO AKINLOYE and Afeez Hanafi
An online campaign with the hashtag #FreeEvans, calling for the release of a kidnap mastermind, Chukwudidumeme Onuamadike, aka Evans, which went viral on Saturday, has sparked outrage on the Internet, particularly on Twitter.
The suspected criminal was arrested on June 10 at one of his houses on Magodo Estate, Lagos State.
Following his arrest and confessions, a Twitter user with the handle @Diranaire (Diran) had on June 12 posted a tweet, “#FreeEvans #JusticeForEvans. Igbos are being victimised. That’s how deeply some Nigerians are brainwashed.”
Three days after that tweet, another Twitter handle, @TAJUDEEOLAJID, posted, “For me, I don’t see any difference between Saraki and Evans … they’re both hustling for dollars, please #freeEvans. If saraki can be freed I think we should start trending #freeEvans the kidnapper.”
Similarly, on June 16, another Twitter handle, @justemdee, said, “Now that @BukolaSaraki is discharged and declared ‘innocent.’ We should expect Evans, the kidnapper, to be discharged too. Please #FREEEvans.”
Expressing shock over the Twitter campaign to free Evans, a Twitter user with the handle @Omodayo2 wrote, “I woke up to a #FreeEvans campaign. Lord Jesus, when are you coming back? There are more mad humans roaming the earth now, save us.”
Another user, @lordtannertalks, said, “Are you people asking for #freeEvans mad? Free what? All you people pushing this #freeEvans matter, may God punish you all for a long time.”
A tweet by @sheysheykushey said, “I sincerely pray that the loved ones of those behind the #FreeEvans campaign fall victim to other kidnappers out there. This I solemnly pray.”
In the same vein, @cicceroUNO said, “The thunder that will fire the advocates of #FreeEvans will come like a doctor’s prescription: 2 morning, 1 afternoon and 2 in the night.”
Showing similar indignation @PrimeBaba stated, “All the exponents of #FreeEvans are human beings who have chosen to function by animal code simply. No gainsaying they are all deranged!”
“Those who are behind the #FreeEvans stuff; may kidnappers locate and kidnap you; bunch of inhumane beings!” a Twitter user with the handle @geotaha stated.
Then on Saturday, another Twitter user with the handle, @CarxSan, said in a series of tweets that drew the ire of other users, “So if you all can look the other way when the politicians get cleared of wrongdoings and get mad at the #FreeEvans tag, then we should do more. Insults were enormous and my mentions were a storm but you are all missing something important. #FreeEvans.
“Some of you went as far as mentioning the police handles and asking for my head. Lol #FreeEvans. First attempt at making you all mad and it worked.”
Meanwhile, there are indications that the police will extend their investigation into the criminal activities of the notorious kidnap kingpin beyond the shores of the country.
Competent sources revealed to SUNDAY PUNCH that the police was exploring Interpol to unravel Evans’ activities in Ghana and South Africa.
Our correspondent also gathered that the suspect would be charged with kidnapping, murder, armed robbery, and drug trafficking.
Two houses owned by the 36-year-old in Accra, Ghana were discovered as he also confessed to trafficking drugs during his stay in South Africa in 2007.
Evans, who was arrested in his mansion on Magodo Estate, Lagos, on June 10, had also told journalists how he had linked up with different gangs to hijack three bullion vans in Abia and Enugu states, carting away N200m in one of the operations.
Six of his gang members, Nwosu Chukwuma, aka Sudo, 42; Suoyo Paul aka Nwana, 42; Felix Chinemerem, 36; Chukwuemeka Bosah, 28; Uchechukwu Amadi; and Ogechi Amadi, were also paraded.
A senior police officer hinted to our correspondent on Saturday that investigators would soon visit South Africa and Ghana to conduct further investigations into the case.
The source said, “There are some investigations that will be done in Ghana concerning his criminal activities. The police have also contacted South Africa to assist in tracing his property, and detectives are going there soon for further investigations. We are working with Interpol.”
When asked if the police was looking at the possibility of Evans working for some more powerful criminals, a top security source said, “The suspect is a criminal empire. Evans is the chairman. He does not have any sponsor and nobody is giving him any backup. This is a man who does not interact with people.”
Attempts to get the comments of the Force Public Relations Officer, Moshood Jimoh, on the case were unsuccessful as he did not respond to calls made to his mobile phone. He also had yet to reply to a text message sent to him as of press time.