Shortly after forcefully removing the democratically-elected government of Shehu Shagari from power and installing himself as Head of state in 1983, Muhammadu Buhari planned, and through the help of Israeli intelligence agents executed the kidnap of Umaru Dikko, the transport minister in the deposed government.
Buhari had upon seizing power declared that “corrupt officials and their agents would be brought to book”. Dikko who was a prominent figure in the Shagari government was accused of embezzling about $6b. And without waiting to be arrested, he quickly fled to London through Benin Republic and Togo.
Buhari still sent his soldiers, but it was already late. They turned Dikko’s home upside down, but their target was nowhere to be found.
In London, Dikko quickly built a reputation as a critic of the Buhari regime, lambasting the dictatorship using every platform offered to him. This further provoked the Buhari regime, and the quest to apprehend him thus heated up.
The regime found a capable partner in Israel, a country that was looking for how to secure her interest in Nigeria’s oil. Israel would use its sophisticated spy network in tracing Dikko and bringing him back to Buhari while Buhari would ensure that there was no interruption in the flow of Nigeria’s oil to Israel.
It was victory for both sides and a deal was reached.
Israeli agents were mobilized across Europe, but they failed to locate Dikko. Head of the Israeli national intelligence agency, Nahum Admoni felt that Dikko could only be in London.
They thus set up a base in London, and were joined by a team of Nigerian agents led by Mohammed Ahmadu Jarfa Yusufu, a 40-year old Nigerian army officer posted by the regime to the Nigerian High Commission in the UK to play a part in the project.
The Nigerian team rented an apartment and posed as refugees from the Buhari regime. The Israeli agents rented rooms in hotels catering to tourists from Africa, and posed as anti-apartheid activists.
Working separately, the two teams moved among the Nigerian expat community in London, gradually narrowing their search to an area of West London where many wealthy Nigerian exiles lived.
Despite all these hard work, the gang still could not find any trace of Dikko.
Then on June 30, 1984 an Israeli agent spotted a man who fitted Dikko’s description in a posh London neighbourhood. He then parked his car and trailed him on foot to the house where he lived. For several days the house was monitored by the agents. The operation which was previously running out of steam suddenly regained momentum.
The Israeli agents hired Levi-Arie Shapiro, a doctor to anaesthetise Dikko once he was captured, and the Nigerian team led by Yusufu hired a van that would convey Dikko to the airplane that would fly him back to Nigeria.
On July 4, 1984 a Nigerian Airways Boeing 707 cargo plane flew in with no cargo from Lagos and landed at Stansted airport in London. British authorities were told that it had come to pick a diplomatic baggage from the Nigerian High Commission there in London.
The following day, Dikko was kidnapped in front of his home while he was out for a walk and taken away in a van driven by Yusufu. He was drugged into unconsciousness by Shapiro and put into a crate.
The abduction was however witnessed by Dikko’s secretary, Elizabeth Hayes, who quickly notified the authorities.
Proper documentation that would have ensured that the crate carrying Dikko could not be inspected was not provided. The crates were also not labeled as diplomatic bags, as required by Article 27(4) of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Customs officials who had been alerted of the kidnapping of Dikko while the crates were being processed at the airport were therefore able to open the crates without violating the convention and foil the kidnapping.
Buhari, however refused to admit that he broke any law. Rather than apologize and warn other kidnappers against the kidnapping like Evans has been doing, he arrested two British engineers in Nigeria and gave them 14-years prison sentences in reaction to the conviction of four members of his gang by a British court.
Buhari never showed any remorse. Like the cases of Ibrahim Zakzaky and Sambo Dasuki have shown, he still won’t mind kidnapping anyone who has somehow stepped on his toes or who simply does not share his values. And being that he is the only known Nigerian kidnapper with presidential powers, who is sitting on top of a nation’s wealth, and whose perpetration has ever gone global, he is unarguably Nigeria’s richest and most notorious kidnapper, not Chukwudi Dumeme Onwuamadike.