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The Infamous Tale of Osisikankwu: A Reign of Terror in Igboland

Obiọma Nwankwo, widely known as Osisikankwu, etched a horrifying chapter in Nigeria’s history of kidnappings, particularly in Igboland. His notoriety stemmed from his leadership of a ruthless gang that terrorized Abia State, specifically Aba and its surroundings, extending even to Obigbo (Oyigbo) in Rivers State.

For those who lived in Aba between 2007 and 2010, Osisikankwu’s reign of terror was an unforgettable ordeal. The city was plunged into chaos as kidnappings escalated, leading to a mass exodus of residents, including prominent figures. Hundreds fell victim to abduction, torture, and extortion. The once vibrant Aba and its neighboring Ngwa villages were transformed into ghost towns, as people fled to evade becoming the next prey.

In the heart of Aba, near the Ariaria International Market, I witnessed the abduction of several  people, including a popular young man named Igodo, who was eventually released after his family paid a hefty ransom. Osisikankwu’s gang also targeted Nkwubuego Steel, but they were thwarted by prior payments. These grim events were marred by accounts of rape and murder, leading my mother to plead for my return to the safety of our village.

Osisikankwu, hailing from Ogwe in Ukwa West LGA of Abia State, masterminded a kidnapping syndicate comprising approximately 3,000 people solely focused on abductions and violence.

Their primary targets were the affluent, expatriates, and high-ranking government officials in Abia State. The Abia State government, led by Dr. Theodore Ahamefula Orji, was powerless in the face of this onslaught. Osisikankwu’s gang kidnapped and killed a multitude of Aba residents, leaving the city in turmoil.

Their reign of terror extended beyond Abia State. Three British nationals and a Colombian contract worker at Shell’s Power Plant in Afam VI, Oyigbo LGA of Rivers State, were kidnapped by Osisikankwu’s gunmen. After a ransom was paid by both NetcoDietmann and the Rivers State government, they were released.

In April and May of 2010, Osisikankwu’s gang targeted two German and three Chinese nationals, along with nine Nigerians working for Nigerian Steel Company in Aba. Ransoms in the millions were paid for their release.

July 10 witnessed the abduction of Mrs. Victoria Ori, the wife of a wealthy Ohafia resident, who was ransomed for a substantial sum. Shortly after her abduction, Osisikankwu’s gang seized three journalists and their driver, who were traveling through Aba after a Nigerian Union of Journalists meeting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. A ransom of ₦30 million was paid for their release.

The reign of terror reached its zenith on August 24, when Osisikankwu’s gang, led by a thug known as ‘Okwute’ Stone, robbed five commercial banks in the Osisioma area of Aba, resulting in the death of all police officers and security personnel on duty.

Further incidents followed in quick succession, including the abduction of the senior pastor of the Jerusalem for All Nations Church, the killing of an Indian national, and the tragic abduction and murder of Dr. Stanley Uche, a gynecologist and hospital owner.

On September 27, Osisikankwu’s gang abducted 15 pupils from Abayi International School in Aba, sending shockwaves worldwide. The children were later released unharmed, but this incident compelled the intervention of the Nigerian military.

Amidst the chaos, Osisikankwu granted an inadvertent interview to a journalist, where he expressed his grievances about the marginalization of Ngwaland, the largest tribe in Abia State. He claimed that the neglect of Ukwa-Ngwa and its economic hub, Aba, had led to their resorting to violence. Osisikankwu expressed willingness to surrender and seek rehabilitation if the Abia State government offered assistance.

In response to the global outcry following the abduction of Aba school children, the Nigerian government, under President Goodluck Jonathan, deployed a Joint Military Task Force to Abia State. After a fierce battle in the Ugwuati Evil Forest, Osisikankwu was killed.

His death was celebrated in Aba, and his girlfriend, Ogochi, was arrested. This operation also resulted in the recovery of significant weaponry. The Abia State government hailed Osisikankwu’s death as a triumph of light over darkness.