The trail of the suspects, who abducted and murdered late Col. Samaila Inusa, a Chief Instructor at the Nigeria Army School of Infantry, Jaji, Kaduna State, started with a simple Tecno phone.
Now, police authorities have revealed the identity of four suspects behind his killing after an operation that involved operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team, men of the Kaduna State Police Command and the Special Intelligence Bureau.
Three months after the abduction and killing of the colonel by gunmen at the Kamazo area of Kaduna Refinery Road, on Sunday, March 27, 2016, the police said the suspects were tracked down through the victim’s Tecno mobile phone traced to one of the suspects.
The suspects, who have confessed to their various roles in the crime, which shocked both the civilian and military population in the state, told the police that they had no link to the Shiite group, which had previously been accused of being behind the abduction.
It will be recalled that Inusa was found dead around Ajyaifa village home in Kaduna, just two days after he was abducted in the presence of his wife while on their way from an outing.
The suspects arrested are Chijioke Ugwuanyi, Abdulahi Adamu, Ibrahim Kabiru, Ebere Precious and Emeka Okeke Cyprian, said to be the leader of the gang who personally shot Inusa.
In his statement to the police, 44-year-old Cyprian, an Imo State indigene and father of three, explained that he killed Inusa because the latter was about to kill him.
According to him, on the day of the abduction, he was on the road with his gang members on their usual car snatching ambush, when they saw Inusa’s Mercedes SUV.
He said the vehicle’s flashy headlights attracted them and they decided to trail the vehicle, following the victim to his house in Kamazo area.
Cyprian said, “When the driver stopped to open the gate, we realised that the driver was a woman and there was a man beside her in the vehicle. I thought the man must have been the owner of the vehicle. We pounced on them and I ordered the man into our own car.
“I asked Chijioke (Ugwuanyi) to take over the Mercedes and take it to Dan Sokoto. Kabiru was the one driving our own car. I told the man to relax and that all I wanted was his car and promised not to kill him. I told him he could always buy another vehicle.
“We took him into a bush around Abuja by-pass in Kaduna. I told the man to lie down in the bush. He asked for water, but when I was about to give him the water, he dived at my gun and tried to remove the magazine. I was shocked.
“He gave me a head butt and beat me so much. But I held tightly to the rifle and we struggled on the floor. I don’t know what he touched but the trigger could not fire. If not for God, the man would have killed me. Luckily for me, the trigger fired and I shot the man. I didn’t know that the man was an army officer at the time. He was very strong.”
Cyprian said he only knew he had killed an army officer when Ugwuanyi called him five hours later and told him he saw army documents in the man’s vehicle.
He said they quickly arranged to sell off the victim’s car for N900,000 and he advised every member of the gang to clear out and lay low for some time.
He said, “Then the news was everywhere. Chijioke told me that he wanted to quit. But we decided to do one last job and stole a Toyota Avalon car. Chijioke took the car to Niger Republic by himself and sold it to one Garuba.
“Chijioke relocated to Enugu, while I stayed back in Kaduna watching as things unfolded. Not long after, Kabiru and Ebere were both arrested by the SIB in Kaduna.”
Saturday PUNCH learnt that Cyprian was sleeping in his sister’s house last week Saturday when the police surrounded the house and arrested him.
“I told them that I would reveal everything when we got to the station. At the station, I also helped in luring Chijioke back to Kaduna where he was arrested,” he said.
Life of crime
If the account of Cyprian is anything to go by, he is a serial car snatcher, whose life of crime started just three years ago.
According to him, he started by hijacking trucks on the Kotangora Road in Kaduna State with members of his gang.
He said, “We normally barricaded the road with logs because so many trucks pass through the road. When a truck carrying goods stopped in front of our barricade, we attacked the driver and the conductor with machetes and threw them in the bush. Our receiver is Dan Sokoto, who usually smuggled the trucks to Niger Republic.
“In our first operation, we hijacked a truck carrying 600,000 cartons of noodles. Dan Sokoto and another member of our gang, Ogbonna Nwobodo, took the goods to Niger Republic which he sold for N2m.
“Dan Sokoto told me that they always abandoned the trucks on the road because they could never sell them in Niger. I got N300,000 as my share of the loot.
“We usually called our gang ‘Company’ and Nwobodo was the leader of the company, but because of the small money Dan Sokoto and Nwobodo brought from that first operation, the company scattered and we could not do any job for five months.
“Dan Sokoto later called us and tried to reorganise the company by stating new terms for sharing of our loot. I was ‘the striker’ and because of this, I believed I should get the largest share of our loot.
“We hijacked another vehicle carrying spaghetti on the Kotangora Road and Nwobodo and Dan Sokoto took it to Niger where they sold it. I got N330,000 from that operation.”
He said in his statement that on their third operation, they told Dan Sokoto that after selling off the goods, he should get the gang two pistols from the proceeds of the hijacked goods.
After selling the goods, he was said to have brought N1m to the gang, which they shared.
Cyprian said after getting the guns, he decided to split from Nwobodo and the others.
He said he formed a separate group with Ugwuanyi, Ebere and Kabiru and they went fully into car snatching.
The suspect said, “We snatched a 2005 Toyota Sienna and since Dan Sokoto was still helping to sell goods in Niger Republic, I told him I must always speak with the buyer in Niger before prices were agreed. When he took the vehicle to Niger, I spoke to one Garuba and he paid us N700,000. I got N120,000 as my share and I told him that I liked the way he did the business and I promised to always get him more vehicles.
“I sent vehicles to him at least twice a week. We snatched a 2008 Toyota Corolla and sold it at Niger for N600,000. I got N200,000 as my share out of that. There was another Honda Anaconda we sold for N700,000 out of which I got N150,000.
“After that operation, I advised everyone to take some time off and monitor how security operatives within Kaduna were reacting to our activities and they all heeded my advice. We did that for two weeks and we discovered that things had started changing. We noticed that there were policemen all over Kaduna looking out for people who were robbing cars.”
“I told Garba that I needed a rifle because of heavy presence of policemen within our area. They told me that rifles were sold for N500,000 and loaded magazines were sold for N250,000.
“Garba said he would smuggle the rifles into Nigeria for us and that we should go back to Nigeria and get him a Toyota Hilux. I told him that a Hilux was difficult to snatch because it is mainly used by security operatives. Apart from that, we needed big guns to snatch a Hilux.”
Saturday PUNCH learnt that soon after, Garba fulfilled his promise and smuggled the guns to Nigeria by hiding them under the seats of a bus.
“Ebere taught me how to use the rifle and we used it to snatch a Toyota Camry inside Sabo area. Whenever we snatched a car, we kept the owner till the vehicle crossed to Dan Sokoto in Niger. Once he received it, we released the owner by leaving them on the expressway,” he said.
He said Inusa was to be held like that and that their intention was not to kill Inusa.
I am an Economics graduate – Suspect
Forty-four-year-old Ugwuayii said poverty pushed him into Cyprian’s gang.
He explained that he studied Economics at the Enugu State University, but that after graduation, he could not get a good job for many years.
According to him, moving to Lagos still did not help matters as an insurance company, where he got work paid him only by commission.
He said, “I did that for a long time and nothing meaningful came from it and I quit before going to teach in a secondary school at Iyana-Ipaja, Lagos. I was earning N5000 monthly even though I am a university graduate.
“I later became an Okada rider. Then my life changed when I met a friend from my village who was a truck driver. He pitied me and said he was earning more money as a truck driver than me who is a graduate. I joined him as a conductor and started getting some money.
“It was while on the job that I started meeting criminals. I met Emeka, through one Alhaji in Onitsha and they wanted to sell a trailer load of rice which they hijacked. I linked them to a buyer who paid N1.5m for the goods and I got N80,000 as my share.
“After that, I joined Cyprian’s gang. After we kidnapped the colonel, I was taking his car to Niger when I searched and saw the man’s uniform and ID card. I quickly called Emeka (Cyprian) not to kill the man but he told me that the man was already dead because he was so stubborn.
“We were not supposed to kill anyone. I had always known that we would be arrested.”
The police have said investigation was ongoing on the case as all those still in the wind, who were named in the case are being tracked down.