The name ‘Don Wani’ drove plenty of fear down the spines of Rivers State residents in particular and Niger Delta inhabitants in general.
For Don Wani was a cultist whose methods were as unconventional as they come. He was so revered, he had the prefix 'General' attached to his name.
Unable to rein him in, the Rivers State government even offered Don Wani and his band of cultists an amnesty deal on October 5, 2016. It was a deal that broke down before the finer details could even be conveyed to the press.
'Worse than Evans'
Born Johnson Igwedibia, Don Wani often operated with military or other law enforcement fatigues. He wore mean looks even when sipping on alcohol and puffing marijuana in nondescript areas of Port Harcourt.
He operated with impunity in the full glare of law enforcement, fuelling insinuation that he was above the law.
“He was worse than Evans (another kidnapper who terrorized Lagos) in the sense that his methods were crude and he operated in the open. We often thought he was above the law”, one resident of Rivers told
On January 1, 2018, as worshippers returned from New Year’s cross over service in Omoku, Rivers State, Don Wani’s gang waylaid them and ended the lives of 22.
The incident would come to be known as the ‘Omoku massacre’.
It was a massacre that shook Rivers to its foundation.
State Governor Nyesom Wike and his predecessor Rotimi Amaechitraded bitter words over the killings.
Dakuku Peterside who lost the governorship contest to Wike, also weighed in, asking the Rivers Governor to tender his resignation in the face of the killings that have turned the State into a river of blood.
Amaechi would double down as he called on State lawmakers to impeach Wike: "It never happened when I was governor. We (the security chiefs and myself) ensured that we didn't sleep at night. We stayed awake for the citizens to sleep. I think the governor needs to do much more than that or quit the office.
"I was governor of Rivers State, I did not play PDP/APC politics. Life is life, it has no symbol. Nobody has APC life or PDP life.
"The first responsibility of a governor which is what the oath of office requires, is that you swear to protect lives and property.
"When you don't protect life and property, what do you do? It is impeachment. Unfortunately, there is no House of Assembly in Rivers State.
"There is too much noise coming from Rivers State. The governor just wakes up and starts shouting, abusing people. That is all he does. Mr. Project painting roads”.
N200M reward for the Don
As the war of words from both political camps intensified, Wike placed a N200M bounty on Don Wani’s head.
"We have placed a N200 million bounty for relevant information that will lead to the arrest of all those involved in this unfortunate act of violence”, Wike declared.
"Anybody who is connected to this crime in any way, will have his/her houses forfeited to the government. This place has been peaceful before this unfortunate mayhem.
"You cannot shed innocent blood and go free. We are working with all the security agencies to do everything possible to arrest the perpetrators. They must pay for this.
"I am pained by this unfortunate mayhem. Enough is enough."
Sources tell that security agencies deployed to Rivers agreed to work together to root out Don Wani. It was a synergy uncommon in these parts.
On the afternoon of Sunday, January 7, 2018, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu who is Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, told Pulse that Don Wani was no more. He would follow up with a press statement detailing how the kidnapper’s life was brought to an end.
“The authorities of 6 Division Nigerian Army Port Harcourt wish to inform the peace loving people of Omoku in ONELGA in particular, Rivers State and indeed the entire good people of Niger Delta in general that the notorious cult leader, kidnap kingpin and mass murderer Don Waney is dead”. Ilayusi said.
“Recall that in the early hours of Monday 20th November 2017, troops of 6 Division Nigerian Army acting on credible information from some patriotic members of the public, raided the evil Don Waney enclave in Omoku, ONELGA Rivers State where shocking discoveries of assorted weapons, dynamites, bags of suspected cannabis, full military camouflage uniforms, military boots, military communication radios, 10 human skulls and human bones were discovered.
“Additionally, in continuation of the operation on Tuesday 21st November 2017, the troops also exhumed decomposing bodies of some of his victims in his shrine in the glaring eyes of the media who were invited to witness first hand”.
Iliyasu said Don Wani’s mastermind of the New Year day killings was the last straw for law enforcement.
“Perhaps not satisfied with the numerous lives of innocent citizens he took, Don Waney masterminded the despicable New Year day mayhem in Omoku in which he led his notorious gang of criminals to murder 22 peace loving citizens of Omoku when they were returning from cross over service at about 1:30am on Monday 1st January 2018.
“Intense surveillance activities on him and his gang by the Department of State Services (DSS) Rivers State Command revealed that after committing these atrocities he relocated to a neighbourhood within Enugu Town in Enugu State where he rented an apartment and started living among unsuspecting neighbours within the community.
“From the relative safety of his newly-rented apartment, Don Waney was already perfecting plans to wrought another mayhem in Omoku in which he was to attack churches, schools, Army and Police locations and the residences of the generality of the already traumatized people of Omoku. However, following his successful geo-location to his new Enugu neighbourhood hideout by the DSS Rivers State Command, a combined team of troops of 82 Division Nigerian Army Enugu and personnel of DSS Rivers State Command raided the hideout to arrest him and his other accomplices.
“Incidentally on sensing that the combine team were closing in on his residence, Don Waney, his Second- in- Command (Ikechukwu Adiele) and another gang member (Lucky Ode) attempted to escape through the back exit of the apartment and were shot down by the eagle eyed troops in the process. One of them died on the spot while the other two who sustained gunshot wounds eventually died while being evacuated for medical attention.
“The remains of Don Waney and his cohorts were brought back to Port Harcourt, Rivers State by the combine team and handed over to the Rivers State Police Command for further action.
“To this end, the authorities of 6 Division Nigerian Army Port Harcourt wishes to use this opportunity to extend their condolences to the families of all the victims of the evil Don Waney and his gang.
“We also wish to solicit your further cooperation in volunteering useful information to track down and arrest the remaining gang members so as to bring them to justice for a peaceful, prosperous and secured Omoku community, ONELGA, Rivers State and the entire Niger Delta region”.
It was a relieved Gov Wike who commended security agencies and President Muhammadu Buhari for the operation that smoked out Don Wani and put him to the sword.
According to Wike; “The success recorded in the operations that ended Don Waney and his men is a victory for the law abiding people in the state.
“It underscores the desirability of honest partnership and synergy between the government and security agencies as well as the public in tackling security problems in the state.
“This victory gladdens our heart and we remain more committed in the fight against crimes and will continue to support the police and all security agencies in the onerous task of securing our dear Rivers State and her people.
“We thank President Muhammadu Buhari for not playing politics with the Omoku massacre but gave a marching order which galvanised the efforts of the 6 Div of Nigeria Army, the DSS, police and everybody or agency who played a role to avenge the death of the innocent people killed in Omoku on 1st January, 2018.
“The success of our collective effort has shown that there is no hiding place for the wicked”, the governor added.