The family of Dr Smc Maduagwu, the Chief Accountant of an oil servicing firm in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, ran from pillar to post few months ago, searching for how to raise a ransom of N20m reportedly demanded by his captors. They had no faintest of hints that the company driver, Uchechukwu Ibekwe, was behind their ordeal.
Ibekwe had reportedly connived with a kidnap gang to abduct his boss for a ransom in February 2018. His grievance was that his boss, the accounts officer of Plantgeria Company Limited, refused to approve a loan he wanted to collect from the company.
City Round learnt that after the release of the victim, a petition was sent to the office of the Inspector-General of Police and the IGP Intelligence Response Team led by DCP Abba Kyari was directed to go after the suspects. It was gathered that the team, in the course of tracking the gang, established a link between the group and Ibekwe, leading to his arrest.
He was said to have confessed to the crime and led detectives to arrest some of his members including, one Tony Rafael, Nnaji Romanus and Nwobodo Uche who were apprehended in their hideouts in Rivers and Imo states. The leader of the gang, Christian Kenjika aka Schoolboy, who was also a cult member, was said to have been killed by a rival cult group.
Ibekwe explained that he had requested a loan from the company which he woul repay with his next salary. The 37-year-old native of Omodeme Community in the Ikwere Local Government Area of Rivers State, said he went to Maduagwu’s office to get the loan approved but the accountant turned down his request.
He said, “I am a driver at Plantgeria Company Limited and I was employed in 2007. I was transferred to Shell to work as a driver in 2017. I was recalled and posted to the head office of our company to work as a driver of an expatriate. In 2018, I applied for a loan from our company, requesting that my salary should be paid in advance. I met the Chief Accountant of our company to perfect the loan.
“He shouted at me and sent me out of his office. I left his office angrily and was thinking of how to deal with him. I got a call from a friend of mine known as Stanley, who is also from my community but was into armed robbery and kidnapping. I related what happened between the Chief Accountant and he suggested we should kidnap him (Maduagwu) or any of the expatriates. I chose the accountant and gave him information about the man.”
Ibekwe, a father of three, said Maduagwu was returning home from office when he alerted Stanley and Uche who kidnapped him. He said he was given N800,000 as his share of the ransom, the sum of which he claimed he didn’t know, adding that he bought a Nissan Primera with the money.
“I was with my wife at home when the police came and arrested me. I have told the police all I knew about the kidnapping and I also told them that I have never gone out with the gang to carry out any form of kidnapping or armed robbery,” he stated.
Uche, 38, said he was a farmer but he went broke at a time his wife was down with an ailment. He said he joined the gang to raise N200,000 for the treatment of his wife. He stated that he approached Schoolboy, who gave him N100,000 and asked him to monitor the accountant’s movement in exchange for the gesture.
“I monitored the man for one month. On the day we wanted to kidnap the man, I followed him when he left his office on a motorbike and when he got to Oil Mill junction, Schoolboy and his other gang members in police and military uniforms, fully armed, accosted him with their Toyota Hilux and took him away,” Uche revealed.
The father of five said Maduagwu was taken to his farm where he was kept while the ransom negotiation went on. He explained that two weeks later, the ringleader told him that a ransom of N10m was paid and he gave him another N100,000 to pay his wife’s medical bill.
Uche stated, “He took me and others that took part in the operation to the home of a native doctor known as Romanus Nnaji and he started sharing the money. He gave me N1.5m to give Ibekwe and Stanley. He also gave me N500,000 as my own share. Few months after, I got a call that my brother has been arrested by the police over the kidnapping of the accountant and that the actual amount that was paid as ransom was N20m. I felt bad that Schoolboy cheated every one of us by declaring N10m.
“I didn’t say anything at that time because the police were looking for me. I went to a church in Akwa Ibom to ask God for forgiveness. The policemen trailed me to the church but luckily for me I was in the church toilet when I saw the police van and I fled into the bush.”
He said he later met with Schoolboy, asking him for part of the undeclared N10m so he could use it to process a visa and travel out of the country. Uche claimed that the gang leader declined, which prompted him to set him up for members of a rival cult, De-Gbam, who beheaded him. “I was later arrested in June 2019 by the operatives in Orlu, Imo State,” he added.
Romanus, the 50-year-old native doctor from Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State, said he was paid N200,000 to administer oaths on members of the gang, adding that he got N50,000 from the ransom.