Today, we profile Derico Nwamama, one of the deadliest armed robbers to have come out of the Nigeria.
In the early 2000s, 22-year-old Okwudili Ndiwe also known as Derico Nwamama, was probably the King of the Underworld in the Eastern parts of the country; a clear replication of the likes of Lawrence Anini and Ishola Oyenusi.
Derico had risen from a street urchin and pick pocket to a dreaded crime king and the mere mention of his name sent shivers down the spines of traders and residents of Onitsha, the commercial capital of Anambra State, and other parts of the east.
The traders could not display their wares with peace while many slept with one eyes open. Derico sacked commercial banks in Onitsha, carting away millions of naira. Travelers who had to pass through the state held their breathes, expecting the hoodlum to strike at anytime. The then Governor of the state, Chinwoke Mbadinuju, became an old man over night with worries on how to handle the menace of Derico.
He was described as the personification of terror. From Nnewi to Nkpor, from the villages in Umuleri to towns in Ihiala, the old and young were terrified at the mere whisper of Derico Nwamama.
At that time, he was said to be invisible and could not be arrested. The dreaded Bakassi Boys went on a manhunt for the man known to kill without batting an eyelid.
Members of Derico's gang
According to legend, Derico Nwamama had killed over 100 people including 25 police officers whose lives he mercilessly wasted. He was a master of countless bus robberies and will not blink twice before pumping his hot lead bullets into the beating hearts of hapless victims.
And after his successful raids, he would boast and declare himself invincible. Derico seemed to have placed a lot of faith and confidence in the charms prepared for him by the traditional witchdoctors.
How it all started
According to legend, Derico Nwamama had a very interesting modus operandi and although he terrorized the entire south east, he was not based there as his base was Abuja, the Federal Capital territory and only visited the east from time to time to strike with maximum terror.
And after raining a torrent of bullets and gunfire upon the hapless and ill-equipped officers of the Nigerian Police and defenceless Nigerians, he would speed back to his safe haven, with his loot, safe on the laps of power, luxury and comfort.
At a period, Derico used the town of Umuleri as his hideout. Then from there, he would issue threatening messages to the police that they will pay for killing members of his gang. He also maintained bases in other towns like Agbor, Benin and Asaba.
Gov Mbadinuju congratulating the Bakassi Boys
He spared no one
Even members of his gang and close friends who crossed him were mowed down by the bandit. One of such was another hoodlum called Chiejina, who was from Aguleri, also in Anambra State.
Before Derico came to prominence, Chiejina was described as the deadliest armed robber in the whole of Anambra State. The centre of his lethal operations was Onitsha. Derico’s father too was from Aguleri and in no time, the paths of the two met and they became very good friends and colleagues in the armed robbery business.
However, their friendship would not last for long as bloody arguments soon broke out between the two of them over the scope and nature of executing their operations. Both of them were at the peak of their strengths and they were equally feared all over the region.
Some ammunitions recovered from Derico
But the lethality of Derico would soon prove too toxic for Chiejina. During a violent argument over their mode of operation and leadership, Derico blasted Chiejina to an early grave with a volley of bullets. After the death of Chiejina, Derico became the undisputed emperor of terror in the land.
The hunt for the deadly Derico
Governor Mbadinuju was not the only one worried about the reign of terror perpetrated by Derico Nwamama as even President Olusegun Obasanjo was enraged that the criminal was left to unleash terror in a part of Nigeria.
The police were helpless and had lost many men to the dreaded bandit and seemed at wits end on what to do to bring him and his gang to book.
In May 2001, the Anambra State Police Command launched the Operation Derico which was aimed at capturing Derico and his gang members at all cost.
The police managed to arrest some of Derico's men but he was still elusive as he kept operating with reckless abandon, robbing, killing and kidnapping innocent Nigerians.
Bakassi Boys to the rescue
With the police and other security forces unable to bring Derico Nwamama and his terror regime to a close, the onus fell on the Bakassi Boys, the militant wing of the Anambra Vigilante Services (AVS), a local vigilante group set up to curb crime and criminality in the Sout East.
The group were then at the forefront of the hunt and capture of Derico Nwamama and on Tuesday, July 3, 2001, the hitherto invisible criminal was nabbed on his way to Onitsha from Agbor, ostensibly on one of his crime spree.
The news of his capture and 'triumphant' entry to Onitsha was like a wild fire as the town erupted in joy amidst wild cheers.
As was their trademark, the Bakassi Boys drove in a motorcade around the town, displaying their prized possession, brandishing their machetes, dane guns and charms, to the admiration of thge people who knew that the end of their fearful existence had ended.
They trooped into the city to catch a glimpse of the man who had turned their lives into a nightmare.
The Nigerian Police requested that Derico be handed over to them so they could continue with the investigation and eventual prosecution but the Bakassi Boys simply ignored the request.
They would handle the matter their way and that was instant justice for a man who had tormented the people long enough. They also did not trust the police to do justice to him.
The end of Derico
For a man who thought he was above the law and could not be captured, Derico met his end in the most awful manner. Before then, the Bakassi Boys had developed a terrible and blood chilling reputation for dealing with suspects and Derico's days were surely numbered from when he was caught.
On July 9, 2001, six days after Derico was captured at the Niger Bridge, the Bakassi Boys did to him what many had earlier predicted. Chanting war songs, they drove in their convoy around the town and ended at the Ochanja Market Junction along the popular Upper Iweka Road in Onitsha.
As their buses came to a halt, shouts of excitement and expectation rented the air. Many knew the fate that would befall Derico, so they all trooped to the spot to witness the final judgement on him.
Derico was dragged out from the bus, looking gaunt and severely beaten, a trademark of the vigilante group. His body bore cuts and gashes, a testament to what he must have gone through in their hands. he must also have known that the day of reckoning has come.
He was in obvious pains but no one seemed to care. Still chanting war songs and egged on by the enchanted crowd, one of the commanders of the Bakassi Boys named Okpompi, addressed the crowd, telling them they were in the state not for politics but to fight crime.
Bakassi Boys strong man, Okpompi
He handed over the microphone to the now trembling Derico who, like a cornered fox, began begging for his life to be spared. He made feeble attempts at declaring his innocence:
“My name is Oddy, alias Derico, alias Nwa Mama. I appeal to you the people of Anambra State, please don’t kill me, I don’t like evil. It was when I killed Chiejina that people thought I am a strong guy, you know.
I trust Bakassi Boys. They are strong. Please, mercy for me. Nobody can identify me as having robbed him. People just believe that I am a strong guy.”
He confessed that while he was on the run, he was sheltered by a member of the National Assembly in Abuja. He also confessed that he had two other powerful protectors, one being a member of the Anambra State House of Assembly while the other was the chairman of a local government council.
What was to follow remains one of the most macabre displays of public executions in Nigeria. With the speed of a guillotine, a cutlass handled in the strong arm of one of the Bakassi Boys flew and came down with an unforgiving thud, landing on Derico’s slim neck. In a flash, Derico was beheaded.
His severed head rolled on the floor before the crowd while his convulsing body collapsed on the ground, with bright-red blood gushing from his carotid arteries. It was like a sacrifice to the gods had just taken place.
The crowd was satisfied and as far as the Bakassi Boys were concerned, that was a clear lesson and message to any criminal bent on making life miserable for the Anambrarians.
With the lifeless remains of Derico still lying on the floor, the people erupted in jubilation, patting one another on the backs and exchanging mutual congratulations after a monstrously grotesque show of iron and blood. That was not the end.
Razor-sharp machetes flew from different directions and chopped his pitiful remains into sizable chunks. Derico’s mangled remains were heaped up, properly rinsed with fuel and set on fire.
A movie was made about Derico Nwamama with Emeka Ike acting as Derico. Others in the movie were Hanks Anuku, Christie Okonkwo and Gentle Jack.
Additional Source: Abiyamo; NewsWatch