Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

The Umaru Dikko Kidnap Drama

Alhaji Umaru Dikko the minister for Transport and Aviation in the deposed government of ex-President Shehu Shagari of Nigeria was kidnapped outside his home in London on Thursday 5 July, 1984.

He was reported to have been grabbed outside his home at 12.25 p.m. by three men who bundled him into a yellow Ford Transit-type van whose rear windows had been painted orange.

Alhaji Dikko's secretary who heard his screams rushed out to see two "Middle Eastern" young men jump into the van and speed off. Three bystanders on the road were only able to answer her questions with "a black man, struggles, he fought them..."

She then called the police who arrived promptly, the first uniformed arrivals on the scene said they had come in response to a 999 call that a woman was in distress at that address.

The quick-thinking secretary who was well aware of the significance of her boss had made other phone calls and within minutes, the anti-terrorist squad of Scotland Yard had arrived. The Secretary, Miss Elizabeth Hayes told the police about her suspicions that Alhaji Dikko must have been kidnapped to be taken to Nigeria where the Federal Military Government had declared him a wanted person.

Commander William Hucklesby of C13, the anti-terrorist squad of Scotland Yard took personal charge of the operation and ordered all sea and airports watched for any suspicious movements.

Essex police, like all other police in the UK had upon a request from Scotland Yard, asked Stansted Airport authorities to watch for any flight to or from Nigeria.

Passenger flights to Nigeria do not operate from Stansted but Nigeria Airways and the Lagos independent airline Intercontinental use it occasionally for cargo flights.

While the kidnap drama was taking place in London's Bayswater, a Nigerian Airways Boeing 707 converted to cargo carrying was on the tarmac at Stansted airport.

Staff at Servisair the handling agents for Nigeria Airways have told newsmen that the plane had flown in empty from Lagos on Wednesday evening and was due to take off at 7 p.m. on Thursday with a load of furniture, catering equipment and general cargo. "We were told to expect some further cargo that afternoon but we were not told what it was, nor would we normally expect to be”

According to Servisair's station manager, a container van arrived at the cargo terminal shortly after 4 p.m. and unloaded two crates of normal air cargo type.

The van was said to have been accompanied by two black Mercedes saloon cars bearing the diplomatic plates of the Nigerian High Commission. The crates were unloaded by fork lift truck and placed in the customs shed to await loading.

A customs officer came to inspect the cargo in the normal way and it has been reported that his suspicions were aroused because the two crates had air holes and had a peculiar 'medical' scent. The customs officer also noted a hurriedly written 'diplomatic baggage' label on the crates which had been addressed to the Ministry of Foreign affairs in Lagos.

The suspicious customs man stalled, called the police and told Servisair staff not to load the crates onto the aircraft.

The police arrived at the scene shortly before 7 p.m. and the High commission staff who had accompanied the crates to supervise their loading were invited to be present when the crates were forced open by the police.

Inside the first crate were found an unconscious Alhaji Dikko, ankles handcuffed, kneeling with a tube down his throat, with him was another man, conscious, holding a syringe and other medicines. He was later identified as an Israeli doctor.

Inside the second crate were found another Israeli and a Nigerian.

The police took Alhaji Dikko to hospital where he was not to regain consciousness until the afternoon of the next day.

The two Israelis and the Nigerian, the crew of the Boeing jet and the High Commission Staff at the airport were all arrested by the police. In the event 17 people were arrested, five of which were released on Friday evening. Another eight were released on Saturday.

Diplomatic Row

A British Caledonian passenger plane with 222 on board on a flight from Lagos to London was called back to Lagos and held by the Nigerian authorities until the Nigerian airways cargo plane and its crew were released and left London Saturday afternoon. The British Caledonian flight arrived in London at dawn on Sunday.

Alhaji Dikko was released from hospital on Monday afternoon and the diplomatic row between Britain and Nigeria started but the kidnap attempt had not been resolved as we went to press.

See also

kidnapped victim umaru dikko

talking drums 1984-07-16 where was Dikko going when kidnapped Rawlings the man behind the mask