We head down history lane today with our focus on Alhaji Umaru Dikko. He was kidnapped on the 5th of July 1984. Before we examine the events of that day, let us introduce Umaru Dikko to you.
Born on the 31st of December 1936 in Wamba, Nasarawa State, Nigeria, he died in London in 2014 at the age of 77. He was a former commissioner in the North Central state of Nigeria (now Kaduna State). In 1979, he was appointed Shehu Shagari’s campaign manager. He was also Shagari’s son in-law.
Alhaji Umaru Abdurrahman Dikko was appointed as transport minister and also head of the presidential task force on rice. Accounts state he was one of the most powerful individuals during this period. His position as the chairman of the task force on rice meant he could issue the rice import license at his whim to anyone he felt like.
Cue the coup on the 31st of December 1983, Umaru Dikko fled Nigeria with his secretary, Elizabeth Hayes who would go on to become his wife, after he was named top of a list of looters. It is estimated he had embezzled almost 6 billion dollars.
There are varying accounts to the kidnap. One account (CIA) states that Dikko’s associates who had been jailed told the Nigerian secret police they could arrange for Dikko’s return. Other accounts state that it was a joint operation planned by TY Danjuma and was approved by Buhari.
What is known is that the Mossad were involved in the operation to retrieve Umaru Dikko back to Nigeria.
Since his whereabouts was unknown, Mossad operatives were mobilized to track him in London, due to the fact that London was the rallying point of the exiled politicians who were against Buhari’s regime.
On the 30th of June, a Mossad operative spotted Umaru Dikko and tailed him to his apartment at Porchester Terrace. The apartment was placed under surveillance and the kidnap plan was set in motion.
Dr. Levi-Arie Shapiro, an Israeli doctor was recruited to participate in the operation. His assignment was to drug Umaru and keep him from choking on his own vomit in transit. Also recruited were Alexander Barak a former Mossad agent, Felix Abitbol all Israelis and Maj Mohammed Yusufu a Nigerian intelligence officer.
On the 3rd of July 1984, at the Stansted Airport, a Nigerian Airways Boeing 707 landed empty. Its pilot informed authorities that the plane was deployed to pick diplomatic baggage from the Nigerian Embassy in London.
On the 5th of July, Umaru Dikko stepped out of his apartment and was grabbed almost immediately. Elizabeth Hayes had seen this happen though and quickly informed the police who started a search for him.
Events shifted to Stansted Airport where the Nigeria Airways aircraft patiently awaited arrival of its cargo. So far so good, the kidnap was going smoothly. However the kidnap started to unravel when with the arrival of the cargo, the handlers refused to have it manifested, claiming it was a diplomatic bag.
Diplomatic bag under the Vienna Convention is not to be opened by customs officials. However Mr Charles Morrow the officer in charge had already seen the APB issued regarding the kidnapping and there was something suspicious about the cargo and the plane itself. He was able to exploit a loophole, to get the cargo opened. The documents presented were not the right ones and the cargo was not labeled Diplomatic Bag.
When the cargo was opened, the Nigerian diplomat present who went by the name Mr Edet was reported to have started running and then stopped when he realized no one was chasing him and that there was empty space for miles.
Inside the cargo were the kidnappers and there victim Umaru Dikko who was unconscious. That was how Umaru Dikko was saved.
The kidnappers were jailed with sentences ranging from 10 to 15 years. Though the Nigerian and Israeli governments both denied involvement, the British government expelled two members of the Nigerian High Commission, and broke off diplomatic relations for two years. Requests to extradite Umaru Dikko and other politicians were refuted.
So that is the story of the infamous botched kidnap of Umaru Dikko. What do you think? Do let us know in the comment section.