Operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team, led by Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, have arrested a gang of kidnappers, who allegedly abducted and killed a senior staff of the Nigeria National Petroleum Cooperation, John Iheanacho, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The kidnappers, led by an acclaimed Evangelist, Prosper Nwoke, collected N5 million, in Dollar, and still refused to release the NNPC staff, who was also the President of Eastern Zone, Investment Cooperative Society Limited, whose health was deteriorating from the gunshot he suffered during the bid to abduct him.
The kidnapper, who also included Samuel Ikechukwu Alexander, aka Pillar; Chima Mark; Stephen Iniobong; Fabiyawari Marcus; Chikere Eleke; and Teddy Ifeanyi, then buried Iheanacho in a shallow grave.
Iheanacho was abducted as he made to drive into his home in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, with N50 million ransom demanded.
The ransom money, paid in Dollar, was said to have been collected from Nwoke’s wife in two batches.
However, while in their den, the kidnappers had shot Iheanacho, with the wound deteriorating while negotiation on the N50 million demanded as ransom was in progress.
After collecting the first batch of the money, the kidnappers, despite realising that Iheanacho’s injury was festering daily, refused to release him but demanded for a balance of N30 million.
A police source said: “Two among the four suspects involved in the kidnap and murder of Iheanacho led IRT men to a forest where he was buried.
“He was buried in a shallow grave in Abia State.
“He was shot by his abductors and taken to an uncompleted building in a community in Ndoki, Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers State, where he died of bullet wounds.”
Kyari said the gang members, from Abia, Imo, Akwa Ibom and Rivers States, also abducted two female victims alongside Iheanacho.
He disclosed that the two female victims were raped and later made to pay N1.5 million each before they were released.
The police added: “Iheanacho was shot while his kidnappers were attempting to abduct him.
“He was kept captive in an environment that was not conducive for his health and injury.
“The kidnappers’ camp is located inside the swampy Umuosi community in Afam area of Oyingbo.”
Nwoke, 28, a father of four from Abia State, said he was deep in religion before he got converted into crime.
He said: “I was an evangelist before I became a kidnapper.
“I can preach and quote every part of the bible off heart.
“If police can give a last chance, I’ll never return to crime again!
“We usually say our prayers before embarking on any operation.
“We pray so that God will take policemen off our way and stop any confrontation with them.
“My wife left after I was arrested and taken to Port Harcourt Prison. I went into crime in the year 2016. Before then, I was selling fairly used clothes. While doing this business, I lived with my elder brother at Chuba area of Port Harcourt. He later relocated to Sierra Leone. I moved out of his house and rented an apartment at Afam area of Oyingbo.
“Anele was a big spender at that night club. I admired and later made him my friend. I asked him the kind of job he was into. He claimed to be a businessman. We got closer and he confessed that he was into armed robbery and kidnapping. He said that I could join if I was interested. Since I needed money to fend for my wife and children, I accepted Anele’s offer. He linked me to two other members of his gang, East-Man and Gift.
“We once attacked a residential estate on Artillery area of Port Harcourt. We went with two guns and robbed 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 to sell them. I don’t know the amount Anele got from the Alhaji, but I was given N25, 000. I took the money to Oyingbo Market and bought some food stuffs. A week later, policemen arrested Anele, who led them to my house. They arrested other gang members. Police took Alhaji to his house and recovered all the stolen items. The items were returned to their owners. We were later granted bail.
“I went back to selling fairly used clothes. Two weeks later, one of my friends at Oyingbo, Chima, came to tell me that his friend, Available, had been disturbing him about an operation. The operation was to kidnap a woman. Chima said that Available needed someone who would complete the gang. I brought in Anele, and his two friends. I linked them up to Available. After careful planning, Anele brought out his guns and we waylaid the woman on her street at Oyingbo. We kidnapped her and took her to an Island in Umuosi Community in Afam area of Rivers State. One of my friends, Chikere, was the person who provided the camp. Anele gave Chikere some money to provide food and other items we would need in caring for the hostages. Anele was also the person communicating with the woman’s husband.
“I used my own share of the money to buy a bale of fairly used clothes. I don’t know what transpired between Anele and the other guys, but they had issues with sharing formula. They quarrelled and police got involved and arrested them. The police also came to arrest me.
“While in prison, I heard about a man called Italian. He is a notorious criminal and had many men working for him. He can sponsor any robbery or kidnapping operation. He also used to supply arms and ammunition for operations. He operates within Rivers and other South-South and South Eastern states of the country. I met many of his boys in Port Harcourt Prison. One of my cellmates linked me to Italian.
“I told him that I needed his help, I had no work. He asked me to meet him at Okrika. He accommodated me. I saw several men at his home; men I had earlier met in prison. I spent a month with him. One of his boys, Ahoda Unit-Head, said that we should ask for rifles from Italian. When we went to Italian, he said we must bring his ‘return’ on any operation we carried out with the gun. He gave us a rifle; we took it to Afam and gave it to Chikere to keep. I started looking for an operational vehicle.
“I called Ahoda Unit-Head, Ti-money and Samuel. We went out and kidnapped a woman in December 2017. We took her to a container terminal around school land area, off Aba Expressway. We kept the woman for four days. Her husband told us that he had no money; he had just finished burying one of his relatives. He paid us N200, 000 and we released his wife. I took N50, 000 to Italian and Ti-Money. I and others shared the remaining money. By the end of January, 2018, we went for another operation. The abduction was done along Shell Road, in Onyigbo. We saw a man making calls in a Mercedes Benz 4Matic. We abducted him and abandoned his vehicle because it has a tracker. We took him across the river. We were seven persons that took part in that operation. Ti-Money, Steven and Samuel are those that I brought into the gang. Chikere and Marcus were in charge of supplying food stuffs to Ti-money and others at the camp.
“The man spent six days with us before his family paid N1.7m ransom. I gave Marcus N100, 000, Chikere N150, 000 and we used N350, 000 to buy our operational car. We gave Samuel N200, 000, Steven N200, 000, Ti-Money got N300, 000, Chima got N150, 000 and I took the remaining N35000. I didn’t give any money to Italian. When he called, I told him that I used his share to buy an operational vehicle.
“We saw a new Toyota Camry around Irebe area off Aba Road, Port Harcourt, but the man escaped. On our way out, we saw a Toyota car; the driver was driving into the estate. We suspected that the occupant must be a very rich person. We quickly went after the car. Before we knew it, we had driven into a barricade mounted by some local vigilante men.
“The man drove passed the vigilante men; we followed the man until he got to his gate, then we moved down to the end of the street. We reversed to where the man was and then we all came out of our car. I came out with my gun and ordered him to step out of his car. Ti-money and others held him, but he started struggling. He asked us his offence was, I told him that we were kidnappers, that all we wanted was his money. While I was saying this, some of the vigilante men started approaching. I went close to the man and he suddenly grabbed my rifle. He started struggling with me. I didn’t know what happened next, but I fired two shots. The man got hit on the knee. We took him and his vehicle away. On our way to Chikere’s community, we saw a woman driving a Toyota Four Runner, and then we went after her and also kidnapped her. We took her and the wounded man to the Island across Chikere’s Community and kept them there. I took the man’s vehicle to Aba, and then Steven called someone from the prison that linked us to someone in Aba. The person bought the two vehicles.
“I used the money to buy food items and drugs for the hostages. We asked Iheanacho to pay N50m ransom. Iheanacho said that his would pay us N5m. He later asked his wife to increase the money to N6m. Four days later, his wife brought the money to Mbaise area of Imo State. I was on top of a tree, monitoring him. He dropped the money inside a tree. We moved immediately to Aba and the husband of the woman in our camp brought N1m. We went to a bar in Aba, leaving the money with Junior. Junior actually came to assist us in collecting the ransom; he ran away with our money.”
Teddy Ifeanyi, 28: “There was this guy called Junior, who is currently in a Prison in Ondo State. Junior was my customer; I used to barb his hair. He drives an Avalon car. Before I got my saloon, I used to work for a guy. Junior, one day, witnessed how my boss embarrassed me. I later approached him for financial assistance, so that I could buy the shop from my boss. Junior linked me up with the gang. I met them in a bar at Onyigbo and they later took me to a hotel where I slept overnight. The following day, they called me to meet them at Eleme Junction. When I got there, I discovered they had kidnapped a woman.
“They took the woman to a container terminal. I was asked to watch over her. I was there with Samuel and Steven. At the end of the day, no money was shared. I went back to my saloon. By January ending, Junior called me to come to Onyigbo and speak with Chikere. I collected a rifle from Chikere and went to Prosper. We went and kidnapped a man that has a Mercedes Benz 4Matic. We took him to Chikere’s community. I was with the man at the bush. I was the person that used to prepare his food. The man spent nine days with us, but I didn’t know how much was paid for his ransom. But Prosper gave me N300, 000. Two months later, Prosper called me again and asked me to meet him at Onyigbo. I went there and met him at a park. Other gang members came to join us. He went to a mechanic work shop and oiled his gun. We then went out to look for victims. Steven, Chima and I, were at the back seat, then Samuel and Prosper were in the front. We drove into Iriebe in Port Harcourt. On our way out, we saw a Sport Utility Highlander Vehicle. Prosper asked Samuel to drive close to the man. We followed the man down to his gate. Prosper asked Chima, Steven and I to come out of our car and approach the man. Chima was at the driver’s door, I was at the passenger’s door, while Prosper was still inside our car. Chima’ opened the man’s car and asked him to come down. The man turned off his car engine, gave me his key. He thought we came to steal his car. Prosper came with his gun and the man became highly terrified. We ordered him to enter into our, he disobeyed and entered his own car. I held him by his shirt and dragged him. His shirt got torn. We all started struggling with him. Prosper came out and ordered us to stop. He then ordered the man to get into the car. When the man refused, he opened fire and the man was injured.
“I joined Prosper and pulled the woman from her daughter. The woman was dragged into our car and taken to our camp. Chikere and Marcus were already waiting for us. They took the vehicles away and sold both. The following day, Prosper sent food items, stove and cooking pots to us at the camp. He also brought a phone and SIM card to me. He said that I should get Iheanacho’s wife on the phone. I should demand for N50m ransom. He further instructed me to tell the woman that someone paid us N30m to kill her husband. The woman said that she wanted to speak with her husband. The husband told her that he had been shot on the leg. He asked her to persuade Prosper to reduce the ransom. He told her that he was being held on an Island and that the place was too cold and his gunshot wounds were not being treated. I sent Prosper the woman’s number. He called and mounted pressure on her to bring the ransom. He threatened to kill Iheanacho if the wife didn’t pay up on time.
“I called Chikere and Marcus who were with me in the camp. I told him that our boss was very wicked, who didn’t usually reveal the amount of money he collected from victims. He only gives us peanuts.
“I made it clear to them that the man was badly injured and could die. Chikere said that he was scared of betraying Prosper. According to him, if he ran away with his own share of the money, Prosper would attack his pregnant wife and kill his mother. He insisted that the victim’s wife should give pay Prosper the ransom.
“I told my boss to bring his car, so that we could quickly release the man, so that they he could go for treatment. Prosper asked us to wait. He said he was coming. I waited all day, but he didn’t come. He switched off all his phone lines. On the fifth day, while I was still waiting for him, some hunters strayed into our camp and saw Chikere, Marcus and I standing on guard and greeted us. They didn’t see Iheanacho man and the woman. They were inside the hut. When the hunters left, I called Prosper and alerted him. I told him that the hunters might expose us. Chikere told that he had spoken with the hunters and promised them N200, 000 if they didn’t tell anyone that they saw us in the bush. He said that the hunters showed him a better camp.
“At the end, he called and told us that his car was stolen. We had to take the captives back to the camp. This incident happened on the sixth day. When I looked at the man’s bullet wounds I discovered maggots had started coming out. I approached Marcus, our boat boy and told him that we couldn’t continue to hold Iheanacho because he could die. Marcus said that if he allowed the man to leave without instruction from Prosper, he wouldn’t be paid.
“Iheanacho heard our conversation and told me to call his wife. He asked her to pay the balance of N3m, so that he could leave the place. She told me that she doubted if that would be possible because my boss had reduced the ransom he demanded from N50m to N30m, and after collecting the first N3m she gave to him, that he had since been demanding a balance of N27m. She said that if I was sure that I would release her husband after collecting the N3m balance that I should come out of the camp to pick the money. I told Marcus and Steven what the woman said. Marcus said he would follow me. By the evening of the sixth day, we left the camp. I went to sleep in a hotel, till the next day. I went to my house at UST and changed into clean clothes. I called the woman and told her that I was out of the camp. She asked me to speak with her brother-in-law, which I did.
“They said they were heading to the bank. I waited until nightfall, I didn’t hear from her. When I called her, she said that she couldn’t raise the money. Marcus and I went back home. I couldn’t call Steven whom I had left at the camp because I asked him to switch of his phone so that Prosper wouldn’t reach him.
“I didn’t hear from them again until the next day, which was the ninth day. The man’s brother told me that the only money he was able to raise, was N2.2m. I told him not to bother about the balance that he should bring the N2.2m. I gave them directions to where they should drop the money. When I picked the money and counted it, it was $6.200. I and Marcus headed straight to the camp. When we got there, we couldn’t find anyone. I was shocked. I went deeper into the camp and saw Steven and the female captive. I asked about Iheanacho, he told me that the man was dead. He said that when he woke up that morning, he tapped Iheanacho to wake him so he that he could brush and take his drugs, but he remained motionless.
“He said that when the woman returned after brushing her mouth, she discovered Iheanacho wasn’t moving. She fell down and started crying. He had to switch on his phone to call Chikere. Chikere asked him to take the woman deeper into the forest. He brought a shovel, dug a shallow grave and buried the man faced down. I told them that we should move out. The woman started crying, begging us to help her to leave the place. When we got out of the Island, we made our way to the tarred road. We got a bus that took us to Onyingbo. When we got to the bus stop, I bought slippers for the woman and gave her N2000 for transportation back to her house. She gave me her phone number, her home and schools addresses. She asked me to call her that she would reward me with the N400,000. She left and I went back to Marcus and Steven. We shared the $6200. I got $2000, Marcus $2000 Steven $1500. The rest was shared among people who heard about the operation at Afam area. I went and changed my own money. I bought over the barber shop in UST and furnished it. I thought all was well. I felt relaxed; before I left Marcus and Steven, I had asked them to go their separate ways. I destroyed their phones. I also destroyed mine. Two weeks later, I was in my house, sleeping, when someone knocked on the door. I opened and saw some policemen who called me by nickname Ti-Money. The policemen brought Chima, Steven and Samuel, asking if I knew them, I said yes. I then told them all I knew about the abduction and gang members.”
Chikere Ekere, 27, married with an eight months pregnant wife: “Eze told me that Prosper was an importer. There was this time I went to see Eze and saw Prosper with a gun. I quickly told Eze; it was then that Eze told me that Prosper wasn’t really an importer. He told me Prosper was into armed robbery and kidnapping. Eze said that I could join the group and make good money.
“One week later, the man was released and Prosper gave me N100, 000. One month after, Prosper brought another victim. When I took them to the spot where we had kept the first victim, we discovered that the owners of the land had farmed on it. It was an open space. He suggested I should take the men across the river. I brought an Akwa Ibom boy who knew how to paddle a boat to take us across. I was also the person supplying food and water to them. The victim spent 10 days. Prosper called that I should return everyone to the mainland. I did and he gave me N100, 000 and the boat boy was given N50,000. One month after that operation, some Department of State Security (DSS) operatives came to Eze’s house, looking Prosper. They arrested Eze and his younger brother who assisted Prosper to rent an apartment for one of Prospers girlfriends. It was through the girlfriend that the DSS operatives arrested Prosper. He told the police that Eze and his brother were not members of his gang and didn’t know he was into crime. Eze and his brother were released, while Prosper was sent to prison. In December 2017, Eze told me that Prosper had been released. He came to my community, asking why I didn’t pay him a visit in prison. I gave him N2000 and he left. By January 2018, he brought another man and asked me to look for a boat boy. I brought in Marcus, who paddled the victims across the river. They kept the man for seven days.
“Prosper called me after they had abducted Iheanacho and a woman. I discovered that the man was injured. I told him that it would be wrong to take the injured man into the camp. The man clearly needed urgent medical attention. Prosper ordered us to take the man into the bush. Prosper gave me N1000 to buy Becham and Ampiclox, pain reliever and Sprite drink for the man. I bought the drugs and took it to Ti-Money. Ti-money also used hot water on the man’s wound. Two days later, Prosper went to market and bought lots of food items. Ti-Money called me, Marcus and Steven, and told us that he had spoken to the man’s wife. She said that Prosper was demanding N50m. He said that he had told the woman to pay N6m. Ti-money wanted us to collect the money and share. He said that Prosper was greedy and would cheat us. I panicked when I heard what Ti-Money was planning. I told him that Prosper had once threatened to kill my mother and wife if I ever betrayed him. Since Marcus and I were the only people who could take them out to the shore, I told them that I won’t work with them. After Prosper collected the money, we started calling him to come and free the victims, but he refused. Prosper became too greedy and refused to release the injured man. A few days before the man died, Marcus came to me. He said that he wanted to go to Port Harcourt to visit his mother, he left. When the man died, I had to bury him.”