Police bust 13-man deadly criminal gang led by soldiers in Rivers

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The 13-man gang of robbery led by soldiers arrested in Rivers

..Soldiers abandoned duty posts to steal trailer loads of goods in Rivers

By Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt

Soldiers and an operative of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC were the leaders of a 13-man gag that specializes in hijacking and diversion of trailers loaded with goods as well as robbery recently arrested by the police in Rivers

Spokesperson of Rivers Police Command, SP Grace Iringe-Koko in a statement on Monday said the dismantling of the criminal gang began on March 4, 2024, at approximately 11 pm when police received a distress call about burglars who were attempting to vandalize warehouses in Elimgbu area of Port Harcourt owned by Mr. Emmanuel Nwangwu and Mrs. Ndifreke Ekanem.

She added that Police promptly mobilized to the scene and arrested five suspects who had been severely beaten by a mob.

“During the investigation, it was discovered that one of the suspects, West Isaac (08NA/61/2653), was a Corporal in the Nigerian Army serving in Delta State.

Another suspect, Jabila Kammangar, also known as ‘Kaka,’ was an officer of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps serving in Kabba, Kogi State. They confessed to abandoning their posts to engage in criminal activities in Rivers State due to its lucrativeness”.

According to the police spokesperson, further investigations revealed that Corporal West, a 36-year-old father of four from Buguma, Rivers State, joined the Army in 2008 and was assigned to the 3rd Battalion in Warri.

“He left his base on a sick pass and failed to return even after it expired, remaining absent for over a month until his arrest. West disclosed to the police that he met Kaka while serving in the Army’s Anti-Bunkering Unit, and together, they engaged in several illegal activities.

“He further revealed that he came to Port Harcourt after receiving a call from Kaka about raiding warehouses, which led to their capture.

Police also said further investigations revealed that they were part of a larger criminal ring specializing in armed robbery, hijacking, and goods diversion.

“Corporal West disclosed to the police that he and other Army personnel had been key players in the group. Besides ransacking warehouses, they had a network of informants who provided information about the schedules of goods-bearing trailers.

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“They would then dress in full military gear, lay in wait for the trailers, and accost them with a white Hilux van as they approached. They would intimidate the drivers, assault them, and hand their keys to designated drivers, who would then divert the trailers to waiting receivers.

Police also said “based on his confessional statement, the police were able to track down and arrest Lance Corporal Abdul Musa (13NA/70/10545), Lance Corporal Mgbe Jeoffrey (16NA/75/6896), and Corporal Innocent Okwoli (12NA/68/6552), all personnel of the Nigerian Army”.

Additionally, eight civilian collaborators in the syndicate were arrested: Olisa Emeka, George Obilor, Sampson Wilson, Alfred Abeke, Barry John, Auwalu Aliyu, Uchenna Nwali, and Alhaji Sofinu Haruna.

“The group’s key coordinator was Corporal Innocent Okwoli, a native of Otakpo in Benue State and a soldier stationed at Intels in Onne. Okwoli stated that he started leading hijacking operations after being introduced to the activity by an individual named Abbas and two unnamed Naval officers. Following a successful operation, he formed his team.

“Their numerous crimes include:

“• The hijacking of a trailer loaded with fertiliser valued at N25 million, owned by Alhaji Sadiq Adams on February 17, 2024.

” On March 4, 2024, the group attempted to burgle warehouses owned by Emmanuel Nwagwu and Ndifreke Ekanem.

” In February 2024, a 40-foot container filled with imported clothing from China was hijacked and diverted.

” In February 2024, a trailer carrying POP cement was hijacked and diverted. The police have since recovered the stolen POP cement and are working to retrieve a trailer load of fertiliser from its receiver. Additionally, a white Toyota Hilux used in the gang’s operations has been recovered from the NSCDC officer”.

Three of the affected soldiers have been dismissed by the Nigerian Army after being handed over by the police.

Meanwhile, Rivers State Commissioner of Police, CP Olatunji Disu, expressed his profound appreciation for the swift and decisive cooperation of the military authorities. He lauded their prompt actions in addressing the involved officers’ misconduct and subsequent handover to the police for prosecution.

CP Disu emphasised that this collaborative effort underscores a strong commitment to upholding justice and maintaining public trust in law enforcement institutions. He praised the police officers involved in the arrest and urged them to remain vigilant.

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