When news filtered into Omoku Town on Sunday, January 25, that Oluchi Igwedia aka Obatosu, a key player in the New Year Day’s killing of more than 20 worshippers, has been killed in Auchi, Edo State, many worshippers were still in the church.
While some set their phones on silence or switched it off in order to concentrate fully on their worship, others whose phones were switched on couldn’t but break the news to fellow worshippers after going through their text messages or after answering their calls.
Outside Omoku, especially in neighbouring communities where Don Waney unleashed Obatosu and other members of his Iceland cult group to inflict “sorrow, tears and blood”, there were celebrations by many who felt he deserved to pay for his numerous atrocities. In fact, across Rivers, most residents felt that his killing in far away Auchi Town in Edo State was a strong message to kidnappers, cultists, armed robbers and other criminal elements who have refused to shun criminality to have a rethink or wait for the full wrath of the law.
About two weeks before nemesis caught up with Obatosu, his elder brother had been killed in Enugu State, where he took refuge after the New Year Day’s killing in Omoku. Unlike Don Waney, who some mistakenly felt had been killed or injured when security operatives raided his mansion last November, the people of Omoku and security operatives knew very well that Obatosu was alive and uninjured.
They equally knew he was armed, dangerous and ready to stage another attack. A week before he was killed, he had written a threat letter to the council headquarters of Ogba/.Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers, warning them of a greater attack. He said he knew he could be killed having being declared a security threat and wanted by security operatives, but vowed to attack churches, schools, markets, hospitals and kill as many as possible before he goes down.
This threat was confirmed by the council’s caretaker committee chairman, Barr. Osi Olisah, who was at the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, where Obatosu’s corpse was displayed. He said:”About a week ago, he wrote to threaten that what happened on New Year Day was a dress rehearsal to the next attack he planned to carry out.
The strong arm of the law has caught up with him.” Because Obatosu appeared so harmless, a security operative who was not part of the team that went after he wanted to find out why he threatened to launch another attack, rather than turn a new leaf considering the killing of his elder brother. It was at this point that one of the members of a vigilance team that came from Omoku explained how deadly Obatosu was. In fact, the vigilance group came with his picture to confirm if he was the one killed.
“He really lived by the name that his partners in crime called him. He was trouble, crisis and confusion rolled into one. That is why they called him Obatosu, which means that whenever he arrives, there will be trouble.,” he said. Obatosu took flight from Omoku after the house of Don Waney was raided and went into hiding. He was among the 32 cultist members declared wanted by the Nyesom Wike administration.
Despite the collective will of the people of Omoku to go about their socio- economic activities peacefully, the likes of Don Waney, Obatosu and other notorious cult members had vowed that the community won’t know peace.
The sheer ruthlessness with which they meted out jungle justice to perceived enemies and innocent victims made some observers to conclude that wherever they drew strength from or whatever it was they relied on to be invincible and evade justice for long must be strong. One observer could not understand why the lieutenants of Don Waney would launch a suicide mission against members of their boss.
According to a reliable source, about 10 persons lost their lives during the clash, with most of the victims coming from Don Waney’s side. The attack led to mistrust, and prompted Olisah to proscribed two youth groups to forestall break down of law and order. The groups are Egi Youth Federation from Egi Clan, and Idu Obosiukwu Youth Association.
He noted :“ It has come to our realisation that while we are working assiduously to deepen the peace process in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, some persons, who profited from the insecurity in the area are working hard to compromise the security of ONELGA. This time, they are using youths, who do not understand the value of peace to further their selfish economic and political interest.
“For security reasons, therefore, the activities of any kind in Egi Youth Federation and Idu Obosiukwu Youth Association are, hereby, banned for further operation. Any person, who violates this (order) shall be deemed to have brought out himself or herself as enemy of peace and security in ONELGA.”
But shortly after, it emerged that Obatosu had a hand in the attack. On that particular day, the source added that Obatosu narrowly escaped death when the members of OSPAC, who got wind of the ‘’planned attack” of Don Waney, Obatosu and others, teamed up with security operatives to ambush them. That was the last time anybody heard anything about Obatosu as he disappeared into thin air.
It was during the manhunt for Don Waney that those who really knew the inner working of his gang tipped off security operatives that Obatosu was deadlier than Don Waney; that he was the chief executioner, a field man who made it a point of duty to carry out the orders of his brother. Rather than focus entirely on Don Waney, security operatives also treated the arrest of Obatosu as top priority shortly after the state government listed him among 32 wanted cultists.
The first crack in the operations of Don Waney, Obatosu gang was the arrest of a senior member of the gang that participated in the New Year’s Day killing. The suspect, Desmond Okotubo, 32, and father of three, who is from Egbema community in the same council area was paraded in Abuja, where he revealed that the New Year’s Day attack was hatched in Owerri, Imo State, and that the original targets were members of OSPAC.
He said they never planned to attack worshippers who had just closed form the crossover service, but somehow the operation just went wrong. Okutobo, who spoke to newsmen said: “It was Don Waney that did it. We followed Don Waney and he has a group that he gave gun to shoot called “Red Squad”.
“I followed them during the killing. When Don Waney got back, he stopped in Imo State, Awara, village and it was there everybody assembled before going to Omoku. “Don Waney had a problem with the vigilance group because they arrested his mother and also destroyed his house and that is why he came back to revenge and kill those people at Omoku.
I did not feel fine as they did not give me gun.” The Rivers State commissioner of police, Zaki Ahmed, who briefed journalists at the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, where the lifeless body of Obatosu was displayed, said that the cult kingpin was killed during a gunfight with security operatives. He said that security operatives will sustain the tempo by going after more criminal elements who cause insecurity in the state.
Ahmed said: “This is a message to the youth that crime does not pay. About two weeks ago, Don Waney was killed in a shootout with security operatives. He wanted to be funny by attacking the security operatives that went to arrest him. ” We want to sustain this by getting actionable intelligence… You can now see that the era of Don Waney is over. You can’t escape the long arm of the law. Once you are in crime your lifespan is very short.
“He was running and we were following him. The long arm of the law caught up with him in Auchi.” In his reaction, Governor Wike commended the DSS and the Nigerian Army for the joint operation that led to the killing of Obatosu. He also declared that none of those declared wanted by the Rivers State Security Council will go free, saying that they will all be brought to justice.
He noted that the N20million bounty placed for credible information that will lead to the arrest of the wanted cultists remains in place, stressing that those who participated in the New Year Mayhem at Omoku and any other security infraction in the state will be traced and brought to justice. He also stated that the State Government will continue to work with security agencies and other stakeholders to ensure that Rivers State remains safe.
With the killing of Don Waney and Obatosu, some residents who fled Omoku and neighbouring communities when cultists-turned kidnappers called the shots have started returning. Generally, the tension that is visible in some parts of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area is giving way to peace and opportunities.
“The time is right for a new start in ONELGA, and other neighbouring council areas where Don Waney and his group shed innocent blood. A lot of rebuilding has to be done, but it should be one step at a time,” said an oil worker from Omoku, who travelled to his village for the first time after years of living in fear of being kidnapped.
Ahmed, who briefed journalists at the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, where Obatosu’s corpse was displayed, noted that the cult kingpin was killed during a gunfight with security operatives. He said that security operatives would sustain the tempo by going after more criminal elements who were responsible for insecurity in the state.