By Evelyn Usman
Operatives of the Force Intelligence Response Team , IRT led by its Commander, DCP Tunji Disu, in collaboration with policemen from the Rivers State Police Command have smashed a kidnap syndicate that specialized in luring unsuspecting victims through Facebook and Whatsapp to their den, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Members of the gang are a group of friends. Their targets are females who are either beautiful and single or working class ladies. To get their attention, they take to their respective Facebook pages in search of their targets, posing as foreigners working in multinational oil companies in Rivers State.
To further convince their targets, they display pictures of foreigners on their display pictures, professing love and proposing marriage to their Facebook girl friends , all in a bid to cajole them .
But unsuspecting girls who fall for the bait, end up not just being kidnapped but gang-raped until their families part with ransom for their release. Married women are not spared by this gang, as they are raped against their will, especially if their families delay or refuse to pay ransom for their release. Crime Guard gathered that one of their victims was a 41-year-old woman.
Activities of this gang had been ongoing until the Police brought their reign of terror to an end, with the arrest of four suspected members of the gang, while other members are still on the run.
The suspects: Izunna Fidelis, 21; . Humble Unity Okeregwu, 24; Izuchukwu Nwaobiri , 22 and Chibeze Nwike , 23, were arrested in Choba and Etche areas of Rivers State.
Their arrest followed report of kidnapping for ransom and the gang rape of a 27-year-old lady identified simply as Happiness, on August 28, 2021 and her subsequent release after a ransom payment two days later.
They admitted during interrogation to have kidnapped, tortured, raped, robbed and collected ransoms from at least ten 10 females since January 2021, with their highest ransom collected pegged around N5 million.
According to 22-year-old Nwaobiri who hails from Ikem Community in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State, “ The first thing we do is to check Facebook profiles for beautiful girls. Then, we would add them to our friend lists. Each of us works on different persons.
I would start up a conversation with my supposed girl, exchange pleasantries and tell her that I worked with an oil company. I also asked if she was married or single.
It takes time to familiarise with them, say two to three months. Thereafter, we would progress to Whatsapp chats and then telephone calls and when friendship has been established, we will invite them over to the company’s base.
“Whoever succeeds in luring a lady, would tell her that his driver would come pick her to the base, from a designated point, because non-staff are not allowed inside the company’s base. The person would send any member of the gang to go pick her. The conversation between the lady and any of us would stop at the point the supposed driver picks her up.
The driver would divert and take her to our den in a bush from where she would be blind folded and calls put across to her family.
“I went for mature working class ladies because they don’t expose everything about themselves. I started earlier this year because of circumstances. My mum is late, my dad has a stroke and I have been the one catering for everything. I have been involved in seven cases but succeeded in four
“ The first girl stayed for three days, we got N80,000 . Those we beat were stubborn girls who tried to raise the alarm. We have just cutlasses. My duty is to contact victims’ relatives. We keep them safe until their families pay.
“We only rape our captives if they don’t cooperate. That is, if they don’t mount pressure on their relatives to pay ransom. Some of them are so stubborn that they would prefer being beaten than asking their families to part with ransom for their release. Most times, we asked them to leave if we didn’t get anything from them”.
For 21-year-old Fidelis, from Amako community in Etche Local Government Area of River State, he said, “ I only raped the last girl. I am the caregiver. After giving her food on that day, I went home. By the time I came back, she told me Izuna, who was watching over her, had raped her. I also had my turn”.
Others also admitted to have taken turns to rape kidnapped ladies at several times without protection .
Exhibits recovered from the suspects were 26 SIM cards belonging to their victims and a video recording of visibly battered victims from a phone belonging to one of them.