Detectives attached to the Inspector General of Police, Intelligence Response Team (IRT) have solved the mystery behind the sudden disappearance of Everistus Igwe, Chairman of Omagor community in Omerelu, Ikwerre, Rivers State who was abducted on November 22, 2019.
Detectives also stopped the search for another community elder, Chief Steven Akpelu, who was kidnapped on September 5, 2019. Both were found dead at the spot where their abductors abandoned their bodies.
The crimes were unravelled with the arrest of a group of suspects, Amadi Solomon, Godspower Amadi, Anthony Chimenwor Chukwu, Chibueze Odu, Onyema Oma, Azubuike Aguma and Osai Anderson, all of whom are confessed members of Rivers State-based De-Gbam secret cult. They have provided the answers to the where, why and how the lives of both victims were cut short.
The abduction of the victims would have remained one of the unresolved cases but theirs gained some gravity when the Igwe family in a petition to the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed pleaded with the police to help find their father two weeks after his abductors refused to release him or allow him to talk to his family after collecting N2.5million ransom.
Intelligence gathered by the IRT, headed by DCP Abba Kyari, indicated that members of the gang suspected (most of whom are currently on the run) have relocated to Imo State. IRT detectives from Uyo, Akwa Ibom, successfully tracked down eight of them to Ihiagwa community in the state.
After their arrest, the suspects took the police to their hideout inside the premises of the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO). There, the body of Everistus Igwe was found still tied up. The corpse of Chief Steven Akpelu, the second victim, was found in a pit in Ikwerre. The cloth on the already decomposing body made identification easy for the family. The suspects also confessed to the killing of two other young men believed to be members of Icelanders, a rival cult.
What ended in the abduction and the tragic death of the community leaders started with a community’s effort to rid itself of its bad elements.
In the past few years, the Omerelu part of Aba-Port Harcourt expressway had acquired notoriety as an axis of kidnapping, despite the presence of multiple police and military checkpoints. To save the community the embarrassment of being labelled a hotbed of kidnappers, community leaders decided to help security operatives fish out suspected criminals in their midst. Consequently, the bad eggs relocated out of the community but decided to teach the elders some hard lessons.
That was the motives behind the kidnapping of Everitus Igwe from whose family his abductors collected the sum of N500, 000, but his body still turned up dead. The same fate befell Chief Akpelu whose family parted with N700, 000 but was found dead and his body rotting.
Flushed out of Rivers State, the gang had settled down in Imo State where they perpetrated their nefarious activities, targeting students of FUTO and Federal Polytechnic, Nekede.
The leader of the group, Solomon Amadi, is a 25-year-old who claimed he was forcefully initiated into the cult and has risen to become the capo of the local branch in his community.
On the abduction of the community leader, Amadi conceded he heard about it and by the virtue of his position as the cult’s number one in that zone, he was sent part of the ransom.
“It was a mere suggestion during our meeting that those elders who were giving our names to the police and army should be dealt with. I was not part of the kidnapping but my boys participated [and] as long as it is done by our member, they must bring a certain amount to me. Those men were elders, I assume they were kidnapped because of their loudmouth but no one asked them [the gang] to kill the men,” he said.
Anthony Chimenwor Chukwu was one of the abductors. He told Saturday Sun: “Sometimes in November 2019, one Ifeanyi told me that they want to pick one of our community leaders. I know that man and all I did was to give his number to them through the help of my girlfriend, Precious. She called the man and lured him out and we picked him up. I told them to tie him up before I enter there because he would surely recognize me.”
He continued: “I never planned for them to kill him because he was a generous man and my family has benefited from him. As soon as his family paid N500, 000, I told them to release him and I left them. I was shocked when Ifeanyi said that they kept him and started asking for more money. It was in the process of beating him that he died. They dumped his body inside the bush in FUTO and escaped. After our arrest, I took the police to the area where the body was dumped. I swear that I never asked them to kill him.”
On the abduction of the second victim, Chief Akpelu, Chukwu claimed he was not part of the group that abducted him and he only got to know about it when the community started searching for him.
“Some of the community leaders approached me and pleaded with me to help them find out who amongst the boys in the area kidnapped the chief,” he said. “They gave me N50, 000 to do the job and it was in the process that I discovered that it was our cult members that kidnapped him. They told me that the man died while they were beating him and they dumped his body in the bush.”
He insisted he was not part of the killers. “I knew the location where the body was dumped because our cult members told me,” he said.
Another suspect, Godspower Amadi, articulated the reason for kidnapping the community leaders.
“When kidnapping became so rampant in our area in Omerelu, most us relocated to Iheagwa because the police were arresting cultists. Somehow, we needed to survive. This was why some of the community leaders became our target. We were angry, specifically with the community leader, Igwe and Chief Akpelu, because they called police and army and were pointing at us.”
Amadi who claimed to have no hand in the abduction of Chief Akpele, readily admitted that he was involved in the kidnapping of Igwe. “They were both picked from Ikwerre and brought to Owerri,” he confessed.
On why they relocated to Owerri in Imo state, Azubuike Aguma claimed: “We were under the command of Amadi (Solomon) who is the Number One man in Omerelu community; he gave us signal to run.”
He gave a brief summary of how they were able to operate for so long under the noses of security operatives in Omerelu.
“For several years, we successfully picked persons along Port Harcourt expressway and took them into the bush. Once we stopped a bus, we first checked the quality of the passengers. If an ATM is found on them, we asked their families to pay the money into their account and we’d withdraw the money using their ATM till we were satisfied.”
To avoid being intercepted by security agents on patrol, they operated in-between police or army checkpoints, Aguma disclosed.
“The distance between two checkpoints was much and we also stationed our members to watch them. We were very successful that was why police had to resort to coming into the community to pick young men,” he said.
Godspower Amadi gave a summary of their activities since their relocation to Owerri: “I have also participated in the kidnap of so many students. One of us would drive around the school entrance, as soon as he picked a passenger, I would indicate interest that I was going the same way. To save cost, motorcyclists in the area used to carry two persons. I’d join as the second person, and with my gun, our target would not make a noise until we got to our hideout in the school compound.”