A top official of the Department of State Security on Wednesday revealed how a kidnap kingpin, Johnson Igwedibia, aka Don Waney, was tracked to his hideout in Enugu.
Waney allegedly masterminded the killings of 23 worshipers on New Year’s Day, in Omoku, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers.
The source, on condition of anonymity, on Wednesday said that the operation that led to Don Waney’s death was successful and averted further bloodshed in the state.
The informant said the decision to swoop on Waney was taken after he ordered his men to carry out killings of innocent residents of Omoku town.
“We intercepted Waney’s phone conversation he had with one of his lieutenant in which he ordered them to attack schools, hospitals, places of worship, marketplaces and other targets.
“The killing and maiming of innocent residents of Omoku, including specific targets were scheduled to take place on January 8.
“When we heard their plan to execute innocent citizens – which to us was the last straw – we decided to inform the Army about a joint operation to avert the killings.
“This eventually led to the joint operation at his hideout in Enugu leading to his death and that of his two gang members.”
The DSS operative said that Waney was under intense DSS surveillance for over a year.
The source said the New Year killings started after Waney sent some of his members to assassinate his third-in-command, but failed after the target escaped his apartment with gunshot wounds.
According to the source, the killer squad later killed his wife and other close relatives and, thereafter, proceeded to kill five other persons over an existing feud with one of the gang members.
“Some of the people who were killed died from stray bullets during the operation by the murderous gang.
“It was easy to monitor Waney because we had our agent on a constant watch that gave us in-depth knowledge of his whereabouts and activities.
“Waney had companies that he used as fronts. He used one of these companies to front for surveillance jobs and leak repairs for a major oil company.
“We know where his family stayed; we know that his boys camped at a forest in Imo state from where they usually launched their operation.
“Waney was always hiding in Enugu and Ogoja (Cross River). He bought a car in Imo state and took it to Enugu – as part of his plans to change his identity,” the source revealed.
The ash coloured Lexus ES330 salon car is currently parked at DSS premises in Port Harcourt.
The source said that Waney had more than 30 active fighters and many volunteers who allegedly worked for top politicians in the state.
It said that Waney’s accounts at First Bank and Unity Bank had been frozen and would be forfeited to the Federal Government at the end of the investigation.
“The banks are fully cooperating with an ongoing investigation which would unravel his financial transactions from the time the accounts where opened,” the source added.
The deceased militant leader had more than N700m at some undisclosed banks which is currently being monitored.
Waney and his second-in-command, Ikechukwu Adiele, and another suspected gang member, Lucky Ode were killed by security forces in Enugu and their corpses paraded at 6 Division Nigerian Army Port Harcourt on Jan. 7.
Waney and his gang members received amnesty from the Rivers Government in 2016 but later reneged on the terms of the amnesty deal.
Meanwhile, Awara community in Ohaji-Egbema local government area of Imo State is living in fear of likely attacks following threats by militants from Rivers State to attack the villagers for divulging information that led to the killing Don Waney.
The militants were also reported to be angry with the riverine community which shares a common boundary with Rivers State for assisting the military with information that led to the successful raiding of their camps by the Orashi River.
The village is almost deserted as most of the people have abandoned their homes and relocated to neighbouring villages.
It was also gathered reliably that most of the repented militants from Imo state were trained and armed by the late Igwedibia in his Orashi camp.
According to the confessions of one of the late Don Wayne’s boys after his arrest in Abuja, the New Year’s Day attack on worshippers in Omoku Rivers State which left over 17 people dead was planned at Awara.
It was also gathered that after each deadly operation, majority of the militants in Rivers State often used the forest that surround Awara as a hideout.
One of the villagers who pleaded for anonymity said: “The Militants usually cross the Orashi River into Awara to meet with some of their colleagues in the community. Some of them come with bullet wounds and are camped and treated in the community. It is not hidden, we know them but no one can dare report to the Police or Army otherwise they will wipe out your entire family”.
The source who has taken refuge in Owerri, said the community has been under hostage by the militants who have armed youths in the community to fight the few oil companies operating in the area.
“Awara used to be a peaceful community but it is no more so. We are under bondage. In the last two years no fewer than 50 people have been brutally murdered in the community and most people have abandoned their homes and are yet to return. We were about settling down after the state government disarmed the militants and granted them amnesty before this latest threat by the Militants from Rivers state,” said the source.
Another villager said village is no longer safe after the news of the latest threat filtered into the community.
“Since Don Wayne was killed and some of his boys arrested, we have been apprehensive because our community is vulnerable to attacks by the militants who come through the Orashi River. We are appealing to the military to sustain the raid on the forest to clear it of the remaining terror camps erected by the militants and other criminal elements.
“Though the Army is trying but more should be done because Awara especially is now the hideout of notorious and most wanted criminals in the Niger Delta and beyond because of the large expanse of forest that surrounds it. If you check, most kidnap victims in the state are either rescued or found dead in one of the forests in the community. For now there is tension in the community.”
NAN, THE NATION