A recent arrest by police brought an end to the reign of an interstate criminal gang that operated unhindered for years. In their heyday, kidnap-for-ransom was their stock-in-trade while they also committed other grave crimes such as rape. Their nefarious activities were conducted across Enugu, Imo and Abia State. Now, the long arm of the law has caught up with them, nabbed by operatives of Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team, IRT, weeks after one of their victims, a Catholic priest reported their activities after his release.
The suspects are identified as Nwazuoke Ijioma, MaduabuChukwu Amamba, Eze Chikwe, Chinoso Amadi, Chimeremueze Benson, Ugochukwu Uzoma and Ifeanyi Sylvanus. Others are David Nweke, Ikechukwu Erondu, Abraham Nna, Chijioke Azuka and Ugochukwu Obi. Also, Iwejo Chibuna, Ohasonu Sunday, Nwachukwu Stanley and Godswill Ihemere are part of those arrested.
Detectives recovered five cars and 10 mobile phones belonging to different victims from their camp located deep in the bush in Osisioma Local Government Area of Abia State. A cache of dangerous weapons including an AK-47 rifle, a pump-action gun, five locally made pistols and cartridges were also recovered them.
The leader of the gang, Maduabuchi Amamba, told the police how he ended up as a criminal.
“I used to be a local vigilante in Osisioma Ngwa and they were only giving us N20, 000 at the end of the month. As a young man, I also sought other ways of making money to support my parents who are very poor. Unfortunately, my father became very sick and there was no money in the house. I pleaded with my friends and they said the only way out was to join their robbery gang,” he narrated.
His first job in January 2019 was the snatching of a woman’s bag. They had tailed her from a bank. “There was N350, 000 in her bag,” he said. “I felt good because I made N75, 000, which was my three months salary. This was how I started and it had been one successful operation or the other. The most important thing is that I saved my father then by giving him the best treatment money can afford.”
When asked to list the number of operations they had conducted, Amamba avowed that he had lost count.
He said: “The highest we have made was from the kidnap of the daughter of one successful medical doctor. It was their neighbour Chuks that brought the job, and we kidnapped the woman when she was trying to drive into her compound in a Toyota Highlander. Her family paid N2 million before she was released.
“I never knew that they touched her until she was released. It was Ifeanyi who did that and as soon as I learnt what he did, I deducted N40, 000 from his share to teachhim a lesson.”
He spoke on their recent operations starting with the kidnap of a lawyer in January 2020 along Obingwa Road in Aba.
“He spent three days with us in our camp and paid N200, 000. We have done several others too in January before police arrested me. I assume that it was one of our victims that escaped from the camp that led police to us. We also kidnapped the priest because he is rich. The church was taking good care of him and we assumed that they would pay anything to ensure that we release him unhurt. I swear we did not even slap him once. We gave him good food and had to release him four days later when we discovered the only money in his account was N50, 000. His family members paid N400, 000 and we released him. We then sold his car and made an extra N300, 000.”
Another suspect, Nwazuoke Ijioma, claimed that they have kidnapped not less than 30 persons since 2019.
“I am from a poor family and naturally we have to survive. I joined a bad gang who introduced me to smoking and stealing. I was not making enough money that was why I decided to join one Obinna group. My life became better and to convince them that I will not betray them, I was able to find one of the guns that we used for most of our kidnap operation.
“I knew that our end was near when we kidnapped a Catholic priest. I warned them to release the man but they refused. I am also a Catholic and I felt so guilty. They refused and kept the man for four days till the church gave us N400, 000. They sold his car and also shared the money. Weeks after that incident, police started arresting us one after the other. I am sorry. I wish that I will not be sent to prison because I will die there because I don’t have a kobo to pay any lawyer.”
Another suspect, Ifeanyi Sylvanus claimed that it was his responsibility to take care of their victims. “ I assumed that role because of my body size. I do not follow them to abduct, I just move to the camp as soon as they signalled me that they are bringing someone to the camp. This is why my share is always the smallest.
“The women they normally bring to the camp are beautiful that is why I normally have sex with them. I am expected to sleep in the same room with a beautiful woman, no one should blame me if I touch them. I do not force them, I simply convince them that if they want to leave the camp fast, they should allow me to have sex with them.”
Sylvanus claimed he is not the only guilty party: “All of them have done the same thing and they are accusing me. Let them explain to you how they took turns to sleep with that fat woman we kidnapped. I am not a kidnapper, I simply take care of their victims.”