The Umaru Dikko story has been described by critics as Nigeria’s biggest ever disgrace in the international scene, even greater than the former Bayelsa state governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha dressing up like a woman to escape England.
Dikko served under Shagari’s administration as an adviser to President Shehu Shagari. He was also the Nigerian minister for Transportation from 1979–1983 and Shagari’s half-brother.
Buhari: Nigeria's First International Kidnapper
Umaru Dikko
However, in December 1983, President-elect Muhammadu Buhari and fellow officer threw a coup and overtook the then democratic elected Presidency citing corruption as a major factor for their decision.
Buhari on his second day on office, then proceeded to a list of former government officials accused of a variety of crimes.
Dikko topped the list and was accused of stealing 6 billion US dollars in oil profits from the national treasury.
As if to throw salt in the wounds of the then military regime who were still angry of not being to apprehend Dikko.
Dikko became a vocal critic of the regime from his safe haven in London England.
Buhari: Nigeria's First International Kidnapper
 The President-Elect
Circa 1983-1985, General Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria — Image by © William Campbell
With the issue now being international, Nigeria invited the help of top-level security agency to help them apprehend Dikko.
They contacted the Israeli national intelligence agency Mossad to help and apprehend Dikko back to Nigeria to stand trial.
Mossad katsas were accompanied Nigerian security service agents led by ex-Nigerian Army Major Mohammed Yusufu in London as they planned Dikko’s extraction.
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The team lived in the city posing as refugees, working separately with both teams searching the town for the location of the untraceable Dikko.
However their search was finally succesful on June 30 1984 when one Mossad agent found Dikko and tracked him back to his home at Porchester Terrace.
The Nigerians were immediately informed and they placed daily surveilance on the house, with the Nigerians now using the Nigerian embassy as a base.
They prepared a kidnapping operation and recruited Israeli doctor Dr. Levi-Arie Shapiro, who was a consultant anesthetist and director of the intensive care unit at HaSharon Hospital, to fly to London and participate in the operation.
Shapiro’s job was to cook up a drug for Dikko and when Dikko was unconscious, then insert an endotracheal tube to keep him from choking on his own vomit whilst being transported in a crate.
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The plan was set and on 3rd July 1984, Nigeria Airways Boeing 707 arrived at Stansted Airport from Lagos with intentions of transporting a diplomatic baggage from the Nigerian embassy.
The security agents on the plane openly told their British counterparts about their presence and said that they were on ground to protect the baggage.
On June 4th, Dikko was kidnapped in front of his home as he went for a walk, bungled into a van driven by Yusufu and drugged into unconsciousness by Shapiro.
Unfortunately for the kidnappers,Dikko’s secretary, Elizabeth Hayes saw the incident and notified the British police.
Dikko and Shapiro were placed together in a crate while Mossad agents Alexander Barak and Felix Abithol were in an adjacent crate.
Due to diplomatic nature of the plane, The crates were not supposed to have been searched but the crates were also not labeled as diplomatic bags, as required by Article 27(4) of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Buhari: Nigeria's First International Kidnapper
The suit case
As a result of this little failure, customs officials who were already on alert over Dikko’s kidnapping were able to open the crates without violating the convention and foil the kidnapping. Dikko was taken to a hospital; he was uninjured.
In total seventeen men were apprehended by the British security agents, four were sentenced to prison terms of 10 to 14 years.
Buhari’s administration retaliated, jailing two British engineers in Nigeria and giving them fourteen-year prison sentences.
Nigeria and the Israeli government have officialy never admitted to the incident, but Britain had then after the discovery of the attempt expelled two members of the Nigerian High Commission in London, including the High Commissioner. Diplomatic relations with Nigeria were broken off for two years.