By Ifeanyi Okolie
In July 2015 when a notorious kidnapper who had terrorized the South-East/South-South regions of the country, Henry Chibuzor, AKA Vampire, was arrested by the DSS and paraded by the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, many thought that it would be the end of a suspect who was accused of abducting over 200 prominent citizens and killing some of them after collecting ransom for their release.
But that was not the case as the 27-year-old man, who was accused of kidnapping and killing the wife of a royal father in Imo State and a senior official of the Imo State Ministry of Environment after the sum of N50 million was paid as ransom, had gone on to form a new gang from prison custody.
Vampire, who was also behind the gruesome killing of his girlfriend and other seven members of her family, in their apartments in Igando area of Lagos State in 2013, was said to have recruited an official of the Nigeria Prison Service, NPS, in Owerri where he is been detained on awaiting trial and made him form a new kidnap gang that would help him raise money for his bail.
The prison official identified as Chukwuma Agim, assembled a six-man gang headed by one Chiboy also known as Eze Ekudele and carried several operations in Imo State, and in one of their operations, they abducted a middle-aged woman and a ransom of N5 million was paid to the gang. After that operation, operatives of the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team (SIRT), which was recently formed by the IGP Solomon Arase to combat armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism and other heinous crimes within the country and headed by CSP Abba Kyari, rounded up five members of the gang, including the prison official in various parts of Imo State.
The suspects who were currently being detained at the Imo State Criminal Investigations Department, were identified as Agim Chukwuma, Chukwudi Uzudima, Kelechi Andrew, Chiaotu Joseph and Aloze Chinonso . They told Saturday Vanguard that greed, poverty and stupidity led them into the gang. Agim, who said he was enlisted into the NPS in 2015 and was posted to Owerri Prison in November 2015, said he was stupid to have listened to Vampire when he approached him in prison as he was warned by his mother not to go close to Vampire.
Narrating his story, the prison official said “My name is Agim Chukwuma. I am 27 years old, not yet married, and I am student of Imo State University. I study insurance and I am in my final year. I am a native of Isiala Mbano Local Government of Imo State. I joined the Nigeria Prions Service in November 2015, was trained at Arms Squad Training School, Owerri, Imo State and I was posted to Owerri Prison. I am a general duty officer and I was posted on morning duty after one week documentation. I earn N43,000 monthly.
I have no choice over my salary; in fact I was thankful because I didn’t get the job with BSc. Those who secured the job with BSc earn close to N100,000. When I came for industrial attachment last year, our chief warder told us that there was a notorious kidnapper called Vampire who was arrested and would be brought to Owerri Prison. When I was posted to that prison, my mother who is also serving in that prison warned me to avoid interacting with the said Vampire, that he might led me into trouble.
“Early this year, I met one Nnamdi; he was being detained in cell 2 in ‘I Ward’, which is the same cell Vampire is kept. He approached me behind the food store, and asked if I could help and get him a phone. He offered me N3,000. I told him that I could not do that; he kept pressurizing me and I refused. He then went and met another officer, who got him the phone. He approached me again. This time with Vampire and they told me that he wanted us to be friends. We sat behind the food store and they told me several stories about their escapades in kidnapping and I found it attractive.
“They told me that they were rich people and they normally visited several popular bars in major towns within the South-East and South-South states, and when they observed rich people leaving the bar, they went after them and kidnapped them. At the end of our conversation, they wrote a phone number on a piece of paper and asked that I should call the person. I didn’t save the number because we don’t use phones in the prison. They told me that they wanted me to call the number and the person would link me to one Chiboy, AkA Eze Ekudele. He told me that Chiboy is a big kidnapper.
“When I called the person, he identified himself as Ejima. I then told him that I got his number from Nnamdi from prison and he wanted us to link up to Chiboy who could help us set up a gang because he has guns, experience and a vehicle to make the job easy. “Nnamdi also gave me the number of one Chukwudi Uzordima. I called him as well and I met the two of them at Control Roundabout in Owerri and we agreed that we should meet with Chiboy and when we did, he took us to a hotel in Elele, bought us drinks and asked if we had done kidnapping before; we said no.
“He laughed at us and called us amateurs and told us that he was going to come to Owerri the next day. The next day he called us and said he was going to pick somebody at Mbise road, that the person had someone giving information. But the work did not succeed. He called us that he was coming to Owerri, and we met on Port Harcourt Road. We did not know that he had kidnapped somebody.
“He was driving a Nissan Pathfinder jeep. He normally worked with a policeman and when they picked me up at Avu Junction, I saw the victim inside the vehicle. A policeman was pointing a gun at a woman and he asked me get out of the vehicle. Then Ejima and Bright entered the vehicle. The next day, he called me to go and buy pure water, can malt and bread.
“On the day, they went to pick the woman. She wasn’t the main target, but she was picked up after church. She was traced to her house and was picked. It was Nnamdi that called me to look after the woman in the bush. I borrowed money from a friend and took it to buy food items for the woman. I gave the food to Uzordima to give to the woman. “I later learned that the woman stayed for two days. N1.1 million was collected as ransom and I was given N100,000. I bought clothes, settled the debt that I was owing and fixed my car. The remaining was what they got for the job and Chiboy told me not to bother that he had a way to give Vampire and Nnamdi their own share of the ransom. “But a few days after that operation, the police came and arrested me. It was Ejima who led them to me. I regret getting myself into this mess”, he lamented.
“I was with the victim in bush, got N70,000 as my share from the ransom”
Joseph Chiaotu, AKA Ejima, a 21-year-old suspected member of the gang who is from Ohumba Umuwayi area in Ohaji Local Government Area of Imos State. He had this to say: “I attended only primary school and I dropped out because I lost my father at an early age. I became a hunter. Then I started farming before I went and learnt painting. I learnt painting for a year and six months. I met Nnamdi in Ugbuwaku Local Government Area, on a bike, and he told me that he wanted to help me but before I knew what was happening, he was arrested.
“While in prison, he gave my number to a prison official who called me and said he was from Nnamdi and we needed to work and assist him raise money for his bail. Nnamdi also asked us to go to his wife and collect Chiboy’s phone number. When I got the number, we called and met him in Elele; from there we agreed on our job.
“Then they went for their first job, but they did not succeed. Then Chiboy told me that he needed a driver to drive us. I introduced Anozie Chinonso to him and when he did the second job, he asked both of us to meet him at Avu Junction. When he picked us, we met the woman in his car and we drove on to Egbema Road and at the middle of the road, he dropped us and asked that we should take the woman into the bush
“I fed the woman with Gala and Lucozade Boost. When I got calls to release the woman, I took her to the expressway before running back into the bush. I was given N70,000 after the operation. I bought shoes and clothes with N10,000 and hide the remaining in my apartment.
“I don’t know how the police heard about what I did and they came after me and arrested me. I led the police to arrest the Prison official and four other members of the gang, but we were unable to arrest Chiboy. He noticed the presence of the police and he attempted to escape. He ran into the bus and the police fired several shots at him but they did hit him.”
Anozie Chinonso, 25, the last suspect, had this to say: “I am from Abom Mbise. I attended Apapa Nike Primary School, Enugu. After my father, who was a soldier, died, my mother brought me back to Mbise and gave me to my father’s brother, who is a dry-cleaner to work with, but the man later died. I went to Aba and I started doing bus conductor and from there I learnt how to drive.
“My people sold my father’s land and bought a bus for me and it got spoilt after a while. When I met Ejima recently, I told him that I had no job and I needed assistance and he promised he would help me. On the day the woman was kidnapped, he called me that I should come out and secure the woman. I came out and we waited at Avu Junction and we entered into Chiboys vehicle, where we saw the woman. But Ejima I and two of Chiboy’s brothers were the people who stayed with the woman in the bush. The woman spent two days before the ransom was paid and we released her.
“I didn’t touch the woman but told her that I wasn’t a bad person, that all I was looking for was a little money to buy a bus on hire purchase. Even when the woman came and identified us after I was arrested, she also told the police that I was nice to her. After we released the woman, I was given N100,000. I also had N30,000 with me, but as at the time I wanted to pay for the bus on hire purchase, the police came and arrested me. It was poverty that led me into this crime. I am a very poor person struggling for myself and family. I have no one helping me. My mother is a very old woman. I pray this woman and family would forgive me.”