At 30, Zakeri Isiaka is a millionaire and a frightening one. In political circles in Kogi State, Saturday PUNCH learnt that a mere mention of his name sends shivers down the spines of those who are familiar with his activities.
To Kogi State indigenes, Isiaka is a dreaded political thug, who killed at will. To the police, he is a combination of a daring robber and killer but to his family, he is the husband to nine wives and a father to 15 children. But the negative descriptions are all inaccurate, according to Isiaka’s statement to the police. He said he was a freedom fighter “out to rescue Kogi State from the clutches of evil men controlling the affairs of the state.”
Asked about a number of killings which he allegedly carried out in Kogi State, Isiaka said those he was accused of killing were his political foes and criminals who were after his life.
According to a source, he got on the radar of the police when he allegedly led a gang that attacked operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Response Team in July 2016 and snatched a rifle from them.
But on October 23, a three-month operation to track him down paid off when members of the IRT cornered him on the Okene–Akure Expressway and apprehended him while he was on his way to Akure, Ondo State.
He was transferred to the Force Headquarters, Abuja, where he promptly gave a detailed account of his operations, which spanned several states.
A police source told Saturday PUNCH that Isiaka’s gang were responsible for many cases of kidnaps and robberies in Kogi and other North Central states.
When Isiaka was arrested, the police recovered 15 rifles along with several magazines and ammunition from him. One of the guns was the one his gang allegedly snatched from the IRT.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that the day the gang snatched the gun, operatives of the IRT were in the state to rescue a kidnap victim, Edward Amedu, being held in a forest camp by Isiaka’s men.
When the gang sighted the police team, he was said to have ordered his men to open fire on their approaching vehicle.
The police source said that in the process, two operatives of the IRT sustained bullet wounds. At the end of the operation, the IRT had lost a rifle to Isiaka’s team.
Two of his men were said to have been arrested at the time of the operation. They later led the police to where the victim was rescued.
Isiaka, a native of Odu-Ochelle in Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi State, allegedly started off as a robber before joining militants in the Niger Delta and later became a political thug, who at a point, took control of his entire local government area.
Isiaka said he was once a farmer, who laboured for eight years till he could no longer endure the suffering and travelled to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where he joined the group of militant leader, Ateke Tom.
He said, “I dropped out of secondary school and had nothing else to do but to go into farming at Iseyin, Oyo State. I did that till I went to Port Harcourt and started living with a young man. One day, I went to a joint where I normally smoked Indian hemp and saw some men discussing there. I realised they were militants involved in oil theft.
“I approached them and told them I was interested in joining them. They gave me the beating of my life. They accused me of being an informant. I was beaten for almost one week before one of them, who said he was one of Ateke Tom’s boys, finally said I could join them.
“He taught me how to handle guns and we burst many pipelines together. I was making almost N3m in each operation. After making enough money, I moved to Abuja and built a house. I bought some cars and started a car dealership. When I left the creeks, I came back with three guns, which I took to my village in Kogi.
“The sitting governor of Kogi State at the time, had given guns to thugs in the state. Because these same thugs killed my blood brothers during a disagreement, I had to keep the guns in Kogi so that I could use them to protect myself.”
Isiaka said during the 2011 governorship election in Kogi State between Idris Wada and Prince Abubakar Audu, he went home to “protect” the votes of his people.
According to him, the guns he brought back from the Niger Delta came in handy. He said despite this, one of his friends was killed during the election.
The suspect said, “After that election, I came back to Abuja and continued my business. I am a kind man, I even bought motorcycles for people as gifts. I first married three wives.
“Before the 2015 election, thugs of the Peoples Democratic Party and All Progressives Congress had a clash. I had to come back home and fight on the side of the APC. That was when the APC knew that I had become a powerful person. They realised they needed me.
“During the presidential election, Prince Audu gave me N30m to work for his party. But my younger brother, Farouk, was killed by PDP thugs in front of my father. He was picked up in his room where he slept beside his wife. They killed him and took his body away.
“When it was time for the governorship election, Prince Audu called me again and mobilised me with N20m and promised that he would make me the Chief Security Officer of the state if he won.
“He said he would make me Kogi’s youth leader and I would even be in charge of collecting revenue on farm produce in the state.
“My boys and I worked very hard. I was almost killed when I was ambushed by a PDP thug. So, I would have become the state’s CSO if Prince Audu had not died.”
Isiaka claimed that when Governor Yahaya Bello assumed office, he had made overtures to him, indicating that he could be useful to his government but got no reply.
According to him, some individuals might have scuttled his chances because of his closeness to the late Audu.
Isiaka said, “The people I fought were PDP thugs, who wanted to kill me and since APC came into power I have called on all my boys who are into armed robbery to stop because I have repented.
“Few weeks before the last governorship election, I communicated with some of my boys from Okene, who used to rob in my area. I advised them to quit because I discovered that the people of Kogi State wanted change and they were accepting what I was telling them. I knew that if APC won, my boys and I would enjoy.
“But they refused, so, I tricked them. I told them that I had a job for them and when they came to my town, I took them to a hotel. While they were inside, my boys went to where they parked their operational vehicle and stole all their guns.
“I control all the APC thugs in Kogi State and since I repented, I have been seriously against crime. Any of my boys who got involved in kidnapping, I personally arrested and handed over to the police but in most cases the police would release them after collecting money.
The police in Kogi State can confirm this. After all I did, the state governor (Bello) did not appreciate my efforts. He believes that I am still in support of Prince Audu’s son, Mohammed, but that is not true. My loyalty is to APC.”
Speaking about some of the robbery operations he was involved in, Isiaka said few weeks before the governorship election in Kogi in 2015, he and his gang robbed a vehicle carrying a huge amount of money in Abuja. He said he made over N50m from the operation and that he narrowly escaped death as one of his gang members attempted to kill him.
According to him, one Dan brought the job to him.
“He told me that some politicians were moving money around Abuja and it seemed that the money was meant for election. We planned our operation and we ambushed the driver and snatched the vehicle.
“After the operation, I kept three Ghana-Must-Go bags for myself and I gave Dan and others involved two bags to share. But while we were sharing the money, Dan, who had a gun with him, wanted to shoot me. He ended up shooting himself.”
The suspect said in another operation in Okene, Kogi State, his gang made N10m.
He said he lost seven of his rifles to the police in Niger State after they arrested his younger brother, who gave one of his guns to a friend. The friend then used it to snatch a car.
According to Isiaka, he gave the guns to his manager for safe-keeping but said when he was away for the election, his younger brother decided to rent out one of the guns to his friend.
“When my brother and his friend were arrested, he led the police to my car stand in Abuja where police seized all the vehicles in it and they also carried away my seven rifles.”
Despite his situation, Isiaka has a word of advice to the government on how to curtail crime.
He said amnesty should be offered to anyone carrying a gun in the state, saying that there are too many guns on the loose.