A suspected member of a robbery gang based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Junior Nmeni, has lamented that he had not made enough money from robberies before luck ran out on him.
Nmeni, who was a cleaner, claimed that he and his gang members had only been able to make N223,000 and get some phones from robbery operations he participated in.
The 28-year-old said he had hoped to make enough proceeds from the crime so that he could take care of his wife.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that the native of Umuechem community in the Etchie Local Government Area of Rivers State was apprehended a few weeks ago by operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team.
Six other members of the gang – a 25-year-old woman, Precious Okoye, aka Angel; Oliver Nwokocha; Emeka Iwuayawu; Victor Nwabusis; Sunny Nweke and Ezekiel Ishaya – were also arrested by the team led by DCP Abba Kyari.
It was gathered that the arrest followed a petition addressed to the police by the family of a golfer, Usman Zabadi, who was reportedly killed by the gang in his house on Poultry Road, Rukpokwu, Port Harcourt.
The suspects were said to have made away with some television sets, two mobile phones and an Automated Teller Machine card.
It was learnt that they later withdrew undisclosed sums of money using the ATM card which belonged to the deceased’s wife.
Our correspondent learnt that a team of detectives deployed to Port Harcourt busted the gang using the images generated from the CCTV at the ATM.
It was said that Nwokocha, who reportedly shot Zabadi dead, was arrested in the Iguruta area of Port Harcourt and led the operatives to apprehend other members, including Nmeni.
Speaking to Saturday PUNCH earlier in the week, Nmeni confessed to being a member of the gang, but said he did not participate in the robbery operation in which Zabadi was killed.
The expectant father said he went into robbery after he lost his job as a cleaner at the Port Harcourt International Airport.
He said, “I was a cleaner at the Port Harcourt International Airport where I earned N18,000 as salary. I joined the gang seven months ago because the company I worked for sacked me and things became very hard for me and my wife.
“There was a gun that belonged to my late elder brother. I found the gun in the ceiling of his apartment. There was a riot in Nwokocha’s community and I gave the gun to him. After the crisis, he used the gun to rob and he killed a man with it.
“He returned the gun and told me what he had done. I decided to join the gang. We robbed a man and a woman at Iguruta. We kidnapped the woman’s sister and I raped her. I kept her in my house for two days before Iwuayawu and I started demanding a ransom.
“We were paid N200,000 ransom and I got N23,000 as my share since we were six that did the job. The next operation I went for was at a hotel. Elvis (a gang member at large) brought one of the guns we used for the operation. It was Sunny, another member, who gave us information about the hotel. We got N21,000 from the hotel and three phones.”
Nmeni explained that his last operation with the gang was at the home of one Mr. Ogundun.
He said they were confronted by their victim which forced them to retreat, adding that he had not made enough money from “the business” before he was arrested.
“Elvis was the one who brought ‘the job’ but on the day we went to the man’s house, we didn’t succeed. The man had a gun and he shot at Nwokocha. We took the man’s motorcycle away.
“I hadn’t made much money from ‘the business’ (robbery) before I was arrested. I was hoping to raise enough money which I intended to use for my pregnant wife’s delivery,” Nmeni stated.
Nwokocha admitted shooting the golfer but claimed that he had no intention of killing him.
The 22-year-old, who is a native of the Echiche LGA of Rivers State, told our correspondent that he pulled the trigger after Zabadi put up a fight with him.
He said, “I started robbery in January 2018 after my uncle was killed by some people who wanted to take over our land in our community. The killing of my uncle led to a serious fight. I went to my friend, Nmeni, who had an automatic pump action. I borrowed the gun to fight our oppressors.
“When the fight ended, Iwuayawu, who was also my friend, called me and said Nmeni wanted us to go for a robbery with the gun. I took the guns to Iwuayawu and we met at Iguruta. He and two others – Ifeanyi and Victor – led me to a house in Rukpokwu, but while we were breaking into the house, the residents started shouting, Jesus, Jesus!
“We left there and went to another house. Ifeanyi broke into the house. The man (Zabadi) in that house ran into the kitchen and I followed him. He hit me with a gas cylinder and poured hot soup on me. I got angry and shot the man. I didn’t know he died; it was the police that told me that he died.”
He said he sold one of the phones stolen from Zabadi’s house, adding that a gang member, Emeka, took away one of the television sets.
Iwuayawu, 24, said he took to crime to raise money for the burial of his father and that of his grandmother.
The native of the Ugulabo Local Government Area, Imo State, said, “I am a primary school dropout. My father drove me out of the house when my mother left him. I went to Port Harcourt to look for job and when I couldn’t find any job, I started selling India hemp.
“My father was a native doctor. He didn’t bury his mother – my grandmother – before he died, leaving me with the burden of burying him and my grandmother.”
He said while he was trying to raise funds needed to bury his father and grandmother, he had a fight with a man in the Upper-Deck Area of Port Harcourt.
Iwuayawu stated that he was arrested, arraigned and remanded in prison custody where he spent six months before he was released.
“When I came out of the prison, a friend whom I met in the prison, Ifeanyi, and I started snatching people’s bags. I made some money from the robbery operations and I used it to bury my grandmother.
“I also joined Ifeanyi to carry out more robberies in order to raise money for the burial of my father,” he said.
He added that he gave one of the TV sets stolen from Zamadi’s residence to the female suspect, Okoye, who sold India hemp in the Rossons area of Port Harcourt.