Saturday, May 25, 2019

‘I went back into kidnapping to raise lawyer’s balance’

Seven months after he was released from prison custody in Port Harcourt, Rivers State over kidnapping, Sorbari Apollolos has found his way back to the place for the same offence.

Popularly known as Blackie among his gang members, Apollolos was recently arrested by the police for kidnapping a 67-year-old businesswoman identified only as Obianuju.

Apollolos and three other suspects, Daniel Johngbo, Harridon Barryira and Lebara Tobia, were apprehended at several locations in the state.

City Round learnt that Obianuju was returning home from a church in a Toyota Sienna on February 7, 2019, when the gun-wielding kidnappers ambushed her some metres away from her Rumuobiakani residence.

The suspects, some of whom were reportedly dressed in military camouflage, whisked the woman away in her vehicle.

They allegedly held her hostage in a forest for six days and collected millions of naira in ransom before she was released.

Punch correspondent learnt that the woman petitioned the acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, who directed the Intelligence Response Team of the Force to find the perpetrators of the crime.

IRT operatives tracked down Apollolos at his hideout in Kono-Bowe community in the Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State.

He was said to have confessed to the crime and given the police team information that led to the arrest of the three other members of the gang.

Speaking with City Round during the week, Apollolos noted that Obianuju’s kidnap was coordinated by one Gbenena, who is still at large, adding that he (Apollolos) got a share of N350,000 from the ransom.

Apollolos, who said he was in prison for offences bordering on kidnapping and cult-related activities, told our correspondent that he took to the crime again to raise money to settle a lawyer who facilitated his release from the prison.

He stated, “I am a member of De-Gbam cult. I was initiated in 2011 by one of my friends known as Tambake Tax, who is the unit head of the confraternity in my community. I was introduced to kidnapping by one Ayapsi, alias Gbenena, and one Gboma. We were all involved in the kidnapping of Mrs Obianuju. I did that ‘job’ because I needed money to balance my lawyer who helped to secure my release from the prison in September 2018. I was held for engaging in cult-related activities and kidnapping in March 2016.

“I approached Gbenena for financial assistance and offered him my farmland in exchange for the money but he refused. He said he had a kidnapping job that would be more profitable for me. On February 5, 2019, one of Gbenena’s friends, who had been monitoring our target (Obianuju), came to his house and told us that it was time to strike. Gbenena also informed us that he had made arrangements for an army uniform that would be used by the driver of our vehicle, Barriyra, to beat security checkpoints.

“On February 7, 2019, Gbenena invited me to his house and when I got there, I met Barriyra and Gboma’s brother, who was holding an army uniform. I also saw a Toyota Corolla, and two AK-47 rifles. Gbenena prayed for us at his shrine and we headed for Port Harcourt. I took one of the AK-47 rifles, while Gboma’s brother with the army uniform was armed with an English pistol.”

Apollolos said ransom negotiation and collection were carried out by Gbenena, noting that a resident of the area where Obianuju resides gave the “job” to the gang.

Recalling his kidnapping escapades, the 28-year-old man stated that he took to the crime in 2015 and participated in two operations before he was arrested in March 2016.

He said he got N150,000 share from N800,000 ransom they collected from the relatives of one of their victims whom they kidnapped in Nyorkwe community.

He added, “My gang members and I also did another kidnapping job in March 2016 at Ogboro village. We were four that went for the operation. We kidnapped the man from his pharmacy. He jumped out of the vehicle as we were approaching traffic around Wimpey Junction. All my gang members jumped out of the vehicle, but I was not lucky. Police arrested me and recovered an AK-47 rifle from me.

“I was taken to Kala Police Station before I was transferred to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, where I spent six months. I was charged to court and was in prison from March 2016 to September 2018, when my lawyer secured my release. My boss’ name is Solomon. He controls over 200 boys in his camp. He has over 30 AK-47 rifles and ammunition in his camp.”

In his confession, 20-year-old Johngbo said Gbenena engaged him to take care of Obianuju during her stay in captivity.

He said Obianuju prayed for him before she was freed and advised him to turn a new leaf.

He said, “I didn’t go out with the gang on the day they kidnapped the woman. The wife of our gang leader (Gbenena) gave me N1,500 to buy fried rice and chicken and Gbenena took me on his motorcycle to give the food to the woman in the camp. I spent the night there and the next day, Gbenena gave me N3,000 to buy an asthmatic drug for the woman.

“When I came back, the woman told me that my gang members had been beating her. Out of pity, I decided to stay in the camp so that they wouldn’t beat her again. On the third day, the woman prayed for me and promised to send me to school. She gave me the address of her church at Rumuomasi Market Junction and advised me to give my life to Jesus Christ.”

The driver, Barriyra, 33, said he met Apollolos and Gboma in January 2019 at Kono-Bowe community when he visited his wife, who hails from the village.

“We became friends afterwards. On February 7, 2019, they called to invite me for a job. Few days after the woman was kidnapped, Gbenena gave me N500,000 as my share of the ransom. He told me that N6m was paid as ransom,” he added.

One of them hit me on the forehead with a hammer. At that point, I informed them that my family could raise the N80m ransom they demanded and they opened negotiations with them.”