• Ex-confidant speaks on suspected cult leader behind new year day killings in Rivers
• Why his palatial home was demolished—Source
By Egufe Yafugborhi, Port Harcourt
BEFORE last Sunday when the military announced the death of alleged cult leader/kidnap kingpin, Johnson Igwedibia, a.k.a. Don Waney, he was said to have been behind the attacks which had sent scores to their early graves and maimed many in Ogba Ndoni Egbema local government area of Rivers State (ONELGA).
At Omoku, the headquarters of ONELGA, several businesses collapsed while many others relocated as terrorized residents fled the community.
Justus Idibia, a welder, said, “But for the setback caused the residents by Don Waney, Omoku has one of the best environments for the ease of doing business in Nigeria because power supply is steady and free in Omoku.
“You may not believe it; we don’t pay for electricity in Omoku. And it is steady and free of charge for even artisans and those running hotels and other businesses. So, Omoku has been a peaceful place to live in but the reign of terror unleashed by Don Waney interrupted the ease of doing business environment and everyone fled”.
Before troops moved against him, residents say Don Waney and his men had operated with impunity.
Onyebuchi Ose, a.k.a. Okosisi, a member of the vigilante group in the area, the ONELGA Security, Peace and Advisory Committee, OSPAC, told Sunday Vanguard, “The army and police initially appeared reluctant to arrest Don Waney. They knew where he was, knew the evil he was committing, including being a big time oil thief”.
Okosisi, believed to be a former confidant of Waney before joining OSPAC, lost his elder brother to the new year day gun attack on Aligwu allegedly masterminded by the suspected gang leader while his mother was shot in the foot.
He accused the police in the area of selling out to the kingpin.
The alleged former confidant said, “I can’t forget a particular occasion when Waney wanted to kill me for joining OSPAC and I had to rush to the local police station to file a complaint.
“I had barely stepped out of the police station when my phone rang and it was Waney on the line boasting that he had heard all I just said against him at the police station and that he was watching my very move. He asked me that if the police sent by Rotimi Amaechi (Transportation Minister) and APC to arrest him could not accomplish the mission, why would I believe that the common police I complained to at Omoku could arrest him. I lost all hope or confidence in the police and army at that point. He falsely believed he had the power of life and death over fellow human beings.
“Statutory security operatives were galvanized to rise up against Don Waney after OSPAC took to self-help on behalf of the people. Before, the military and the police used to wait for Waney to strike and inflict pain on residents before running about chasing shadows. OSPAC came and took the fight to the gang leader and his associates.”
OSPAC is the local vigilante put together by the ONELGA Caretaker Chairman, Olisa Osi, who swore to end Waney’s reign of terror. The outfit is led by Maxwell Ahiakwo, a lecturer at the Federal College of Education (Technical), Omoku, where the staff were repeatedly kidnapped, some of them dying in the hands of Waney’s men.
When Sunday Vanguard visited the OSPAC headquarters, located inside the ONELGA Secretariat, Omoku, it was found that most of its operatives were repentant criminals who had sworn on oath before local deities to become crime fighters.
The last straw
The killing of two OSPAC members on December 18, 2017 appeared to have been the beginning of the end for Don Waney and his suspected fellow cultists. Two days later, a raid on Aligwu by troops and OSPAC operatives yielded 10 human skulls and three decomposing bodies exhumed from graves in his expansive and tastefully furnished home.
Following his escape during the raid, his alleged return from hideout for the new year day reprisal attack which took no fewer than 20 lives was said to have become the last straw that broke the camel’s back. The killings, it was learnt, provoked President Muhammadu Buhari into ordering security operatives to hunt down Waney at all costs.
While handing over the remains of the alleged kidnap kingpin to the police after the military operation that killed him, outgoing General Officer Commanding of 6 Division of the Army, Maj Gen Eni-Obong Udoh, said, “There was a presidential directive that the perpetrators of the new year day attack in Rivers State should be brought to book. The mandate was to collaborate with other security agencies in the state to hunt the gang down.
“We trailed them to Enugu where they were living in a rented apartment in a neighborhood. They were living in Imo State before they left. We collaborated with the GOC in charge of 82 Division and raided their home.
“Don Waney was the mastermind of the incident of January but the attack was led by Ikechukwu, his second in command, and there is another person whose name we will not mention but we will get him. We will not rest until we get all of them.”
Return home, ONELGA boss tells fleeing residents
Meanwhile, the Caretaker Chairman of ONELGA, Olisa, has asked residents, who fled Omoku, Aligwu and other communities in the local government for the fear of Waney’s reign of terror, to return to a new lease of life.
Olisa said: “What has happened is a demonstration of the commitment of Governor Nyesom Wike to the security of Rivers State. With the killing of the suspected cultist, we can now face development. The people of Omoku are celebrating.
“The major challenge we are facing outside of insecurity that has been taken care of is the issue of unemployment. When youths are not engaged, they go into cultism and that is what resulted to the challenge we had. We will work to remove our youths from the streets so that we will not go back to this situation.”
The council boss explained that OSPAC would be reformed, adding that the main cause of insecurity in the area had been removed.
“OSPAC is part of the society and it has to grow alongside the society, but it will be reformed. We will not scrap it because we want to make ONELGA safe,” he added.
*Don Waney’s estate after the demolition
Inset: Don Waney
Fish out Waney’s sponsors – Residents
In a related development, residents of the area have been thanking the military for ending Waney’s reign of terror in the area while asking that the sponsors of the kidnap kingpin be fished out.
Mela Claude-Ake, a lawyer who resides in Omoku, organised a rally in the ONELGA headquarters to celebrate the return of peace.
Mela, addressing the rally, said, “Every act of terrorism like Waney’s requires money. We call on the authorities to find out his financiers and bring them to book to bring lasting peace to ONELGA. The rich should stop arming our youths to kill the people instead of meaningfully engaging them.”
Another resident, Kingsley Ogwubike, said, “Today is remarkable for us youths. We all came back together, undermining our political affiliations to celebrate those who were killed on January 1.
“We are celebrating them because they are the reason God took swift intervention through the security agencies to bring Don Waney and his gang down. We urge our youths to learn a great lesson from what happened to Don Waney. Peace has returned in ONELGA and there will be no more killings and kidnapping.”
But the fact that Waney’s suspected deputy, Oluchukwu, believed to have led the new year day attack in Omoku and Aligwu, is still at large is a source of worry to residents.
Sen. Magnus Abe, however, dismissed the worry.
Abe said, “Another Don Waney will not rise to terrorize the people if we all do the right thing. Let us realise that blame game doesn’t help the people directly affected or the state at large. Leaders must work together to find a lasting solution. If we all see what is wrong and collectively agree to correct it, we get it right.
“Don Waney has always been there. Everybody knew the danger he constituted, but some persons chose to protect and encourage him. When we are agreed to see it as bad, they caught him. If you create leadership without authority, you destroy society.
“If we want to help the youth, we must educate them to establish them in leadership. When undermine merit to glorify a small boy because of how well he can shoot gun or kill, people around him will lose hope in leadership.”
Waney’s home demolished
Four days after his death, Waney’s palatial residence in Aligwu, was, on Wednesday, demolished. A community source told Sunday Vanguard, “Soldiers and some government officials moved into the estate of Don Waney with bulldozers on Tuesday and demolished the structures there”.
The 6 Division of the Nigeria Army, which had been prominent in the Don Waney saga, declined comment on the development but a security source said the property stopped being Waney’s from the time he became a fugitive.
“Since November 20 when we (security operatives) raided that house, he had been on the run. We handed the house to the state government”, the source said.
“If somebody becomes a fugitive for any reason, his property becomes government property. Let there be no issue about Don Waney’s house being demolished because he had no house, no property.
“Before, he had property; but when he became a fugitive, he lost that right to any property. The property became government property. The law is clear. Even if he has family, they cannot come and lay claim to that property”.
A community leader in Omoku, supporting the demolition of the suspected kidnap kingpin, said, “The community is further encouraged to chart a new course for lasting peace by this development. For long, that place has been the place to plan evil against the people by Waney.”
The community was said to have made a strong case for the demolition of the premises following Governor Wike’s Monday night broadcast where he expressed government’s move to take over the building.