By Ngozi Uwujare
To many, the abduction of 45-year-old Rev. Father Fidelis Ekemgba of Saint Peter’s Catholic Parish, Ihitle Amazu, Obowo Local Government Area of Imo State on September 17, 2021 must have been masterminded and executed by bandits or the mysterious, mythical “unknown gunmen” that have been wreaking monumental havoc in the South-East for quite some time.
And in a bid to get to the root of the matter, rescue the kidnapped cleric, and apprehend the kidnappers, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Hussani Rabiu ordered the Commander of the Anti-Kidnaping Squad, Supol Oladimeji Odeyeyiwa to get to work and pick up those who abducted the cleric and collected N5 million ransom before releasing him..
Well, through credible intelligence gathering and proper investigative techniques, the Anti-Kidnapping Squad of the Imo State Police Command was able to rescue the victim, Rev. Father Fidelis Ekemgba on September 21, 2021.
But that was not the end. On November 3 and 4, two pastors who are alleged to be members of a gang of kidnappers who abducted the Rev. Father, were arrested. They include one Pastor Izuchukwu Anoloba, 35, of Apostolic Christian Church, Eziama, who reportedly served as informant and collected his share of the ransom collected. He was arrested at his house at Eziama Osuama Isiala Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State on November 3. The other pastor, Divine Gabriel Ugochukwu, 39, of Citadel of Glory Church was arrested the following day in Ikorodu, Lagos. He is said to have been involved in kidnapping cases, having reportedly abducted about six innocent Nigerians.
The Imo Police boss, Mr. Hussani Rabiu told Saturday Sun that the arrest of the two pastors led to the arrest of the kidnappers’ kingpin, one Ifeanyi Ohajimkpa, 52, of Okija in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State. Ohajimkpa was apprehended at his hotel room in Asaba, Delta State.
The Imo CP said the suspect, Ifeanyi Ohajimkpa confessed to be the leader of a deadly gang of criminals operating within Imo State and its environs.
“They have kidnapped several victims and robbed people of over 16 exotic, highly expensive vehicles, vehicles like Range Rover, Toyota Highlander, Lexus SUV etc. Also, it was through Ifeanyi Ohajimkpa that we arrested other gang members. These are Emmanuel Oguguo a.k.a Ezemo, 35 years old of Egberede Ngru at Aboh Mbaise; Stephen Nduka a.k.a Onye-Isiala, 39 years old of Muguma-owu Amakoya, Ikeduru L.G.A of Imo State; Prince Godwin, a prison escapee, Monday Oyama, 25 years of Obubra in Cross Rivers State; Augustine Azubuike, 47 years old of Ulakwo Enyiongugu Aboh Mbaise L.G.A of Imo State. They are involved in various crimes in Imo State,” CP Rabiu explained.
The police boss further explained that Pastor Divine Gabriel Ugochukwu and his gang members were also involved in the kidnapping of one Professor Regina Onuha, Head of Department of Law, Imo State University.
“He was kidnapped on November 20, 2019. They collected N3million as ransom and was released on Monday 26, November, 2021 but as a result of the shock of his kidnapping, he died.
He said: “The same Pastor Divine Ugochukwu and his gang kidnapped Ijeoma Chukwu, a 23-year-old female from Owerri. She was kidnapped on February 11, 2021. They collected one million naira as ransom from her family and later released her on February 15, 2021. She was held hostage at one of the gang member’s house at Enyiongugu in Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State.
“The same Pastor Divine Ugochukwu’s gang kidnapped Chima Eze, a lawyer, on February 26, 2021. No ransom was paid. The operatives of the Anti-Kidnapping Squad engaged them in a shoot-out and one Peter Alo, one of the gang members, a 32-year-old man, got bullet wounds and was taken to a police clinic where he died.
“The suspect, Pastor Divine Ugochukwu and his gang also kidnapped one late Lilian Egwurugwu, 56, who was held hostage and was later murdered while she was in their custody.
“Meanwhile, the same gang also kidnapped Chuks Agbugba, another lawyer of New Owerri, Imo State. Other victims include Ekwe Lambert of Oboama Enyiogugu, Aboh Mbaise L.G.A of Imo State, Nwabueze a Senior staff of FMC Owerri, Imo State, Calista Ahmed, 49, of Imo State Housing Estate at New Owerri; Anthony Uchenna, 39, of Abajah Nwangele L.G.A of Imo State; Judith Kelechi Nwachukwu, 28, of MCC Road Owerri North L.G.A of Imo State; Lenna Duru, 32, of Amaiyi Akah, in Umuaka Njaba L.G.A Imo State; Cosmos Adunekwe of No. 130 Luwasi Street, Lagos State; Kingsley Okoro of Amaku Umuaka Njaba L.G.A of Imo State; Uche Obieche of Umuala Isiala Mbano L.G.A of Imo State; Christian Ekendu Chinyeaka, 47 years old of Owerri Ezike, in Isiochi L.G.A of Abia State.”
CP Rabiu said some of the victims paid millions of naira as ransom while the victims were rescued by the Anti-Kidnapping operatives from their various hideouts.
The Commandant, Anti-Kidnapping operatives, Supol Oladimeji Odeyeyiwa said that in the hideout which they were led to by one of the gang members, Richard Nworie, who had earlier escaped from custody at the Owerri Correctional Centre, and Chukwuemeka Godwin Ogu, the operatives recovered one Ak47 rifle with breach number AB 356859. He said the suspects confessed to have robbed the Emekuku Branch of First Bank PLC.
“Also, we recovered four live cartridges, two expended cartridges, two pump action guns, two locally made pistols, 22 live cartridges, one AK 47 rifle with magazine loaded with 25 rounds of ammunition, one blue coloured Toyota Camry 2.7 Spider, one coffee colour Toyota Camry 2015 model, one black Toyota Sienna and one red Toyota Corolla,” he said..
One of the suspects, Pastor Divine Gabriel Ugochukwu aka ‘Computer,’ in an interview with Saturday Sun, explained why he embarked on the disastrous career path.
Said he: “I attended Group School in Mbaise and proceeded to St. Dominics College at Mbaise to be trained as a pastor. I joined the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Alagbado, Lagos State. I left Redeemed Christian Church because of their protocol and also because I am not a graduate. I went and started my own church, Citadel Glory Church, Alagbado, Lagos State. I am a kingpin of kidnappers, even though my wife only knows me as a pastor in the church. I have kidnapped over 10 victims and collected millions of naira from them as ransom. I hail from Eziudo Ezinihite in Mbaise L.G.A of Imo State
“I know Pastor Izuchukwu Anoloba, who is an informant to us. My wife attended Pastor Izuchukwu Anoloba’s Apostolic Christian Church. Both his wife and my wife never knew that both of us are kidnappers. We have carried out different operations and after the operations; we do give Pastor Izuchukwu Anoloba his own share,” he said.
The other suspect, Pastor Izuchukwu Anoloba corroborated what his fellow pastor-suspect said. His words: “I am a pastor with the Apostolic Christian Church, but I also belong to a gang of kidnappers. I joined the kidnappers’ gang four years ago. I spent three years at the training school. I was posted to the Apostolic Christian Church at Port- Harcourt, River State in 2013. In 2019, I was posted to Ezama in Isiala Mbano L.G.A of Imo State.
“As a pastor, my wife didn’t know that I am an informant to kidnappers. I have been involved in several operations with kidnappers through giving necessary information about victims and they do give me my own share.”
The police boss, CP Rabiu said that the suspects will soon be charged to court.