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Israel Ekwuruibe is a devout catholic. Aside attending church regularly, he was a member of the choir at St. Theresa Catholic Church, Finima in Bonny, Rivers State.
On Sunday, September 29, he went to church and sat on the choir pew, using his baritone voice to sing praises to God.
But deep within him was a sinister plan that had been conceived along with five others to kidnap the little son of a church member for a ransom. As soon as he sighted the car of their target, Israel made a sign to other gang members who were also within the church building, pretending to be genuine worshippers. The other suspects were Ifeanyi who was said to have formed the gang, Godswill Bernard, Loveday Anakwuru, Ogechi Nwosu (also a church member) and Odinaka Gabriel.
Before anyone knew what was happening, little James (not real name) was nowhere to be found. Israel and other gang members found their way out of the church but it did not take long before their evil deed became exposed. They were picked one by one in Finima. The leader, who had gone as far as Akwa Ibom State with the child, was apprehended along the way by the military joint task force before any ransom could be collected.
This was how the Rivers State Police Command recently thwarted the plans of a kidnap gang, which thought it would make cool millions from a staff of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Bonny (names withheld) by kidnapping his three-year-old son.
Crime Reports gathered that the kidnapped boy’s father reported at the Finima Division that he could not find his three-year-old son while in church. At about 3.45p.m., the man was said to have returned to the station, saying that someone called him with number 07010806571 and demanded for N15million as ransom. The Divisional Police Officer in charge of the division, Mohammed Suleiman Baba, a Superintendent of Police, reportedly swung into action while asking the man to play along by saying that he only had N50,000.
The Commissioner of Police, Mbu Joseph Mbu reportedly put the entire command at alert while the anti-kidnapping section of the command also went to work. At about 7.30p.m., Crime Reports learnt that operatives from Finima Division, assisted by the Finima Youth Congress, arrested Loveday, Godswill and Odinaka based on suspicion that they knew something about the kidnap.
Police investigation eventually revealed that Ifeanyi was the gang leader.
However, a joint task force of the Army and the police intercepted and arrested him along Akwa-Ibom-Port Harcourt road and rescued the child from him.
It was said that police investigations also revealed that Israel and Ogechi were the ones who brought the idea of kidnapping the son of the LNG staff who attended the same church with them.
In an interview with Crime Reports, Godswill Bernard (20), from Akwa Ibom State, said the kidnap idea was sold to him by Ifeanyi who was a fellow okada rider. According to Godswill, “I never knew he was involved in kidnapping. He started talking to me, saying that God would use the rich to bless the poor if they do not realise that what they are doing is bad. He promised to help me. I didn’t understand the meaning then.
“In September, Ifeanyi told me that I would soon understand all he was telling me in parables. One day, he invited me to a gathering and introduced me to Israel, one of the six men he was discussing with. Israel was a member of St. Theresa Catholic Church, Finima. They were all speaking Igbo. It was that night that I knew Ifeanyi was planning kidnapping.
“On Sunday, September 29, we went to the church. I was told that a girl who is a member of the church would bring a young boy out. Israel was in the church. I didn’t know when Ifeanyi’s girlfriend, Chukwuodi, carried the boy but immediately I saw the child’s mother looking for him, I knew our gang had struck.”
In his own words, Odinaka (22) from Abia State, a father of three children, said “I had never been involved in kidnapping. This is my first time. It was because there was nothing to do except the okada job. I am an orphan and have no one to take care of me.
I was invited to Israel’s house one day by fellow okada riders and they started discussing about the issue. Though I sat with them, I didn’t show interest. I did not even follow them but I was told that I would be given something if they could get a ransom.”
Ogechi (26) also disclosed that “Israel had once called me to introduce the idea of kidnapping a church member’s child but I told him I could not do it. This time, he called me again and said I should join them, telling me that he did not like the job I was doing. I replied him that I was not complaining.
“He said that I would help them carry the child out since children in the church are close to me. I told him I could not do it because people would have noticed the child with me. He volunteered to do it but Ifeanyi said he could not do it, promising to bring his girlfriend to do the job.
“I didn’t tell the church authorities because they were threatening me and I was so scared. That was where I displayed foolishness. I was not the one who gave them the child.”
On his involvement, Israel Ekwuruibe (30), also an okada rider, said “I was among the gang but they had already planned the job. Ifeanyi, Odinaka, Loveday and Godswill came to me before I introduced Ogechi to them.
“On the day we carried out the job, I was on the choir stand and I attended both first and second services. I didn’t know who actually brought the child out but it was Ogechi who described the vehicle that the parents of our target used to bring to church. When they came, I was the one who pointed the vehicle to Godswill. I was in my house when police came to arrest me later.”
Also, Loveday Anakwuru (25) told Crime Reports: “I am also a member of the church. It was not my intention to join in evil plan but I did so out of frustration. I am an orphan and there was nobody to help me.”
Confirming the arrest, the Police Public Relations Officer in Rivers State, Lawan Usman, told Crime Reports that the suspects were still being investigated. He attributed the success of the police in rescuing the kidnapped victim to prompt report made by the father.