A driver, Tigidam Bright, has been arrested for his complicity in the kidnapping of his boss’ wife, Mrs Gift Topba, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
He was apprehended alongside two suspected kidnappers – Isaac Michael, Leera Barisua – by operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team.
City Round learnt that some gunmen kidnapped Gift, the wife of an Ogoni human rights activist, Gani Topba, on August 25, 2020 at the entrance of an estate where she lives and took her to their den in the Khana area of the state.
They reportedly demanded N100m ransom initially but later reduced it to N500,000, which was paid by the family before she was released.
IRT detectives investigating the incident were said to have traced a mobile phone the gang used for negotiating the ransom to an unnamed man who assisted them in arresting Michael and Barisua.
It was gathered that in the course of interrogation, the duo mentioned Bright as the mastermind and he was also picked up.
In an interview with City Round during the week, Bright denied orchestrating Gift’s abduction but confessed to have got N100,000 from the ransom.
He said he told his friends (Michael and Barisua) how his boss of eight years allegedly sacked him unjustly and they promised to help deal with him.
He explained, “I am from Khana. I left secondary school in 2006 and went to learn how to fabricate metals. When I completed the apprenticeship and couldn’t secure a job at an oil company, I went to work with Chief Gani Topba as his personal driver. When the COVID-19 pandemic started and there was a lockdown, Chief (Topba) was in Abuja. He asked that his Port Harcourt office should be shut down and I dropped his keys with his secretary.
“He paid my salary one month into the lockdown but after the lockdown, he refused to take me back as his driver. I tried all I could to get back the job but it wasn’t possible. I learnt that the chief sacked me because I diverted a business contract he was supposed to execute to someone else. But I didn’t do such a thing.
“Sometime in August 2020, I travelled to Khana to visit some of my friends. They asked if I was still working with the chief and I told them that he fired me over an unfounded allegation. Then they promised to deal with him on my behalf. I didn’t know that their plan was to kidnap his wife. I learnt that she was kidnapped and after she was released, I was given N100,000 as my share of the ransom.”
Bright claimed that he collected the money because he was scared his friends might kill him if he failed to cooperate with them.
Michael, 37, said he was introduced to kidnapping by a friend at large, identified simply as Mark, who in turn linked him up with Barisua, to form a four-man gang.
The father of two confessed to having participated in three operations since he joined the gang in July 2020, adding that they freed one of their victims without collecting ransom because he was a pastor.
He said, “We kidnapped a woman at Rumuporisi area of Port Harcourt and took her to our camp in Kaani-Kor community (Khana area) in Mark’s car. She spent three days with us and was released after N2m was paid as ransom to secure her freedom. I got N300,000 as my own share.
“My last operation was the kidnapping of the wife of Chief Gani Topba. His driver brought the job to our gang and he was also the person who showed us his house in Port Harcourt. He also told us the colour and brand of car his wife drives. We kidnapped her on August 25, 2020 and kept her in our camp, while one of my phones which I later sold was used for the ransom negotiation.
“A ransom of N500,000 was eventually paid and I got N100,000 as my share. I know Chief Gani Topba; he is from my community but his driver claimed he treated him badly which made us kidnap his wife.”
Barisua, a graduate of Electrical Engineering, said he went into kidnapping after losing his job at an oil company in Port Harcourt, but insisted that he did not participate in Gift’s abduction.