From Ngozi Uwujare
Police operatives from Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo Police Division of Akwa Ibom State, in conjunction with military personnel, arrested two armed robbers and kidnappers who allegedly robbed passengers of a 14-seater vehicle and raped female victims.
The two suspected armed robbers and kidnappers, 25-year-old ThankGod Ezekiel Udo, and 28-year-old Imo Okarafor John, a.k.a. Nkwokwo, were said to have kidnapped a vehicle conveying passengers and demanded N20 million ransom. They reportedly took the victims to their hideout at Ikpe Annang in Ekim Ekpo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
Akwa Ibom State Commissioner of Police, Mr Olatayo Durosinmi told Saturday Sun that the incident happened on September 23, 2022 when one of the victims, the driver of the bus, Victor Saturday Umana of Akwa Ibom Power Link Transit Company based in Port-Harcourt was going to Uyo at about 9:21pm.
He said the bus and its occupants were stopped at Abia Palm in Azumini by the kidnappers. The the suspected kidnappers took over the steering and drove the bus to the bush, robbed the passengers and kidnapped five of the victims.
He said they took the victims deep inside the forest at Ikpo Annang in Etim Ekpo Local Government Area. “Their hands were tied and they were even blindfolded by the kidnappers who later demanded N20 million ransom after calling the relatives of the victims on the phone.
CP Durosinmi said that it was when information got to the command while acting on credible intelligence on September 26, 2022 that the police operatives of Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo Police Division in conjunction with military personnel stormed their den and neutralised the kidnappers. Two of them were subsequently arrested. The arrested two suspects were identified as ThankGod Ezekiel Udo of Ikpe Annang and Imo Okarafor John aka. Nkwokwo. The others, it was gathered, escaped with bullet wounds into the rivers.
He said the five victims who were found blindfolded were rescued. He gave their names as names as Miss Blessing Ekanem, 19; Mr Kingsley Ekanem, 23; Mrs. Chioma Gabriella, 25; Mr Idorenyin Maurice Inim, 23 and Mr. Uko Clement, 29. The police also recovered an AK-47 machine with pump action and 30 rounds of cartridges inside the bush.
He said on January 30, 2022, the same gang kidnapped passengers of a 14-seater vehicle around 7:30pm along the Uyo axis and marched the victims inside the bush in Ikpe Annang. The gang reportedly raped four female victims and tied ten victims, blindfolded them and demanded N30 million. He said the kidnappers succeeded in collecting N5 million naira from the relatives of the victims. That was when the police team on patrol got there and rescued the victims.
“On March 10, 2022, the same gang kidnapped a victim inside a car in transit in Uyo and marched the victim inside the bush and started demanding N2 million. It was through information that the vigilance group, local hunters and police operatives swung into action and had an encounter with the kidnappers. They escaped and abandoned the four victims inside their den and police recovered AK-47 rifles and two magazines from them.” He noted.
CP Durosinmi said on May 2, 2022, the same gang made an attempt to kidnap two victims inside Keke NAPEP in Uyo around 8:00pm while pretending to be policemen on the highway for a stop and search operation..
He said the victims in the Keke NAPEP raised the alarm, which prompted the police on patrol to give them a hot chase. He stated that the suspects later escaped from the scene.
“Also, on August 2, 2022, the same gang carried out another operation along Uyo Highway and Calabar axis, where they reportedly kidnapped the passengers in a 14-seater bus in transit. Nine victims were marched into the bush, while others escaped from the scene. Those that escaped quickly alerted the vigilance group, local hunters and policemen and they swung into action. The kidnappers robbed the victims of their phones, ATM cards and transferred over N500,000 into their own account from their victms’ accounts, using the victims’ phones. They escaped from the forest when they had a hot chase from the policemen and local hunters including the vigilance group during an exchange of gunfire. Some of the alleged kidnappers escaped from the scene with bullet wounds. Also, the other nine victims were rescued from the scene. We only recovered pump action and a dane gun from them,” the commissioner said.
CP Durosinmi explained further that the same gang of armed robbers, responsible for most robberies and car snatching within Uyo Metropolis, on August, 20 2022, around 7:15pm, attacked one Mr Kelechi Orji and his family along Nteps supermarket by Oron Road in Uyo, took him to the ATM point and forced him to withdraw all his available cash for them. They also went away with his SUV.
“I had to direct my SWAT operatives to apprehend the perpetrators on September 10, 2022. The SWAT operatives professionally trailed the hoodlums who are notorious for terrorising residents of Uyo and environs to their hideout where a gun battle ensued. Three gang members were fatally injured and they gave up the ghost while on their way to the hospital.
“Also, the police operatives recovered seven vehicles; One Highlander SUV, One Lexus GL 460 SUV, One Toyota Rav 4, One Lexus 350 model, One Toyota Camry and two others,” he said.
One of the kidnapped victims, Mr.Kingsley Elkanem said: “I hail from Uyo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. We were in transit when we got to the checkpoint and they stopped us. And, thinking they were policemen, we stopped. But suddenly they brought out their guns and kidnapped us and took us inside the vehicle and marched us inside the forest. We were beaten and blindfolded and they collected our phones and ATM cards. They demanded N20 million, and they asked us to call our relatives through our phones.
“We were making the phone calls to our relatives, when we heard a gunshot from the forest. Then two of the kidnappers who were guarding us and waiting for the ransom escaped and abandoned us, while two of the kidnappers were shot dead. The police operatives and military personnel came and rescued us. We thanked God that we were not killed by the kidnappers. Rather we were rescued.”
One of the suspects, Chioma Omelazu said: “I hail from Obingwa Local Government Area of Abia State. We have been involved in different armed robberies and car snatching in Uyo and highways. We have robbed several cars and we are members of a four-man gang who were involved in robbing of victims. We used to collect their ATM cards and we would transfer the victims’ money into our accounts. We were arrested by SWAT operatives and they have recovered some of the vehicles that we stole from their owners.”