•132 cultists, kidnap, robbery suspects arrested
•Seven kidnap suspects killed, policemen injured in crossfire
•Nine kidnap victims rescued
By Evelyn Usman
In a move to nip activities of kidnappers, cultists, and other criminals in the bud, the Delta State Police Command has rejigged its crime-fighting strategies.
Kidnap and killing in different communities in the state by herders and some youths as well as attacks on policemen by gunmen have been a major challenge confronting the state.
As first step in addressing these challenges, the Commissioner of Police, CP Ari Alli , upon assumption of office five months ago, charged all Divisional Police Officers,DPO to guard their areas of jurisdiction well, with a threat to remove any one in whose jurisdiction cases of kidnap, cultism or armed robbery were recorded three times.
This strategy seems to be paying off, following the arrest of 132 suspects, over various offences ranging from kidnap, robbery, cultism and murder, between January 2021 to date.
During the period under review, seven kidnap suspects were killed during shootout with the Police while nine victims were rescued from kidnappers’ dens.
A breakdown of the arrest showed that cultists ranked highest with 78 suspects while robbery suspects numbered 33, with 15 robbery operations foiled. Thirty arms of different caliber and 370 ammunitions were also recovered during the period.
Murder of policemen
One of the arrests was that of a suspected member of a robbery gang, Akpos James a.k.a General last Friday, by a team of the Special Anti Kidnapping and Cyber Crime Squad, SAKCCS.
He was arrested in connection with the killing of three policemen whose rifles were also carted away, in an eatery along East-West road, Ughelli, on January 10, 2021.
The command alleged that members of his gang were also responsible for several kidnaps and armed robberies within Abraka, Ughelli and Sepale environs.
At midnight the same day, the operatives reportedly stormed the gang’s hideout at Patani water side, Delta state, where they engaged members of the gang in a gun duel. But the gang members were said to have plunged into a nearby river and swam their way to escape.
Two AK 47 Rifles with 114 rounds of 7.62mm live ammunition and six magazines were recovered at the end of the gun battle, according to the Police.
Murder of Delta prince
Another major arrest was that of four suspected members of an armed gang that murdered Prince Eric Tekere and his Police escort, on April Aril 3, 2021, in Warri, Delta State.
The suspects who were arrested two weeks after the incident by a Police team and Military, confessed during interrogation to have participated in various crimes among which was the bank robbery at Udu Micro Finance Bank . Exhibits recovered from the gang included one Pump Action gun, an English double barrel gun, one cut-to-size single barrel gun, three locally made pistols and 27 live cartridges.
Confrontation with Police
Some of these arrests did not come easy as members of deadly gangs engaged teams of policemen at different times in a shoot-out. One of the instances was the recent shootout between men of the Command Rapid Response Squad, RRS and a robbery/kidnap gang, opposite Road Safety, Asaba, during which one of the suspects who sustained bullet wounds gave up the ghost.
An AK Rifle with Breech number 19567 Double Magazines with eighteen 7.62mm live ammunition was reportedly abandoned by fleeing members of the gang.
Another instance was a recent attack on a team of Anti- Kidnapping operatives led by ASP Achem Collins. Members of the police team were reportedly on their way to Warri, on investigation activities with some arrested kidnap suspects, when they were ambushed by gunmen who attempted to rescue their arrested colleagues, along Abavo – Urhonigbe road.
In the ensuing gunfire, the suspects with the policemen were fatally injured. A backup team reportedly forced the gunmen to flee into the bush. One of the policemen, ASP Celestine Collins sustained gunshot wounds.
The Delta State Police Command said when the bush was combed, one K2 Assault Rifle and one Pump action gun with six cartridges were recovered from some of the injured gunmen who could not escape.
Botched cult initiation
One major challenge in the state is the activity of cultists who use the weapon of fear and intimidation to forcefully initiate members into different confraternities. These cultists as gathered are also members of different robbery gangs.
Acting on intelligence report that the Aiye confraternity would be carrying out initiation of new members, the Commander, State Anti-Cult Unit reportedly mobilized operatives to a bush in Ubulu-Unor, Aniocha South Local Government Area, last week, where 40 persons, all male, were arrested.
Surprisingly, the command said when the policemen reached the initiation venue, some armed men who claimed to be members of Ubulu-Unor Vigilante group, were seen keeping watch and aiding the cultists to carry out their initiation. They were also arrested.
The command said a revolver pistol with 11 live ammunition, one locally made single barrel gun, one pump action, eight vehicles and one Mitsubishi pickup with the inscription Ubulu-Unor Vigilante, were recovered. Other arrests of suspected cultists were made during a clash between members of Aiye and Supreme Vikings in Warri, Agbor, and other parts of the state.
Rescue of kidnap victims
Within the period under review, kidnap victims rescued included one Emmanuel Piopio. The 21-year-old victim according to his girlfriend, Precious Omoloyo, was driving in his Lexus car , when two armed men on a motorbike intercepted him.
She explained that “I went out with my boyfriend around 11.30 pm that fateful day, to collect food from my sister at Ehwerhe road Agbarho. The armed men pushed me out of the car and drove away with my boyfriend “.
The car was later traced to Eku town, where one Evans Emojariemu was arrested. The suspect led a combined team of policemen and soldiers based at Ughelli, to a forest behind Ophori Community Agbarho, where one Ogaga Champion and a female-identified as Oghogho Dedekior, were arrested with one locally made double barrel gun with four live cartridges, two phones, and the gang’s operational motorcycle. The victim was subsequently rescued.
Other kidnapped victims rescued from different kidnappers’ dens and subsequent arrest of the suspects, within the period under review included six passengers of a Sienna vehicle with plate number BWR 301 SU, at Okutolo Warri Sapele road, on April 3, 2021; Peter Okologo, who was kidnapped right in his house by some men clad in military camouflage, on April 24 and 57-year-old Williams Aduenwomah , who was traced to a bush at Aradhe area of Delta, among others.
CP Alli reacts
Attributing the arrests to a proactive anti-crime strategy in the enforcement of law and order without infringing on the rights of citizens, the command boss, CP Alli, boasted that the tempo would be sustained.
He explained that “In the course of taking over from my predecessor and interactions with my management team, I was briefed on the plethora of peculiar security challenges in the state and inadequate logistics which hampered effective service delivery.
“This is in addition to the seemingly low morale of officers arising from the #EndSARS protest.
“Having received a full brief on the challenges facing officers in the Command and the trend in criminalities in the state, my assignment to provide adequate security for the people of Delta State was clearly cut-out.
“Although the challenges are obvious and enormous, they are nevertheless not insurmountable. We will continue to be the hallmark for more friendly and result-oriented policing”.