Shock and outrage greeted the abduction of a medical doctor and consultant ophthalmologist, Dr Alex Atama-Pepple, on July 15, 2017. Atama-Pepple, working with Braithwaite Memorial Hospital Port Harcourt, Rivers State, was abducted while returning from Port Harcourt Golf Club, located at Old GRA, Rivers State. This golf club is patronised by the rich and influential people in the state. The abduction of Atama-Pepple was alleged to have caused fear among members of the club.
The abduction of Atama-Pepple was allegedly made possible by Collins Nkue, a worker with Port Harcourt Golf Club. According to detectives, it was Nkue that invited the kidnappers to abduct Atama- Pepple. He also assisted the kidnappers to monitor the movement of the victim until his abduction.
Seven among the suspects were arrested in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, in connection with the abduction. The gang was smashed almost five months after police launched a manhunt for the members. Those arrested are Alali Godday, aka Pompo, Igbalatee Lawson, alias, Agbami, Da-Obufia Isokoariari, aka J-boy, Samuel Monima Princewill, alias Gboko, Nobo NgiaNgia, Chibuzor Anudo, aka Dada, Victor Frank, Victor Anoro and Samuel.
The suspects were arrested by detectives attached to the Inspector-General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT) led by Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Mr Abba Kyari. The police said: “Collins Nkue has been working in that golf club for over six years as a driver. He is the informant that brought the kidnapping job to the other suspects.
He was also the person who monitored the movement of the victim until his eventual abduction.” The police further disclosed: “On the day of the abduction, Nkue sent the doctor’s vehicle’s number plate, the brand of vehicle and colour to the kidnappers.
He also sent the colour of the victim’s fez-cap. He alerted the gang on when the doctor was leaving the club. They trailed him to a store at Ogbunabali area of Port-Harcourt, where he stopped to do some shopping. “A member of the gang, Da-Obufia Isokoariari, aka J-Boy, armed with an Ak-47 rifle on that fateful day, wore a face mask.
Isokoariari was the first person that jumped down from their car and attempted to attack the doctor. He, however, fell into a gutter. Another member, Alali Godday, aka Pompo, immediately came down with his Ak-47 rifle and shot twice into the air to create fear. The leader of the gang, Igbalatee Lawson, alias Agbami, who was also masked, came down with his own rifle They kidnapped the doctor and dragged him into their Toyota Spider saloon car.” The gang members blindfolded the doctor. They drove to Okwele Waterside in Diobu-Mile 1 area of Port Harcourt, where they had a waiting speedboat.
The boat was manned by Samuel Monima Princewill, aka Gboko and Nobo NgiaNgia. Atama-Pepple was taken into a creek in Buguma Town and held for nine days in the creek. The creek belongs to Agbami. The gang demanded N50million ransom. On July 20, 2017, around 9:00 pm, Agbami and three other members of his gang, including Chibuzor Anudo, alias Dada, went to Emenike Street at Mile 1, Diobu and collected a ransom of N8million in a carton. The money was paid by the younger brother of the doctor. Immediately they collected the N8million ransom, the gang looked for a hotel and lodged. They later shared the money in the hotel, but still refused to release Atama- Pepple.
A new round of negotiations was established between Atama-Pepple’s relatives and the second in command of the group, Godday. The gang demanded an additional ransom of N1.5million, which was paid before the doctor was released. The police said: “When we were deployed by the IGP to commence the investigation into the incident, we discovered that the kidnappers spent a month planning the operation.
They all took an oath at a native doctor’s house at Elehi Beach, Mile 1. The name of the charm is ‘Ogoni wonders.’ They swore that no one would betray the gang. The native doctor assured them that after they used the charms, no policeman would ever be able to arrest them.” Relating why he went into crime, Agbami 28, confessed that the destruction of his goods by some naval officers pushed him into kidnapping. Agbami, who graduated in 2008, explained that he started playing football after graduation.
At a point, he thought he would make a career in football, but he later changed his mind and walked away from that dream. After abandoning his budding football career, he went into commercial motorcycle riding and from there, into oil bunkering.He said: “When I made enough money, I set up my own illegal refinery, where I refined crude oil into diesel.
After my first operation, I was about supplying over 350 drums of refined AGO to some of my customers when naval men accosted me. They demanded N250, 000 bribes. When I couldn’t give them, they set my product on fire. The boat, which I used in conveying the products wasn’t mine. After that destruction, I ran into debts. People I owed started disturbing me. “All the AK-47 rifles that policemen found with me, belonged to a guy known as Iminabo Iskra, who was a militant and politician. He was beheaded during the last election crisis.