When the Anti-Kidnapping Squad of Imo State Police Command paraded six recently arrested kidnappers, it came as a shock to the public that they were all young men in their 20s. Among them were Wisdom Chijioke Amagwa, 25, Chisom Enyia, 20, Chukwu Junior, 20 and Favour Imo, 24. Police declared them the most dangerous kidnappers in the state based on their kidnap-and-kill record. Their arrest came on the heels of the kidnap and killing of 24-year-old Uchechukwu Okoroje. After demanding N10 million ransom, the gang were paid one million naira by the parents of the hostage, yet they went ahead to kill him in a gruesome manner, beheading him and dumping his body in the bush.
The central figure in this barbarous act was Amagwa, the suspect with the dishonourable record of being a runaway soldier. Not only did he betray the Army, but he also betrayed his friend, Okoroje, whom he lured to his doom on January 5, 2020. Amagwa reportedly called the victim on February 4 and they both agreed to meet at Avu Junction, off Port-Harcourt Road, Owerri. On getting there, Okoroje found himself surrounded by six kidnappers who whisked him away on a motorcycle to Ohuba in Ohaji-Egbema LGA where he was held hostage in Oguakagba Shrine Forest, near Adapalm plantation.
Despite that his parents paid a million naira, Okoroje was killed by his abductors. Amagwa justified the killing of his friend, claiming it was because the victim saw him while he was being held.
The case of the soldier turned kidnapper
Within days of taking over the case, the Anti-Kidnapping Squad arrested Uchechukwu Junior whose house was used as a temporary cell for hostages. He was shot as he tried to escape. Favour Imo, another suspect was also shot as he tried to escape arrest. Eventually, the whole gang was rounded up and the body of the late Okoroje was recovered from the forest at Adapalm plantation.
Saturday Sun spoke with Wisdom Chijioke Amagwa, who played the central role in the kidnapping. The native of Owerri North Local Government Area claimed he was a soldier who took French leave.
“I was recruited into the Nigeria Army in 2017 and served at 202 Special Battalion, Maiduguri, Borno State. On September 16, 2019, I was captured alive by Boko Haram in Monguno, during an operation, but I was lucky. I was among the soldiers that escaped. I decided to come back to Imo State to meet my parents because they were not in support of my decision to join the Army in the first place. My rank was Private Officer.”
Amagwa, who also claimed that his father is a reverend and pastor in Assemblies of God Church, Imo State, said: “On December 30, 2019, I joined the kidnap gang. I have been involved in different kidnapping operations in the state. My role was to lure victims and hand them over to my gang members”.
He spoke on kidnaping his friend: “I was the one who masterminded the abduction of Uchechukwu Okoroje. He was my friend of two years. I was aware that his parents are well-to-do. I had lured him out and the gang overwhelmed him and took him away. We initially demanded N10 million but his parents were able to pay one million naira, but we couldn’t release him because he would identify me. He saw me during the time he was held. They killed him by cutting off his head and his body was dumped at Adapalm plantation.”
Amagwa also admitted that he collected N150, 000 as his share of the ransom. Arrested on February 4, 2020, he was the one who took detectives to the spot where the corpse was dumped.
The parents of the deceased were shocked with the revelations.
“It is so unbelievable that our son was kidnapped through his friend, Wisdom,” said the father. “They called us on the phone that they would kill him if we don’t get N10 million ransom ready. We pleaded with them and paid one million naira to them. Yet they did not release our son. We waited for two days before we went to the police when we did not hear anything from them”.
The bereaved family is demanding justice. “Those involved in the death of our son must not go scott free”, said the father of the victim.