The sensational reign of Niger Delta’s most wanted criminal suspect came to an abrupt end in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Tuesday morning. He was arrested by operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS).
Kelvin Ibruvwe’s arrest led to a gun battle between his supporters and security operatives in his Kokori, Delta State hometown Wednesday afternoon.
Ibruvwe, who is popularly known by his first name, was arrested at an undisclosed hotel in the Garden City about 3:25am by DSS operatives who stormed the city from Abuja last Friday.
It was gathered that the deployment of the special unit followed Ibruvwe’s pronouncement of a 60-day ultimatum on the Federal Government.
He is fingered in dozens of high profile kidnap and armed robbery operations.
The suspect is also wanted for the death of 20 security operatives, including soldiers of the Nigerian Army, mobile policemen, and three Warri Prisons wardens, who were gunned down in a brazen daylight operation in Warri.
A notorious kidnap suspect, said to be a close ally of Ibruvwe’s, who was being taken to court with other inmates, was freed by the gang.
The ultimatum to the Federal Government at a rally in Kokori on September 18 may have moved the authorities to go after the suspect.
To security agents, the declaration was a desperate attempt by Ibruvwe to portray himself as an ethnic warlord and activist.
“After he gave that ultimatum, the top echelon of the nation’s security apparatuses felt that it was time to bring him down. So, a special unit was drafted in from Abuja to work with a small, close unit of men on the ground.
“He was trailed to Port Harcourt. Having positively ID-ing (identifying) him as the man we were after, the 3 Battalion of the JTF (Joint Task Force) was called in and placed on alert,” a source privy to the operation told our reporter.
The spokesperson of JTF’s headquarters in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Lt.-Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, confirmed the arrest of Kelvin in a telephone interview with our reporter.
He said, “It is true that he (Kelvin) has been arrested. He was arrested this (Wednesday) morning by the SSS after he was smoked out of his hideout by the JTF. It was a joint operation with the SSS.”
A top official of the SSS in Delta State, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Well, operatives of the service picked Kelvin as early as 3am today (Wednesday) and he is in the service’s custody.
“He has been escaping, but today (Wednesday) his cup is full. Investigation is still going on,” the SSS official said.
The Delta State Police Command expressed confidence that the feat would further reduce the rate of kidnapping in the state.
A statement signed by the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Administration) in the state, Onyire Kaneneolisa, said: “The arrest of the kingpin will greatly mellow the on-going battle against kidnappers in the state.”
Top SSS sources confirmed that Kelvin was immediately moved from Port Harcourt to Asaba, the Delta State capital, after his arrest.
Kokori community was tense yesterday.
A source, who was trapped in the community, said: “Kokori is boiling as I am talking to you now. The soldiers and the youths are exchanging fire seriously. Many persons have been killed. Everybody is running helter-skelter.”
The source said the youths were armed with “ AK-47 rifles, pump action shotguns and even dane-guns”.
It was gathered that trouble broke out when troops invaded a shrine to arrest a juju priest, who is fingered as a charm-maker for Kelvin and his gang.
Security operatives said some youths resisted the arrest and opened fire on the troops, a development that sparked off an exchange of gunfire.
After several hours of gun duel, the ragtag local militias bowed to the superiority of the troops, who arrested dozens of youths from the community.
A high ranking military officer, who pleaded not to be named, confirmed the arrests.
He said: “We arrested some suspects who will be quizzed by detectives and intelligence officers to ascertain the level of their involvement in the fracas.
There is fear among some Urhobo politicians and community leaders following Ibruvwe arrest.
The Nation learnt that some of the panicky leaders included those who had had dealings with Ibruvwe.
“We know that he enjoyed the support of some Urhobo leaders and even politicians from other parts of the state. These people should be really worried because if they are implicated in his confession, they would face the same consequences,” an SSS source said.
The arrest of the kidnap kingpin elicited celebrations from Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and other top officials o f the state government.
The governor was in a meeting with traditional rulers in his office when he got details of the arrest on Wednesday.
Sources at the event said governor Uduaghan confirmed the cheery news to traditional rulers and other government officials.