- Inside story of the rise and fall of Ejima Igwedibia (alias Don Waney), the Rivers State-based oil bunkerer, cult leader, serial killer and kidnap kingpin
- How he made N20m a day from crude oil sale
Tony John, Port Harcourt
Don Waney’s name evokes the same fear that the mention of the names of Oyenusi, Anini, Osisikankwu, and lately, Evans, used to elicit in the minds of people. While he lived, he was the lord of the manor who dared to walk where angels feared to tread.
It is not every time that you see or hear of bullet-riddled bodies of a big-time criminal being displayed like a trophy, for the viewing of members of the public. But Waney’s own and two of his crime partners had to be displayed recently by men and officers of the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, ostensibly in a bid to reassure the public that there is no more cause for alarm over the trajectory their criminal activities had assumed.
Long before the 34-year-old kidnap kingpin from Ogba/Egbema /Ndoni Local Government Area, ONELGA of Rivers State, became something of an unmitigated menace to the society, he used to be known as Ejima (Twin) Igwedibia (a name which translates as “Strong Native Doctor”).
Dimension/trajectory of his criminal activities
Waney, a member of a Niger Delta militant group in the Orashi region of the state, used to be a hitman of Chiboy (one-time leader of Orashi Marine) in Ahoada East Local Government Area. Sources said he became very powerful after masterminding the murder of the Orashi region militant leader, Chiboy, in a fiendish powerplay.
At 26 years, he later took over the entire structure of the militant group and began to run its affairs from his Aligu village. With time, he became very popular and extremely powerful. He demanded and got the loyalty of almost everyone: traditional rulers, religious leaders, youth groups, politicians and multinational oil companies.
Accusing fingers pointed at him as the mastermind of the killings, kidnappings and beheadings that went on daily in the Orashi region, a that worsened during the 2015 general elections. When in 2016 he reportedly accepted an offer of amnesty from the state government, Don Waney had debunked all the allegations of killing, kidnapping, pipeline vandalism, cultism and oil-bunkering carried out on the area levelled against him. He had in turn accused multinational oil firms operating in ONELGA of being behind the security challenges experienced by the public. He also accused politicians of causing stunted development in the council. And he pledged to work with the government if it (government) would be sincere.
He (together with his gang) was among the militants and cultists that accepted the state government amnesty. Shortly after doing so, he was conferred with a chieftaincy title. And, indeed, for some months, he seemed to have truly sheathed his sword of killings and sundry atrocities. For instance, when in 2017 his mother was abducted and later freed after some days, he vowed that no amount of temptation by his opponents would make him return to his old ways.
Bio-data of the crime kingpin
The man whose real name is Prince Ejima Igwedibia was born in 1983 the first child of the family of Igwedibia in Aligu Community of Omoku, headquarters of Ogba /Egbema /Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA). One of his siblings, a younger brother, is also a member of his gang, a deadly fellow who goes by the name “Obataosu” (literarily translated as “one who causes trouble the moment he walks into a gathering or scene”).
Waney, once a student of Community Secondary School, Obigwe in ONELGA, dropped out in Class 3. Thereafter, he followed the path and to mix up with bad gangs.
Sources of mystical power
Saturday Sun learnt of the strained relationship between Don Waney and his father. It was common knowledge in the community that the reason for the discord was his father’s refusal to support his nefarious activities.
In contrast, the same cannot be said of his mother, who, as the rumour goes, introduced him to witchcraft and approved of his criminal venture, her support so absolute she not only lived with him in his mansion but also took charge of the gang’s shopping. Multiple sources claimed she used to buy foodstuffs and needful items for the gang and always went about accompanied by heavily armed men. She lived with him until the military raid on the camp on Tuesday, November 17, 2017.
Sources claimed the ‘prince’ attached to his name did not mean he was from a royal family. Rather, the appellate came from his notoriety as a gang leader.
Involvement with bad groups, and operations
After abandoning school and education, Don Waney started his crime career with domestic stealing.
Thereafter, he joined cult groups and quickly rose through the ranks courtesy of his viciousness. He graduated from cultism to kidnapping and later became the leader of a gang of kidnappers, the notorious Iceland cult. At a point, politicians became interested in him and he was hired, from time to time for dirty jobs, by the highest bidder.
Investigations showed that while he worked in cahoots with unscrupulous politicians, his main job remained kidnapping, bunkering and dealings with multinational oil firms in the local government area.
Waney operated like a true gang leader. His gang often dressed in military camouflages, making it almost difficult for a novice to distinguish the difference between them and regular troops of the Nigerian Army. The major difference was in the insignia on their red berets––two guns crossed at a point with a human skull at the centre. Their stronghold was the Orashi River. Some time ago, he told journalists his main camp was across the Orashi River.
How he made his money
While he was alive, he was patronised by multinational oil companies and politicians. Notwithstanding, several sources agreed that he made the bulk of his money from kidnapping long ago before finding his way into the plum niche of multinational oil companies.
From one of the oil companies in the area, he got steady incentives like employment slots, contracts and pipeline surveillance. At a point, he went into crude oil bunkering, and reportedly made a lot of money running into millions of dollars. That made him not only stupendously rich but also influential.
In the course of time, he became lawless. With the huge chest of money at his disposal, he was able to buy the loyalty of some members of Nigerian security agencies.
Several sources alleged that security agencies gave him coverage in his bunkering business. His romance with security agents yielded millions of naira, with a significant portion of his plunder dispensed as largesse that oiled the protection machinery.
“He became untouchable based on the huge amount of money he made from bunkering and kidnapping,” a source told Saturday Sun. “He was a warlord.”
According to some residents of Omoku and neighbouring communities, Waney’s reign of terror lasted for approximately seven years.
Marriage and family life
Saturday Sun gathered that the slain kingpin had two young wives; the first wife, from Omoku, the daughter of a third-class traditional ruler; the second wife, an Igbo and an undergraduate, who lived in Dubai with her two children.
A raid and its repercussion
On Tuesday, November 21, 2017, the Nigerian Army raided his palatial home, following the murder of some members of ONELGA Security, Peace and Advisory Committee (OSPAC) by his gang, in a deadly gunfight. Then General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division Port Harcourt, Major General Eneobong Udoh, accompanied by other security chiefs, conducted selected journalists round the Waney den, located in Aligu community.
The compound had two steel gates. It took an armoured tank and bulldozers to break them. On the fence of the compound were four dwarf gates that served dual purposes as lookout points and escape routes. One of the exit gates led directly to the Orashi River, where speedboats were on standby to ferry Waney and his gang members away in times of trouble. Deadly German Shepherd dogs––most of them were killed during the raid––also formed part of his security.
His home was a nest of luxury––mini football pitch, lawn tennis and basketball courts, Olympic-size swimming pool, a warehouse of a large amount of foodstuffs and assorted alcoholic drinks, mostly beer.
There was, however, a dark side to the palatial home that had a functional fountain, that was a five feet tall double-headed lion statue. During the demolition, human skeletons were unearthed from beneath the edifice. A shrine outside the building was surrounded by shallow graves that harboured decomposing human corpses that were exhumed for journalists to see. Eleven human skulls were recovered from the shrine.
Other items included assorted weapons, dynamites, bags of cannabis, military camouflage uniforms, boots and radio communication gadgets.
After the raid, the people of Omoku took to the streets in jubilation for the liberation of the town from the stranglehold of Dagon. They mistakenly assumed him to be dead. The joy was short-lived.
The sequence of the event did not go down well with Don Waney and his gang, and this according to the Nigerian Army, was what led to the bloodshed that ended in the massacre of 22 innocent individuals on New Year’s Eve. The victims––old, young, male and female––all dispatched by bullets as they returned home after the watch night service.
Don Waney’s last statement
Five days after the carnage, Don Waney spoke from his hideout, denying links to the massacre: “I have been complaining about what the Local Government Chairman is doing in ONELGA. He is recruiting cult boys to join OSPAC so that they can kill other cult people.
“Many times, they had provoked me. They kidnapped my mother and later went about killing my boys, one by one. I notified the police about what they were doing to me. I told them that I have embraced the amnesty but OSPAC people are still treating me like a cultist. They even came to my house and shot at me. They thought I was dead. But, I surprised them, because, like Jesus Christ, I have resurrected again. Nobody can kill me.”
Those were said to be his last words before he was killed alongside two others in a suburb of Enugu.
A statement from the Army gave a blow-by-blow account of his Waterloo. “The authorities of 6 Division Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt wish to inform the peace-loving people of Omoku in ONELGA in particular, Rivers State and, indeed, the entire good people of Niger Delta, that the notorious cult leader, kidnap kingpin and mass murderer, Don Waney is dead. Intense surveillance activities on him and his gang by the Department of State Services (DSS) Rivers State Command, revealed that after committing these atrocities he relocated to a neighbourhood within Enugu Town, in Enugu State, where he rented an apartment and started living among unsuspecting neighbours within the community.
“From the relative safety of his newly-rented apartment, Don Waney was already perfecting plans to wrought another mayhem in Omoku in which he was to attack churches, schools, Army and Police locations and the residence of the generality of the already traumatized people of Omoku.
“However, following a successful location of his new Enugu neighbourhood hideout by the DSS Rivers State Command, a combined team of troops of 82 Division, Nigerian Army, Enugu, and personnel of DSS Rivers State Command raided the hideout to arrest him and his other accomplices.
“Incidentally, on sensing that the combined team were closing in on his residence, Don Waney, his second-in-command (Ikechukwu Adiele) and another gang member (Lucky Ode) attempted to escape through the back exit of the apartment and were shot down by the eagle-eyed troops in the process. One of them died on the spot while the other two who sustained gunshot wounds eventually died while being evacuated for medical attention.”
On Tuesday, January 9, 2018, his multi-million naira estate was demolished on the orders of the Federal Government. The demolition started in the morning and ended before noon, the operation carried out by heavily-armed security operatives. The estate, located in a lush part of Aligu community, had eight fully furnished and lavishly built bungalows and a mansion sitting atop ten plots of land. Visitors would have to cross four major checkpoints manned by heavily armed men before getting to the main building. Each of the checkpoints is manned by soldiers standing or sitting behind General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG) and hidden away by bags of sand used as barricades, from the view of passersby and onlookers.
He is said to have property also Enugu, Calabar, Asaba and in Dubai.
Rivers Govt. identifies corpse
Special Adviser to Governor Nyesom Wike on Amnesty Matters, Sir Ken Chinda, visited the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, during the display of the remains of the criminals for public view. Chinda, who chaired the State Amnesty programme that promised amnesty for the warlord and his boys on October 5, 2016, regretted that Waney acted the part of the proverbial stubborn fly that followed the corpse to the grave.
“When we had the interface, we told them that the amnesty is not a cover; that, if they go against the terms of the amnesty, they will face the law,” Chinda said. “We are happy and commend the gallantry Army and its sister agencies. Nobody, who has accepted amnesty, should go back to crime. We will continue to have zero tolerance for criminality and cultism. With the development, there will be total peace in ONELGA now.”
Role of local vigilance group, OSPAC
ONELGA Security, Peace and Advisory Committee (OSPAC), played a pivotal role in bringing down Don Waney. The local vigilance group, the brainchild of the council’s caretaker committee chairman, Barr. Osi Olisa was set up to tackle security challenges, which had overwhelmed the LGA for several years.
Saturday Sun learnt that some members of the group were former members of Don Waney’s gang and as such, were able to confront him because they knew how notorious he was.
Don Waney, had tried to eliminate the threat posed by the vigilance group, by waging an incessant war against the outfit, had some of its members killed at will and once launched a personal attack on Olisa.
OSPAC, led by Maxwell Ahiakwo, an “Associate Professor of Mysticism” launched an audacious counterattack against Don Waney on November 19, 2017, in conjunction with personnel of the Joint Military Task Force and the Department of State Service (DSS). Like a ghost that defies death, Waney escaped the attack though with bullet wounds while 11 members of his gang were killed in the ensued fierce gun battle.
The army took over his property after the raid.
Reaction of a bereaved husband
His death continues to evoke a sigh of relief from relatives of the New Year killings. While his death cannot bring back to life scores of victims he dispatched to their early graves, their relatives are nonetheless happy all the same, if not for anything but for the end of his inglorious reign.
Bright Nwokocha, who lost his wife, Joy, in the 2018 New Year massacre is still brimming with resentment. “They killed my wife and shot my daughter and they thought it will be well with them?” he asked rhetorically. “Their punishment has just begun. We all need peace and God will ensure that the blood of my wife and those of other innocent persons murdered are accounted for and bring peace to ONELGA.”
Return home, ONELGA boss begs fleeing indigenes
The caretaker chairman of ONELGA, Barr. Olisa in an interview with Saturday Sun implored natives who had fled their homes in terror to return home.
“What has happened is a demonstration of the commitment of the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, to the security of the state,” he insisted “With the killing of the cultist, we can now face development. The people of Omoku are now celebrating.”
He went on: “The major challenge we are facing outside this insecurity (which has been taken care of) is the issue of unemployment. When youths are not engaged they join cults, that is what resulted in the challenge we had. We will work to remove the youths from the streets so we will not go back to this situation.”
Olisa also disclosed that OSPAC, would be reformed, adding that the main cause of security lapses in the locale has been exterminated. “OSPAC is part of the society and it has to grow along. But, it will be reformed. We will not remove it because we want to make ONELGA safe”, he added.
Some ONELGA members who spoke to Saturday Sun, with a strict request not to have their names mentioned, observed that the late terror king made a fortune out of his criminal activities.
Obi Nelson, a peace advocate gave a fuller portrait of the fallen criminal. His summation of the “Rise and Fall of Don Waney” attributed reign to the roaring success of his criminal venture, the reason many boys, who did not have a job, quickly keyed into his criminal activities of kidnapping, oil bunkering and sundry violent crimes.
Waney at his peak commanded numerous combatant “soldiers” armed with sophisticated arms and ammunition who could carry out heinous and devastating operations and go scot-free, Nelson said.
Nelson unravelled the conundrum further, with a claim that late kingpin once told him the source of his Don Waney nickname: a Jamaican action movie.
“Aside the two goons gunned down alongside him, his other henchmen in Don Waney’s barrack, have been declared wanted as we speak.”
Nelson warned that the deadliest member of the gang is still at large: Waney’s immediate younger brother, popularly known as Obataosu.
“He knows quite well where they prepare their jazz (charms), the things used and how to go about the things needed for sacrifice,” said Nelson.
According to him and other sources, Obataosu was the coordinator of the New Year Eve massacre across four communities in Omoku and its environs. Obataosu was aided in the crossover attack by King Kong, another dreaded member of the gang, who was shot dead in the Army-DSS joint operation.
Speaking further, Nelson said Don Waney went after political enemies, irrespective of party affiliation, especially those troubling or disobeying his orders. “He single-handedly chose who became youth leader or Community Development Committee Chairman, within and outside Omoku. Prominent politicians who could not withstand him fled Omoku and the LGA. Those who could dance to his tune stayed.
“Don Waney is a real don, a traditional ruler for that matter. In fact, he had already been given the title before he was said to have embraced the state government amnesty. His title was “Eze Onyirimba I” of Ogbaland. That title was given to him in 2016, not without regard to his antecedents.
“While alive, he made millions of naira daily from multinational oil companies, from oil bunkering and was heavily being protected by security agencies. His products were sold to many filling stations. He made close to N20 million daily from oil bunkering. The kind of mayhem he perpetrated in ONELGA can never be healed because of most of the important persons he eliminated. He sent many families into perpetual hardship. So how can the wounds be healed?”