Detectives rounded him up with the kidnap gang. During interrogation, suspects named Vonu as their source of information regarding who to kidnap in the area

Chioma Igbokwe

To many who knew him, Zigabari Vonu was a harmless fellow. Though, a school dropout and prone to changing work, he was known to be an industrious employee. That view however changed on November 16, 2018, when it emerged that he had been in cahoots with criminals and had been running a racket of supplying lists of influential persons in Rivers State to professional kidnappers who abducted victims and in turn paid him a percentage of the ransom.

Ondo police arrest 2 suspected kidnappers, discover den

His heinous act was exposed after one of his victims, a Customs officer named Justina was abducted on November 11, but the crime was busted five days later by operatives of Intelligence Response Team, IRT.

According to an eyewitness account, a five-man gang kidnapped the victim at a restaurant in Eleme, Port Harcourt, where she was a regular customer. After the abduction––and indeed, over the next few days––no one suspected that Vonu, a waiter in the restaurant, was the brain behind the act. He allegedly arranged with the kidnappers to rough-handle himso as to divert detectives’ attention from him as a suspect should they decide to investigate.

Unfortunately for him, detectives assigned to the case rounded him up with the kidnap gang. It was during interrogation, that the suspects named Vonu as their main source of information regarding whom to kidnap in the area.

As police investigation later revealed, Vonu, had worked in several places in Rivers State, either as a sales boy or a waiter. But in all the places that he had worked, he had always compiled names of wealthy individuals he knew there, and as soon as he was done, he either resigned or caused his employers to sack him. Thereafter, he would turn over his lists to willing kidnap or armed robbery gangs.

His confession

During interrogation at the police station, Vonu, a native of Ogubulo in Rivers State, alleged that his fellow cult members lured him into crime.

“My father abandoned us for another woman. My mother did her best to ensure that all her children went to school, but I had to drop out of school because I found it difficult to understand what I was taught in class. My performance was so bad that our principal recommended that I should drop out. Before then, I had been initiated into a secret cult known as De-gbam. I joined them for the fun of it and to avoid being bullied on the street.

“When I started working as a sales boy, some of my cult members would visit my shop and ask for things on credit. When I refused, they would threaten to rob the shop. I try to dissuade them, but they would still come.

“Initially, I refused to collect anything from them as my share until I realized they were using me to get information. I thought it was easier to become an informant because the offence is lighter and that the court will grant me bail. All I usually do was to give information about a target while they handled the execution.”

Related News

On the crime that led to his recent arrest, Vonu told the police that after resigning from a sales boy job in December 2017, he started working for one Mrs Comfort as a waiter in her restaurant and bar.

“She was paying me N10,000 a month and also giving me lunch and dinner every day. I was satisfied because I normally make extra money from tips that customers give me. Sometime in October, an old friend of mine, known as Bobsky came to the bar and ordered beer and meat. After serving him, he bought a bottle of beer for me. When I went to thank him, he told me he was making plans to kidnap my boss. I pleaded with him to leave my boss alone because I was satisfied with the way she treated me.

“He insisted and said that if I try to stop him, he will kill me. A week later, he came back to inform me of the date he intends to pick my boss. We were arguing when a woman who is our regular customer walked into the restaurant. To save my boss from being kidnapped, I told Bobsky that the woman is regular and very rich. I promised to give him all the information that he needed as long as he would not kidnap my boss.

“As agreed on November 11, 2018, Bobsky and his gang stormed the restaurant at the exact time the woman normally comes to eat. They wore masks and asked us to lie flat on the ground while they dragged the woman away, because I knew that police would surely arrest me during investigation, I threw a bottle at them––just as we agreed in the plan––and they came back and gave me the beating of my life.

“The beating was one of the reasons police released me after they arrested everybody working at the restaurant,” he said.

A week later, he received his share of the ransom.

“Bobsky called and said that the Customs woman paid N3.5 million. My share was N500, 000. I wanted to resign but Bobsky encouraged me to remain there, that he will be paying me more money to work for that woman, while in return, I will alert him if there is any rich regular customer that they can pick along the road. I had made a list of some other customers when the police arrested me. It was at the police station that I realized that they actually collected N5 million from the woman.”

Victim’s recount

Grateful to God for her safe return from kidnappers’ den, Justina, an Assistant Controller of Customs, said she was blindfolded and taken into a forest where she spent five days.

“I was in the restaurant with a friend. I was about to pay for the food when four armed men approached me. They overpowered everybody and dragged me into their car. They blindfolded me. They kept saying they were paid to kill me. They drove for about 30 minutes until their car got stuck in the mud. They started panicking and said that I was with charms. They searched my entire body and managed to drag the vehicle out of the mud. We all boarded the car again and in less than a minute it got stuck again. They decided to use their motorcycle to carry me to their hideout.

“They searched my bag, took N26, 000 and shared it amongst themselves. They took my wristwatch and ATM cards. They withdrew all the money in my various accounts.

They later contacted my family and demanded N20 million. After a rigorous negotiation with my family and friends, they were given N5 million on the fifth day. I was lucky that they did not rape me; I was only slapped when their vehicle was stuck in the mud,” she narrated.

Badeh: Abductors free farm manager after collecting N3m ransom