• Why he died in captivity –Suspect
Suspected kidnappers have given details into what became of a senior staff of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), John Iheanacho who was kidnapped at his residence at Iriebe area of Port Harcourt, Rivers State on March 20, 2018.
Although the family of Iheanacho, who was the president of Eastern Zone of Investment Cooperative Society Limited, paid about N6 million as ransom, his abductors disappeared and nothing was heard of him till June 18 when operatives of Intelligence Response Team (IRT) arrested his abductors.
The suspects who were identified as Prosper Nwoke, Teddy Ifeanyi, Chikere Ekeke, Steve Iniobong, Chima Mac, Samuel Ikechukwu and Fabiyawari Marcus told the police that Iheanacho was dead and buried. He was said to have died of bullet wounds nine days after he was abducted and that he has been buried in a shallow grave inside the forest.
On their arrest, Saturday Sun learnt that the matter was transferred to IRT when the family lost contact of the kidnappers after paying millions of naira as ransom.
After days and weeks of endless wait they petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Idris Ibrahim who transferred the case to the IRT. After days of intelligence gathering, the team led by Abba Kyari, a Deputy Commissioner of Police tracked down and arrested the entire gang members. They led the police to a shallow grave in Onyigbo where Iheanacho was buried.
The suspects told the police that they kept him in a swampy forest at Umuosi community in Afam area of Onyigbo without properly treating his wounds. They hurriedly buried him on the ninth day when they noticed that he was dead.
The outspoken amongst the three suspects, Teddy Ifeanyi, 28, confessed to the police that it was his quest for a better life that landed him in crime. Although he confessed to have participated in the kidnap of the NNPC man, Ifeanyi insists that he was not callous enough to allow the man die.
“I am a professional barber and it was one of my regular customers that landed me in trouble. His name is Junior and he is currently in Ondo prison. He drives an expensive car and one of the days that he came to barb his hair, he witnessed how badly the owner of the shop treated me. He consoled me that day and I used the opportunity to tell him that I was looking for someone who will give me a loan so that I can rent my own shop.
“He asked me to meet him after work at a bar in Onyigbo and after sharing few bottles of beer we went home. Initially he told me that they are into yahoo yahoo business. The next day he asked me to meet them at Eleme junction; it was when I got there that I realized that they are kidnappers. I was asked to take care of the woman and after a day, no money was shared and the woman was released.
“That was the beginning of several kidnap cases that I participated in. Next was in January, I was asked to collect gun from one Chikere and join them at an agreed point. Prosper who is our leader led us to kidnap one man who lookedvery rich. We took him to the bush and it was my duty to watch over him and to also feed him. I fed him with spaghetti, rice and garri. He spent nine days and at the end of the deal I was paid, N300, 000.
“Two months later, Prosper called us together again that he was broke and needed money. We decided to drive around town in search of a victim. We drove into Iriebe in Port Harcourt. We entered a street, saw a Camry car but the owner got suspicious and ran away and on our way out we saw the highlander.”
NNPC man and why he died
As soon as they spotted the highlander, the gang decided to be more careful not to raise suspicion. “We gradually followed the man till he got to his house. We immediately drove close to him and about three of us jumped out with our guns. One of us known as Chima opened the man’s car and asked the man to come down. The man asked why he should obey us but when he saw our gun, he quickly turned off the car and gave us his car key. He thought that we came to steal his car.
“At that point Prosper came out and explained to the man that we are kidnappers and ordered him to enter our car. He refused and entered into his own car, I dragged him on his shirt in an attempt to force him out of the car.
“When he refused, Prosper shot his leg and the man quietly followed us. On our way, Prosper who was with the man’s highlander with other members also stopped to snatch a woman standing by the road side with her daughter. We took the two victims to our camp in Onyigbo.
“It was when we got to the camp and started interviewing him that we realised that he works with NNPC. They took his jeep and sold it to a car dealer who normally buys stolen cars from us.
“We contacted his wife and asked her to pay N50million before her husband will be released. We also told her that someone paid us N30million to kill her husband. We gave her an opportunity to speak with her husband who told her that he was shot on his knees. His wife who was in the house at the time of the kidnap said she heard the gunshot but was too terrified to come out. He pleaded with his wife to do anything possible to get him released as no one was attending to his wound.
“The NNPC man called me and told me that he didn’t have such an amount of money in his account and pleaded I should beg my boss to reduce the ransom, and then I asked him if he could afford N6million and he said yes. I called Chikere and Marcus who were the people with me in the camp and tried to poison their mind against our leader Prosper.
“I suggested that they allow me talk to the man’s wife and collect the N6million. I made it clear to them that the NNPC man was badly injured and he wasn’t receiving any treatment in our camp and he could die if we don’t get him out as quick as possible. Then Chikere, who is an indigene of that community and who also owns the camp, told me that he was scared of betraying Prosper. He told me that even if he runs away with his own share that Prosper will attack his pregnant wife and kill his mother because he knows his house.”
When he could not convince the others with him, he changed tactics and instead tried to convince Prosper to accept the little money presented and release the man whose wound had started decaying. “I was told that his wife had paid N3million while the family of the other woman paid one million. I pleaded with Prosper to release them but he said that I should hold on as he was coming to the camp. On the fifth day some hunters saw us and demanded that we should settle them or they will report to the community head. We gave them N200, 000 and they showed us another location on the island where we can move our victims to.
“On the sixth day, maggots were already coming out from his wound. I begged Prosper to come before this man will die and he warned that if I release the man without his consent that we will not be given a kobo.
“The NNPC man heard our conversation, and then he told me to call his wife and tell her to give me the balance of N3millon so he could leave this place. I called his wife and gave the phone to her husband, who asked her to do all she could to make sure she gets the money across to me as quickly as possible. When I spoke to the woman, she told me that she doubted if that would be possible because my boss, has reduced the ransom he demanded from N50million to N30million and after collecting the first N3million she gave to him, he has since been demanding a balance of N27millon.”
Although Ifeanyi wanted to help release the man, he was not ready to do that for free. He started negotiating with the family and they agreed to give him N3million with the consent of the two other gang members with him. “On the seventh day, I left with Steven to collect the money while Marcus agreed to stay in the camp with the hostages.
“When we got to town, I called his wife who said she was running around to raise the money and to convince me that she was real, I had to speak with her husband’s bank manager. The manager asked me if I was sure that I will release the man and I said yes. They kept delaying till the ninth day when the family called and said they could only raise N2.2million. I asked them to bring the money to an agreed spot. When I picked it, it was $6200.
Marcus and I headed back to the camp to release the man and discovered that no one was there. I was shocked and I went deeper into the camp where I found Steven and the woman. I asked about the man and he told me that the man was dead.
“Steven explained that he found him dead on the ninth day. He tried to wake him up to wash his teeth, eat and drink Paracetamol when he realised that he was no longer breathing. He called Chikere who advised him to go and bury the man inside the bush.
“We moved out of the bush immediately and also released the other woman. I bought a pair of slippers for the woman and gave her N2000 for her transport. I collected their phones and destroyed it.
From the $6200, I got $2000, I gave Marcus $2000 and I gave Steven $1500, and then shared the remaining money among people who heard about the operation around that Afam area. I told them not to contact me again as I am done with kidnapping business. I rented my own shop and was doing well when police came to my house and arrested me. I pretended that I did not know what they were talking about until I saw the other members of our gang.”
I did not intend to shoot him
The leader of the gang Prosper Nwoke, a native of Osisioma Local Government of Abia State told the police that it was not his intention to shoot the NNPC man. “I am 28-year-old married with four children. I was an evangelist before I became a kidnapper. I cannot explain how I left the work of God to serve the devil. Sometime in 2016, I was introduced into robbery and kidnapping business by one Anele who is a big boy in Port Harcourt. We attacked a residential estate on Artillery area of Port Harcourt; we went with two guns and robbed some occupants of the estate of their phones and laptops.
“We took the stolen items to one Alhaji at Presidential Hotel Junction off Aba Road Port Harcourt and we sold them. One week later, some policemen got hint of our gang and they arrested Anele who led the policemen to my house and they got me arrested and other members of my gang including the Alhaji. The police took the Alhaji to his house and they recovered all the stolen items from him and they were given back to the owners, while the police granted us bail.
“I went back to my used cloths business, but two weeks later one of my friends at Onyigbo, known as Chima, came to me and told me that one of his friends known as Available has been disturbing him over his plans to kidnap a woman but he needs someone who would help execute the job, then I brought in Anele and his two friends and I linked them up to Available and they all agreed to do the job.
“After careful planning, Anele brought out his guns and we waylaid the woman on her street at Onyigbo. We kidnapped her and took her to an Island in Umuosi Community in Afam area of Rivers State and we kept the woman. One of my friends known as Chikere, who is a native of Umuosi, was the person who provided the camp we used.
“After that deal, I was arrested again. Police took all members of my gang excluding Chikere to court and we were remanded in prison custody. I spent 13 months in prison before I was granted bail and released in December 2017. In Port Harcourt prison, I made friends with a lot of criminals and we agreed to meet and help ourselves whenever we are out of prison. After I was released, we did so many kidnapping operations as mentioned by Ifeanyi. Ifeanyi was introduced to us by one of the gang members.”
On the kidnap of the NNPC man, and why he shot him, Prosper said that he noticed that the estate security men were coming towards them and he wanted to leave the scene as quick as possible. “Some of the security men started approaching while we were trying to convince the man to follow us. I went close to the man and he grabbed my rifle and started struggling with me. I don’t know how I fired two shots that hit the man on the knee, then we took the man and his vehicle away.
“On our way out, we saw one woman driving a Toyota Four Runner; we went after her and kidnapped her. I took the man’s vehicle to Aba while Steven called someone from the prison who then linked us to someone in Aba who came and bought the vehicles. The person paid N200,000 for each of the vehicles, and then I used the money to buy food items for the people in the camp and some drugs. I also gave them the sum of N50,000 to take care of the victim. I never wished the man dead.”
Another suspect Chikere said his job was to get a good location in the bush to keep their victims. “Initially, I did not want to join them but when they gave me N100,000, I agreed. I had to find a good location in my village at Umuosi-Idoki community in Onyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers State.
“When they kidnapped the NNPC man, I warned them that it was risky because his wound was deep. All they did was to massage it with hot water and gave him pain killer drug. Even when the hunter saw us, I was the one who pleaded with them not to expose us. Unfortunately, the man died and I had to show them where to bury him. This is my village; I didn’t want the smell of his corpse to draw the attention of villagers.”