By Chioma Okezie-Okeh
Thank God for the upside of the Internet Age, the rapid progress that has been made since its inception, the ability to get connected with hundreds, thousands and millions of people from across the world, at the click of a mouse. But the death of Michael Victor, 27, on January 6, 2021, has shown its downsides. Now many people are in a dilemma to say which is more: the upside or the downside.
You get linked to a website and you are shown pretty ladies that look as if they come from Mars or one of the planets out there. They are not gold diggers. They are not looking for money but Gigolos or male partners to satisfy their sexual fantasies in bed, they assure you. They are wealthy, so money is not their problem but how to spend it. If you think you are naturally endowed with what it takes to take them to Cloud 9 in sex, then feel free to apply or to come onboard. And, they give you a phone number with which to reach them.
You do and a sweet female voice picks up the gameplan from there. Not really sure, you asked for a video chat, and pronto, a truly pretty lady answering to the name you picked, pops up to have a chat with you, to lead you on from there. Beware! This is the point where you need to retrace your steps, to walk back from danger. If you ignore this warning and go ahead to fix a date with the lady, you may be walking your way into a danger that you may never come back from, alive. Ask Michael Victor. Dressed in a pair of blue jeans, he decided to visit or meet with one of such ladies called “Tina” whom he met through an online dating site known as Tinder. Tinder is an American online dating application with millions of subscribers across the globe. In the app, there is a section that gives Nigerians access to only Nigerians.
The criminal career graph of Eneji
Unknown to the 27-year-old applicant, based in Rivers State, he was walking into the trap set by suspected armed robbers and kidnappers who usually lure their victims from the dating sites to an isolated area before dispossessing them of their valuables. The agreed place to meet was at a non-existent house at Igwuruta-ali in Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state.
But he got trapped and, in the process, was killed by a gang led by one Micheal Eneji, a suspected notorious kidnapper arrested in 2014 over the same crime. Eneji and four others, including a pregnant woman, were arrested by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad in 2014 over the death of persons lured to their death through the Badoo online dating site that trended that year.
Following his arrest, he admitted to having participated in the killing of a manager in Shell Development Petroleum Company (SPDC) Nigeria, Progress Benin Disi and a businessman identified as Shola Olaseinde. Both were reported missing in March 2014. Investigation revealed that they were, innocently, lured to their death by a gang led by Eneji, through Badoo online dating site.
Eneji who was also paraded before the media in 2014 reportedly said that they usually tie up their victims before taking all the valuables on them, including their ATM cards. They then take the cards to the bank with the provided pin numbers and begin to make daily withdrawals until the accounts are blocked by concerned bank management. Meanwhile, the victims would be tied up for as many days as it took them to make the withdrawals. They claimed that the two victims were left in the bush alive. He was quoted as saying: “We did not know that Olaseinde and Disi were unable to untie themselves like others before them. They could have been killed by snakebites or hunger.”
How Victor’s death was discovered and suspects arrested
They were charged to court while the families of the victims buried their dead. But at the end of the day, the gang was able to hire a lawyer who got their case dismissed. According to Eneji, the judge struck off the case owing to reason unknown to Saturday Sun at the time of this publication. Nobody heard about them or was aware of the fact that they resumed the same criminal activity till the mysterious disappearance of Victor.
According to police source, on January 12, the family of the deceased in a petition addressed to the Inspector General of Police reported that their son who left home on January 6, was yet to return. Operatives of Intelligence Response Team (IRT) who were ordered to investigate the case were able, through intelligence gathering, to track down Eneji, popularly known as “General” in Igwuruta-ali community where they all knew him as a Naval rating whose compound was always full of fiercesome dogs.
Initially, the operatives were reluctant to move in immediately to effect his arrest, until they were able to confirm from sources close the Nigerian Navy that he is not a serving Naval rating but an impostor. It was at that point they moved in and arrested him in the company of one of his gang members identified as Success. He led the police to arrest another gang member called Emeka. During the operation, an AK-47 and live ammunition were recovered from them.
He confessed to the police that it was his gang that was responsible for the death of Mattew Victor. He then took operatives to a bush located on Old Onne Road Old where he claimed the deceased was left tied up with rope. Though his corpse was not found, some footwear which the late Victor’s family confirmed to be his, was. A private security man who works in one of the companies located close to the crime scene confirmed that on January 6, there was a shootout at the end of which the DPO at Onne police station, SP Chukwuma Emeka, took away an unidentified corpse. The security man claimed that such incident has been happening regularly in recent times especially at the spot where the young man was killed.
Eneji took the detectives further into the bush. They, among other things, set the deserted camp ablaze. The DPO confirmed that the corpse that was taken that day was that of the missing person, Mattew Victor and, added that it was deposited at Okirika General Hospital mortuary. He told IRT operatives that he did this after getting some pieces of information about a body of an unknown person lying lifeless at Onne Old Road between Nyelek Filling Station and Grabek Kitchen/Bar Trailer Park. It was in the course of further investigations that it was revealed that Eneji was arrested in 2014 over the same crime and at the same spot.
A native of Gakem community in Bekwara Local Government Area of Cross River State, he said that his journey into crime dates back to 2011. “I am 29 and married with two kids,” he revealed. “I am a farmer who specializes in rearing animals, especially dogs. I live in Omoluta community at Igwurita-ala, along Airport Road, but my family compound is at Eleme.
“After secondary school, I was admitted into Cross River University of Technology where I studied Business Administration. I worked with Chrome consulting company for about a year before I voluntarily resigned and decided to hustle on my own. Sometime in 2014, I meet some friends who introduced me to online dating fraud. Then they we were using Badoo dating site. We would download photos of beautiful African women and woo men with them. We had a girl on standby who would answer them if they requested for a video call. We would lure the person to a location where he would be robbed, tied up and forced to withdraw all the money in his account.
“We did it successfully for years until two of our victims died. What happened is that they tried to escape from us. So we had no choice than to kill them. Because of that, I and several others were arrested by the anti-kidnapping unit of Rivers State and charged to court for kidnapping and murder of Shola Olaseinde and Mr. Progress Benin Disi, a staff of Shell Oil Services Company. It was at the police station that we knew the real identities of those that died. We were sent to prison but our lawyer was smart enough and got us released in 2015 after six months in prison. He told us that the judge struck off the case. We only appeared in court three times and pleaded not guilty.”
Back home, he claimed that he tried his best to stay away from crime but failed. “I relocated to Ibadan but did not spend much time because my cousin saw me as a burden. I went back to our family house in Eleme and was stigmatized because they knew that I was once in prison. I tried my hands in different businesses and the money I made was used to rent a big house where I started rearing dogs. I have six dogs that are all pregnant. Pure Rottweiler dog is sold at N130,000 after eight months, mixed breed is N70, 000 and German Shepherd is N80, 000. It takes eight months to get them ready for sale. The business does not fetch instant money so I needed a side hustle to make money.
“I tried my best to stay away from crime till last year October when I met Abubakar Sadiq. I knew him in those days as a fraudster. And, he brought up the same business idea that landed me in prison. I was broke and needed money, so I decided to help Abubakar. This time it was not Badoo dating site but Tinder. I am not the leader my but my job is to use my Navy uniform and act as a security man on patrol.”
On how victims were lured to the place of robbery and possibly death, he said that they usually pose as women on most of the dating sites, in a bid to deceive and catch the unsuspecting and gullible. “As soon as we lure our victim, we would arrange a meeting. If the target becomes very stubborn, we bring in our lady who would then speak with the man. If the man still insists on seeing the face of the lady, we go on video chats. We also use a small Tecno phone that enables us change our voice from a man’s to a woman’s voice. Once I had been able to establish a contact, I would move to the next stage which is to convince them that I would satisfy their sexual urges or fantasy evena as they do mine. Pretending to be a girl, I would tell them to meet me at Conoil Filling Station or Nyelek Filling Station, before Trailer Park, Eleme Road while one of my boys, Success, would go there and meet them as my domestic servant and direct them to my house. To convince them to come, I would claim that I live in a mansion where I don’t like disturbance. Once they are on their way, Success would now tell them to drive towards a deserted place where we would lay an ambush. Dressed in army or Navy uniform, we would stop them, overpower them and tie up their hands and legs while we take their valuables such as ATM cards. The work of Abubakar and Otuma was to tie up the victims. Emeka was to hold the AK-47 in case of any attack while I go to bank to withdraw whatever money the victims have in their accounts.
“The latest victim that landed us in trouble was picked up by my friend, Success. I was one of those wearing Navy camouflage. We stopped them, he and Success, and dragged him into the bush. I had stepped out with his ATM when security men on patrol passed by. I ran away while Abubakar and others dragged him deeper into the bush. I was waiting for the password when Abubakar called and told me that the man is dead. We all went home and two days later police arrested me.”
On how he managed to secure the military uniforms, he said that he bought them with money by pretending to be a cadet. “Actually, I am an ex-cadet because I was once a student at Global Maritime Academy in Rivers State but I did not graduate because the fees were too high,” he noted. “I used my school identity card to buy cadet uniforms after I dropped out of school. I just used them to make way for myself. I could pass police checkpoints easily. With it, I helped people to free their persons from police station. I had an identity card on me, so they do not bother to confirm. It is the same with the uniform that we used to commit the crime with ease. I know it is wrong but in Nigeria, everyone fears the military man.”
Okeke’s part in the gameplan
The second suspect, Success Chudi Okeke who confirmed most of Eneji’s words denied that he was the one who killed the deceased. “I am from Anambra. I read Micro Biology at Covenant Polytechnic, Aba, Abia State. I met Eneji many years ago but sometime last year I visited his house at Igwuruta-ali and begged him to show me the way to make money,” he claimed. “He told me that online dating was the way out. Initially, I did not want to join them but things were hard for me after graduation. I am the first son and I wanted my parents and siblings to see me as someone who is doing well. My plan was to make some money and relocate to Lagos. He told me that my job was to go and pick our victims at an agreed spot. On the agreed date, Michael gave me his number and asked me to pick him. I called and told him that my madam who works in an oil company requested that I bring him to her house.
“On our way, we passed through the agreed spot before our gang members who were dressed in military uniform stopped us. It was around 8pm. They pretended to search us before they overpowered the man and dragged him into the bush. I waited for them to collect his ATM and password. But when I saw flashlights from real security men on patrol, I ran away. I later called Eneji who told me to wait to take him home. Later, policemen arrested me. They did not tell me that our latest victim had died till they arrested me. It was at the police station that I identified him through the clothes he wore that day.”
Nwachukwu and the AK-47 angle of the story
The third suspect, Emeka Nwachukwu who was found with an AK-47 insisted that he was not part of the gang that killed the deceased. “I was arrested because police saw an AK-47 in my room,” he explained. “It was given to me by boss, Ojieme, a militant and a cultist. He is one of those who provide security for politicians during campaigns. It was during one of those days that I went to watch them that I was grabbed by some of the boys and forced me into becoming a cultist. Once they initiate you, anything they ask you to do, you must comply. He taught me armed robbery and I have joined him severally to rob houses in my community, Igwuruta-ali. The highest money that I made from such robbery is N40, 000.
“I knew Eneji as a Naval officer in my community and everyone respected him. If you have a problem, he would help you to sort it out with the police or any other security agency. During my grandfather’s burial, I contracted him to provide security. I gave him that AK-47 because they did not have enough weapons. After the event, he gave it back to me.”