Police in Delta State recently scored a major victory in their war against crime with the death of a notorious criminal who died of gun injuries after a shoot-out with the Anti-kidnapping Squad of the State Police Command. The suspect, 27-year-old Kingsley Ekugbe, popularly known as Spirit, declared wanted eight years ago, had wreaked havoc across the state as his 10-man gang was linked to several killings, kidnappings and robberies that claimed the lives of over 15 victims in Warri, Abraka, Ughelli and Ohwase Community in Udu Local Government Area of Delta State.
He met his end on November 30, 2019, when he was cornered by operatives of the Anti-kidnapping Unit at his hideout in Ubeyi and was fatally wounded in a gunfire exchange. He was rushed to the Police clinic in Warri where he was later confirmed dead. His corpse has since been deposited for autopsy at the Central Hospital mortuary, Agbor. Police recovered from him one locally made pistol with live cartridges.
Kingsley Ekugbe, alias “Spirit”, was an indigene of Ohwase in Udu Local Government Area of the State. And it was his native community and its environs that bore the brunt of his brutality. Therefore, his death was good news in his homeland. The news sparked wild jubilation in Ohwase, Warri, Ughelli and Asaba.
Dossier of a dangerous criminal
Once upon a time, Spirit was Delta State’s most wanted criminal. This was confirmed by Mr Adeyinka Bode Adeleke, Delta State Commissioner of Police, who averred that at the time he resumed duty at the State Police Command, the suspect with his 10-man gang was the real thorn in the flesh of the state.
“But after a shootout between his gang and the Anti-kidnapping Squad of the Abraka Police Division in August 2019, I mapped out strategies to bring him to book,” he told Saturday Sun.
The police boss gave a chronicle of Spirit’s reign of terror in the state, starting with the effort to contain the gang following their kidnap of an accounting staff of the Delta State University where the victim was rescued by the police and four members of the gang shot during the encounter.
Two of the injured suspects died while the three arrested were charged to court and “remanded in Ogwashi prison.”
The police recovered AK47 rifles, pump-action and other sophisticated weapons during the operation. “When arrested in December 2018, he (Ekugbe) confessed to having shot and killed a victim at Express Junction, Ohwase. He was arraigned for murder and kidnapping at the magistrate court but after he was remanded in the prison, he was released later during the general election in February 2019.”
That same month the gang went on a rampage, allegedly murdering a victim identified as Ogbene at Iyara, Warri. On August 20, the same gang kidnapped and murdered Obus Sophurum at Igbiki in Udu LGA. A few days later, on August 29, they kidnapped and murdered Lawrence Akpomiemie Ngozi Ijieh, former Special Assistant to the Governor of Delta State. They struck again on September 1 when they kidnapped and killed Kevwe Omugweme in Warri.
On October 5, the gang members were trekking through Osubi Village, Warri when they were apprehended by policemen. They abandoned their pump-action guns and took to their heels, but Ekugbe, the ringleader, was arrested and handcuffed. Yet “Spirit” proved to be elusive as he jumped into the river and escaped with police’s handcuffs.
At that point, detectives were more determined to bring him to book. He was subsequently tracked down to his hideout in Ubeji on November 21, where he was injured during a shootout.
Liberated communities jubilate
Saturday Sun visited Ohwase on December 1 and found the community in a celebratory mood. Elated community members likened the demise of Kingsley Ekugbe to the destruction of the Biblical Pharaoh that paved way for the liberation of the Israelites.
Youths in the community were rejoicing, drinking wine while police officers were also seen joining the community to celebrate. Beer parlours were jam-packed with youths eating, drinking and singing different tunes over the death of Spirit who they regarded as their tormentor.
One of the community leaders of Ohwase, Elder Godwin Jonathan affirmed that the celebration was not confined to Ohwase, but also extended to the Warri-Ughelli axis.
He said: “It was like war those days when our son, Ekugbe Kingsley, terrorized us. He and his gang kidnapped and killed over 10 members of this community and Warri. He terrorized us for over eight years. We were relieved when the police arrested and charged him to court, but dismayed to hear of his release three months after. So, when the news broke out that he had been killed on November 30, we couldn’t help but start celebration galore. Youths, businessmen and market women, everybody was in a joyous mood. We had lived under his slavery for a long time. Today, our life is back to normal. We thank our ancestors for accepting our sacrifice to our gods, for they have answered our prayers.”
The state government in Asaba, Saturday Sun learnt, was equally happy at the development. While giving kudos to the Commissioner of Police for the excellent job, the Delta State Government has further charged them to mop up other members of the gang who are currently at large.