Four robbery suspects who operate by disguising as taxi drivers are now in the net of the operatives of the inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IGP IRT), The Nation reports.
Nemesis allegedly caught up with Didi Jolly, Chisom Unegbu, Micheal Matthew and George Ala when the commander of the IGP IRT, Abba Kyari, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), decided to lead a special team to smash the gang, following public outcry against their menace.
They were said to be in the habit of not only robbing their victims of money and valuable items like phones and ATM cards in Port Harcourt and its environs, but also subjecting them to serious torture as they often throw their victims off the moving vehicle.
A manhunt launched for the gang resulted in the arrest of Jolly, who was said to have led the IRT detectives to pick the three other members of the gang.
“They also detain their victims while they take their time to withdraw money from their accounts,” a police source said, adding that three of the suspects were all initiates of a cult group known as Icelanders while they were in junior secondary school.
In his confession, Jolly, a native of Obugbasa Local Government Area, Cross River State, said his parents were living in Port Harcourt where he and his siblings were born and bred.
He said: “I was a student of Maris Comprehensive Secondary School before I dropped out of school in my second year.
“It was very common among students to belong to one cult group or the other. The senior student that I took as my college father was the one who initiated me. I was 14 years at that time.
“During break time, he took me to an uncompleted building behind our school with the excuse that we were going to buy snacks.
“When we got there, he sent me to buy a bottle of Squadron, an alcoholic drink. When I came back, there were so many boys, especially our seniors.
“The next thing, they pulled my shirt and started beating me. After that, they forced me to drink from the alcohol.
“They then said I had become a member and failure to abide by their rules would result in death.
“I was afraid and wanted to tell my parents but they warned me against it.
“My mum is a religious woman and did her best to train us well. “In the streets, almost every boy child was a cultist, and my mother warned us that she would not tolerate it.
“I kept it as a secret till months later when about 50 boys who are members of our cult group visited my house at night.
“I was supposed to be on duty on that day, but because I was still living with my parents, there was no way I could sneak out.
“Normally, we take turns to watch over our area in case another rival cult decided to attack.
“They came and forced me to follow them and threatened to deal with my family members if they don’t allow me to work for them.
“I can remember so well how my mother wept the night they dragged me away.
“When I returned in the morning, she told me that they had decided to relocate to Cross River State, and that I should come along. I refused and everyone left, including my father and my twin brother.
“I managed to hang around school for a year before I dropped out, because I was homeless and was only struggling to survive.
“I became active, and it is normal for cult members to go and snatch bags and phones.
“I normally attend meetings at Okirika town till we were scattered in 2009 when the Federal Government offered amnesty.
“I was not lucky and we all scattered and only met in secret.
Things were tough for me till I met one Gbongbon who allowed me to live in his room. He was the one who introduced me to robbery.
“Lately, we have concentrated on using cars to rob people. One of us will carry the car, pretend to be a taxi driver and pick one or two persons.
“We will also board the same car and rob them. We would sell their phones at Yam Zone at Creek Road in Port Harcourt.
“We do not collect I phone because it has an iCloud. We sell the most expensive one for about N10,000 or at most N15,000.”
Jolly, however, denied being a kidnapper, saying: “We only snatch bags and rob people.
“It is only if we pick someone who has money in his account; we will keep him till we withdraw enough money from his account.
“I wish at this point that I had listened to my mother who kept calling and begging me to relocate to Calabar. If police release me, I will trek to Calabar if that is my only option.”
The second suspect, George Ala, said: “I am from Bonny Island in Rivers State. I was a student of Comprehensive High School on New Road, Borokiri, but I dropped out of school in JSS3 when my mother died.
“My father died and a year later my mother was poisoned. After the death of my father, I started learning carpentry after school, and it was one of the apprentices who was also a student in my school that took me to the bush after work and I was forced to join them.
“My mother, who was sick then, pleaded with me to stop; that my life would be ruined, and I promised her that I would stop. But I just said so, so that her health would not get worse if she got to know that I am a cultist.
“Unfortunately, she died and our neighbours took her to the cemetery for burial.
“My mother never took me and my brother to her people or my father’s side. We were alone, and two months later, the landlord asked us to move out. We started sleeping under the bridge or any place that homeless boys used to converge.
“In the morning, we would go and beg for money in the streets or do any casual job we could get. Luckily, one woman who heard our story decided to take my brother home as a house boy.
“I stayed back and was mixing with the boys when one popular guy known as Gbongbon, who normally gave me N500 every other day, asked me to follow him out.
That day, we snatched several bags and I was given N5,000. This was how I started till Gbongbon also started the ‘one chance’ business.
“I am one of those that would enter the car as soon as our target is in the car.
“It is Gbongbon who is the expert that makes arrangement for all the guns that we use during operations.
“We just use the gun to scare people, it does not even have a single bullet. I have sinned against God and man, please forgive me.
The third suspect,t Chisom Unaegbu, said: ” I am from Ehite Mbaise in Imo State, but I grew up in Rivers State.
“I am not a cultist, but my father abandoned me for reasons best known to him.
“We suffered a lot because the money my mother made as an auxiliary nurse was not enough to take care of three children.
“She asked me and my sister to drop out of school so that our elder brother could further his education. I learnt how to drive and gradually became a taxi driver.
“I was able to get a car on hire purchase and we agreed that I would be paying N5,000 a day.
“I was struggling to meet up with target when my friend Michael suggested a fast way out. He told me that my own role was to use my car and be the driver.
“We normally operate around Rummokuta between 8pm and 9.30pm, and even if we don’t make enough money, the agreement is that they must give me N5,000 so that I can pay my daily contribution.
“This was the only assurance that the car, which is a Toyota Camry, would be available. A lot of people enter private cars at that Rummokuta and they pay at least N150 per drop.
“Since I joined them in January, I have lost count of the number of people that we robbed. But I can assure you that we did not kill anyone.
“The gun is just meant to scare them to submit everything they have.
“I blame my father for my situation, because if he was not alive, it would be better than to watch me suffer and turn into a criminal.”
The fourth suspect, Micheal Matthew, said: ” We went for a birthday party and on our way back, we met a lot of young boys known to me and they were making mockery of me that I am not a member of any cult.
“I then decided to join them, and when I came home late, my mother checked my body and saw marks.
“It was common in our area so she knew what it was. She reported me to the community head and I joined others and ran away.
“That was how I ended up in the streets and had to survive.”