For members of a notorious kidnap gang operating in Port Harcourt, Rivers state have been arrested following the abduction of a woman identified as Mrs. Okotie, who was kidnapped few weeks ago opposite the Royal House of Grace Church in Port Harcourt.
The gang was said to have abducted her in the Mazda car they used as operational vehicle.
The victim told the police that she had told the suspects that she was not feeling fine but they did not listen to her.
Fortunately for Mrs. Okotie, the car broke down along the way and the leader of the gang named Blackie, called for another vehicle, a Nissan Primera, which arrived shortly after.
“But they did not know that we had got information about them. They were on their way to the Ornage Waterside when we intercepted them. As soon as they saw us, they fled and abandoned the woman in the car along with one of their rifles,”A Police source said.
Few days after the botched kidnapping of Mrs. Okotie, IRT operatives who were following up on a lead, arrested Gabriel, a taxi driver, around 2.pm on October 12.
When Gabriel, an Akwa-Ibom indigene living at Navy Market Borikiri, Port-Harcourt was taken in for questioning, he confessed that he had personally been involved in 15 kidnaps in the last few months in the state.
He then led the police to his house where five members of the gang were already planning another kidnap.
“When we got to his house, we arrested five of his gang members and from there, we proceeded to Enugu Waterfront where we arrested Anikuroka Marshal, the gang’s armourer. The suspects also identified Diobele Elijah and Akodi Aselemi as their spies who go around town scouting for victims. They confessed to have three AK47 rifles, two pistols, which they use in their operations,” a police source said.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that in one of the kidnaps carried out by the gang, on August 10, 2016, a pastor, Mrs. Luis Ubah and one Mr. Chika Ezenwa were abducted. The same day, the gang kidnapped a business woman, Mrs. Ubah in her store, they also grabbed another victim identified as Ezenwa who was with Ubah at the time.
The four victims were taken by the gang to the Indoki Estate Waterfront.
The source explained that while on their way to the waterfront, the gang encountered a police team and instantly opened fire on the policemen.
“Inspector David Ijosi and one Corporal Dike Ledee were injured by bullets in the attack. One was hit in the leg while another was hit in the neck and the kidnappers escaped into the Isaka creeks in Okrika,” the source said.
Soon after, the gang made contact with Ubah’s husband, Bishop Prince Ubah, from whom they demanded a N50m ransom for her freedom.
During the ensuing negotiation, the ransom for the release of the bishop’s wife was reduced to N2.8m and a place was agreed on for the family to drop the ransom.
But in a dramatic turn of events, when two brothers of the bishop, Onyeka Ani and Pastor Okezie Akara, took the money to the agreed place on August 25, 2016, 15 days after Mrs. Ubah was kidnapped, the gang members decided to release her along with Ezenwa but kidnapped the two brothers instead.
The police said they then demanded another N1m ransom from the bishop for his brothers. But N750, 000 was eventually paid for their release.
In his statement, Gabriel explained that he came to Port Harcourt in 2015 and worked as a taxi driver but when things became difficult for him, he moved his family back home and joined his first kidnapping gang.
He said, “I met the members of the gang in March 2016. I was plying the Aba Road looking for passengers one day when they stopped me and entered my taxi. They asked me to take them to Borikiri in Port Harcourt.
“When we got there, I was surprised that they paid me more than I demanded and I told them that I wanted to know more about them. The leader who sat in front passenger seat then gave me his phone number and said he would like me to work with them.
“Few days later, they invited me to a hotel in Borikiri and told me what they did. In April, Blackie, the gang leader, called and asked that I should meet him in his hotel. When I got there, I met other members of the gang preparing for an operation. They showed me two bags containing guns and put it in my car. I then drove them to GRA in Port Harcourt.
“When we got there, the gang’s informant said we had missed the target, a woman, who had just left the place. While leaving, we saw a man driving a nice car and we kidnapped him. He was taken to the Indoki Estate Waterfront. We put him in a speed boat and took him to a camp across the river.”
Gabriel said they carried out many kidnappings and that in August 2016, when they kidnapped Mrs. Okotie, it was like God just wanted them to be caught.