Three workers of Niger Delta Petroleum Resources Limited in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, have been apprehended for their alleged role in the kidnap and murder of their boss, Ubani Onyema.
Onyema was said to be the production manager of the company.
The workers, Nkere Uwam, Okpako Emperor and Adimibe Kanayo, allegedly connived with a kidnap gang, led by one 34-year-old Nduka Alaribe, aka Abiola, to carry out the kidnap.
Other arrested members of the gang were identified as Godstime Eme, 35, a graduate and second in command; Wisdom Chidi, 35; and 32-year-old Ayakazi Woyin-Kuro.
PUNCH learnt on Wednesday that the suspects were rounded up at different locations in Rivers State by operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team, led by ACP Abba Kyari.
It was gathered that the 64-year-old victim was returning home from work when the gang waylaid his car.
They were said to have taken him away with a gunshot injury and abandoned his car.
The manager reportedly died from the gun injury, but the assailants still contacted the company and demanded N100m ransom for his release.
Oblivious of the victim’s death, the company was said to have negotiated the ransom to N10m, which the suspects collected.
A police source told PUNCH Metro that the family became worried when the manager was not released after the ransom was paid.
He said the incident was brought to the knowledge of the IG, Ibrahim Idris, who ordered the IRT officials to track down the gang.
He said, “The IRT operatives deployed in Port Harcourt by the IG swung into action when the hostage was not released after the ransom was paid.”
Another source said the suspects were arrested between December 9 and 19, 2017, while one AK-47 rifle and two operational vehicles were recovered from them.
The suspects had confessed to their roles in the incident, while efforts were ongoing to arrest other members of the gang.
The source said, “The police arrested seven of the kidnappers. Three of them were workers of the company where the manager worked. They were his subordinates. Their plan was to get N100m so that they could have huge shares of the ransom.
“They agreed to the N10m ransom because the victim died on the day of his kidnap as a result of a gunshot injury he sustained during the kidnapping.
“The suspects have confessed and admitted that the corpse of the hostage was dumped in a river. The body has yet to be recovered.”
According to the police, Alaribe, aka Abiola, the gang leader, organised the kidnap, recruited the hostage keepers, brought the two cars used for the kidnap and led gang members to pick up the ransom.
The second in command, Eme, reportedly purchased a pre-registered SIM which was used in negotiating and monitoring the ransom.
“He also monitored the movement of late Onyema on the day that he was kidnapped. Uwam, Emperor and Kanayo were the brains behind the kidnap and they worked in the same company with the victim.
“Wisdom Chidi is a notorious leader of Greenlanders cult terrorising the residents of the Ahoda-East Local Government Area of Rivers State. He provided the arms used for the kidnap while Woyin-Kuro assisted in the recruitment of gang members. Items recovered included one AK-47 rifle and the two vehicles used in the kidnap,” the source added.
Efforts to get the comment of the Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Moshood Jimoh, on the arrest did not yield result as his phone rang out. He had also yet to reply to a text message sent to him.
As our correspondent was making an enquiry on the incident from the NDPR Managing Director, Dr Layi Fatona, he cut in and said, “I am sorry; I am not the company’s spokesperson. I cannot speak on behalf of the company.”
When our correspondent asked to be directed to the spokesperson, the MD ended the telephone conversation.
An enquiry sent to the company’s email, firstname.lastname@example.org, has also yet to be replied to as of press time.