By Joy Joseph
A former staff of Zenith Bank Plc, Owes Okpala, has been arrested for masterminding the kidnap of three managers of the bank in Delta state, and receiving ransom in foreign currencies valued over N50million.
Okpala who was arrested with four other members of his gang, undertook the kidnaps between October 2020 and Febryaray 2021.
He however resigned as a driver in the bank in January, on grounds that he had gotten a better employment offer elsewhere.
Daily Times reports that Okpala, a graduate of Oghara polytechnic was arrested by operatives of the Force Intelligence Response Team (IRT), in Delta state, following complaints from one their victims, Daniel Imani, the Zenith Bank Manager of Warri Urobo College Branch.
Imani said he was abducted on his way home by members of the gang on October 5, 2020 and a ransom of N15million was paid for his release.
A police source disclosed that after Imani was kidnapped and released, members of the gang, went on to kidnap, two other managers of the bank, identified simply as Mrs. Zowa, a manager of the Ogonu Warri, branch and one Mrs, Isioma the manager of the Effurun branch.
Preliminary investigation revealed that a total sum of N35million was paid to the kidnappers as ransom in foreign currencies before the two victims were released.
While the identifies of the other suspects were given as Lawrence Kevwe Egagah, Dominic Victor, Usobotie Sylvester and Alex Okoun, investigation has it that the gang members were also involved in armed robbery and oil pipeline vandalism.
Speaking on how he was arrested, Okpala, who hails from Ubogo Community in Udu Local Government Area of Delta State said: “I was working in Zenith Bank Ogonu branches as a driver, but I resigned from the job in January, 2021.
I was arrested because I masterminded the kidnappings of three of colleagues. My gang members were Victor, Kevwe but I did not know the remaining persons.
“I was the person that brought the three kidnapping jobs that involve Zenith Bank staffs. The first was Daniel, I monitored his movements and I gave out his location to my gang members.
Daniel is the Zenith bank manager of Urobo College in Warri and we kidnapped him sometime in the month of October, 2020.
He was kept in our custody for one week but I do not know who negotiated the ransom. I also do not know how much was paid as ransom but the ransom was paid in dollars and my own share was given to me in dollars.
“When I converted it to naira, it was N2.5million. The second kidnapping was that of a woman, Mrs. Zowa a staff of Zenith bank in Ogonu Branch, Warri. I was the person that gave out information about the woman to my gang members.
I cannot remember the exact month that we kidnapped her, but it was Victor and I that planned the operation. Victor also brought two other boys for the job and we kidnapped the woman along PTI junction, Warri.
Victor was also the person who negotiated for the ransom and I do not know the exact amount that was paid, but the money came in dollars.
“I still got the sum of N2.5million as my own share of the ransom. The third kidnapping that I carried out with my gang members was that of Mrs. Isioma, also a manager of Zenith bank, Effurun Branch.
I was still the person that arranged the kidnapping and Victor kept Mrs. Isioma in his house. This time,I was part of the ransom negotiation. We agreed on N20million and I got N10million as my share.
“I used my Toyota Corolla car to go and pick up the ransom, and that was my last kidnapping operation before I was arrested.”
Dominic Victor, who claims to be a native of Oghara area of Sapelle Local Government Area of Delta State, narrates how the gang operates.
He said: “We are five in number in our kidnapping gang, we usually use one pump action gun loaded with live cartridges and an AK47 riffle loaded with one magazine containing 10 -15 five ammunition.
We also use Mercedes C-Class black in color and tinted and Mercedes E-Class car. Both cars belong to Kevwe and I. my kidnapping gang members include Okpala, Kevwe, Chuks, Didi and Lucky.
“ Our modus operandi is that one of our member, Okpala, usually brings the job. So far, I have carried out three different kidnapping within between October 2020 and February 2021.
I got N1.6mllion from the first kidnapping, I got N1.6million for the second ransom. I used part of the money to pay debt. Apart from kidnapping I have also been involved in armed robbery activities within Ondo State and other South West States.
“It was Kevwe and one Monday now late that usually organized the armed robbery operations. we usually arm ourselves with guns and cutlass and our targets were motorists. I am also involved in Cyber-crime.”
While also making confessional statement, Kevwe, a native of Ekrami Community in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State said he was shot on the leg when he tried to escape when the police came for him.
He said: “My friend Okpala, whom I have known in the last 10 years as a bank driver brought the jobs.
He was the person that sold the idea to me and he said his bosses can pay us up to N10million if we kidnap them. We used my E-class Mercedes Benz car and Victor’s red colored Jetta car for the operations.
I later called one of my friends known as Sylvester and I requesting for his rifles, Sylvester then directed me to one Emmanuel who gave me one AK47 riffle and a pump action gun, which we used for the operations.
“I travelled to Dubai with my own share of the money, and when I returned, I discover that Emmanuel was dead, so I was in possession of the guns which I later gave to Ogbonna who requested for it, to go for his sea piracy operation.”