By Abiodun OBA


A suspected leader of a kidnap gang arrested by the Rivers State Police Command under the watch of CP Olatunji Disu thwarted the objective of Correctional centres, of striking a balance between punishment, rehabilitation and public safety while preparing inmates for a productive life after release.

The suspect, Gift Ogbo (39), who is receiving treatment in the hospital, from injuries sustained during a botched kidnap operation, disclosed that he formed his gang while serving his 11 years jail term for a murder case.

Security Reporters learnt that the suspect and one his gang members were nabbed by the police on March 29 after a kidnap operation turned awry and the intended victim turned the tables on them.

The police command said that on the fateful day, Gift’s gang of four members, as usual, had set out on a kidnap mission in a minibus. One of them, Ugo was the getaway driver; Sunny was the one on the watch for smooth operation, while he and Gift Kpanuku, a.k.a Oyi-Baba were the muscles of the gang.

Reports said that the gang noticed a white Mercedes Benz ML 350 4matic parked along Nkpolu road with two occupants.

They were said to have swerved in front of the vehicle, while Gift and Oyi Baba jumped down from the minibus and moved towards the vehicle occupants.

The driver of the Mercedes Benz was said to have reversed in order to find a way of escape, but hit a wall in the process. Left with no option, he drove towards the two suspects and ran over them, injuring them. Gift and Oyi-Baba both suffered broken bones and could not flee the scene.

Seeing the turn of events, the other gang members reportedly took to their heels as bystanders rushed towards the spot. The mob, that had gathered, descended on the two suspects, poured petrol on them, and was about to set them ablaze when the occupants of the Mercedes begged them to hand them over to the police.

Meanwhile, some residents, who had observed the incident from a distance, made a distress call to the police control room which prompted the Rapid Response Team’s response to prevent lynching of the gang members.

The arrested kidnappers were said to have been rushed to the hospital, but Oyi-Baba succumbed to his injuries and gave up the ghost, while Gift is currently receiving treatment under the watch of the police as an extensive investigation has been launched.

During interrogation, Gift, aged 39 and from Ndele, Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, told police operatives that he was not new to crime. With no formal education, the suspect disclosed that at a young age, he was so skilled in stealing, adding that nothing was spared from being stolen by him.

He revealed how he preferred moving around his village during school hours, searching for opportunities to steal. As he grew in age, his penchant for stealing increased. Not only that, aside from his criminal tendencies, Gift also turned into a violent man who loved fights, resulting in many scars he still bears.

Because of his violent nature and criminality, it was learnt that he became known as ‘Akwa Ndele’.

In one of his violent outbursts in 2012, he reportedly attacked one of his uncles with whom he had a disagreement over a parcel of land. He repeatedly hit the uncle with a stick until the man collapsed and lost consciousness.

As Gift made an attempt to run away, onlookers held him and handed him over to the police. It was at the police station that he received the news that his uncle had died from the injuries sustained from the blows he gave him with the stick.

The uncle’s death landed Gift in prison after his arraignment in court for murder. However, in the 11 years he spent in jail, he connected with other prison inmates and built a more extensive criminal profile for himself.

After his release from the prison in December 2023, he returned to Ndele and got in contact with his two old friends, Oyi-Baba and one Sunny, aka Onye-meme. They reportedly teamed up with two other inmates he formed a gang with in the prison, who he knew as Isaac and Ugo and had also been released from the correctional centre.

After devising a strategy to adopt as a kidnap-for-ransom gang, they started stealing from Ndele residents to raise money for arms in order to perfect their operations.

Gift confessed to the police that through stealing, the gang raised N370,000 and used it to purchase two locally-made shotguns at Akwa-Ibom from one Smart, a gunrunner he met in prison.

With their plans in place, the gang members went on their first kidnap operation on March 13, at about 8.45 p.m. They snatched a red Mazda 323 from a local taxi driver and set out.

Same evening, one Tochukwu Egbo and his wife, Udeh Amaka Beatrice, who went to keep a doctor’s appointment, were making phone calls in front of the doctor’s hospital at Nkpolu where they parked, when they heard a tap on their car window.

As they wound down, they were alarmed to see Gift and his gang brandishing guns and shouting at them to get down from the car (a Volkswagen Touareg). The criminals then pushed them into the back seat of their car and drove off, abandoning the stolen Mazda.

On their way to their designated hideout, they met with traffic, and while they were contemplating an alternative route, Beatrice managed to jump out of the car. This angered the kidnappers, and Gift Ogbo shot Tochukwu in both thighs, and they sped off.

They took him to a compound in Eleme where Ugo had made arrangements with some other bandits to house their victims. After  taking his gold chain, wristwatch and his and wife’s phones, they also withdrew through Point of Sale (PoS) machine N530,000, using his Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card after forcing him to divulge his PIN.

At about 11 pm, they noticed that the victim was bleeding and decided to go and dump him somewhere quiet, but on their way, they ran out of fuel in the car, so they abandoned him in his vehicle and fled.

The victim was rescued by well-meaning citizens and taken to a hospital for medical attention.

In his comment, the Commissioner of Police, Olatunji Rilwan Disu, described as unfortunate the way young people yield to crime and continue in it.

He enjoined young Nigerians particularly, and everyone in general, to strive to attain a level of education that would position them well enough to contribute meaningfully to their families and society.

He warned the state residents to steer clear of crime as the police command under him would not relent in its fight against it.

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