Okwudili Ndiwe, a 22-year old boy, also popularly known as ‘Derico Nwamama’, rose from being just a normal street miscreant to become the leader of a hard-hearted robbery gang that was identified with bloodsheds and flagrant violations for the rule of law.

As Derico notoriety spread like wildfire among traders, they could hardly go about business or display their goods because cries of ‘Derico’ would rent the air and another chaotic chapter of people losing their livelihoods and lives beacons.

Many residences could only sleep with only one eye closed because Derico knew no night or day. At just 22, Derico’s thirst for blood struck fear in the hearts of the people of Anambra.

Derico and his gang waylaid luxurious inter-state buses ferrying over 60 passengers and robbed them dry of their belongings.

In December 2000, it was reported that Derico attacked a 59-seater bus at the popular Upper Iweka road, after robbing these innocent passengers, they attempted to kill all the passengers, but only four people were lucky to have survived the massacre.

With no shroud of fear, Derico alongside his gang robbed the biggest and most secure banks, carting away millions of Naira and leaving casualties as a warning to the police. After operations, he often boasted of his invincibility, that no man could kill him.

At the height of his reign, it was estimated that Derico personally killed over 100 people, including police officers.

In mid-2001, the Anambra Division of Police began Operation Derico to capture the elusive armed robber. To sum up their effort, he was not captured.

Derico had an expansive cache of weapons that gave the police a run for their money. He was very notorious for gunning down police officers, some reports claim that he murdered as much as 25 of them.

Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju with the support of governors from neighboring states, then created a paramilitary force called ‘Bakassi boys’ to tackle the plague of crime in the region.

Derico became more adventurous than ever during his final days, he and his gang launched an audacious attack on a local police station to secure heavy artillery for a bank robbery in Asaba. In turn, the Bakassi Boys and the Nigerian Police turned on the heat on him.

SARS operatives in collaboration with the Bakassi Boys left for Abuja where they carried out a raid on Derico’s residence. He although escaped by the whiskers, but two of his most notorious lieutenants were killed and his cache of weapons seized.

On the 3rd of July 2001, Bakassi Boys got intelligence that Derico was on his way to his hideout between Agbor to Onitsha.

The boys lay in waiting at the end of the Niger Bridge for his arrival. Soon enough, at the Bridge Head, Derico was identified in a commuter bus and subsequently arrested.

The Nigerian Police requested that he be released for investigation and prosecution but with no trust and assurance that he would meet what he deserved, the Bakassi Boys vehemently refused.

Six days after Derico was captured, the Bakassi Boys drove, singing and chanting defiantly, from their base to the popular Ochanja Market Junction.

As shouts of approval and celebration tore through the air, the Bakassi Boys leaped out of their vehicles and unveiled their prize catch; Derico. It is said that Derico’s body was chopped up and set on fire.

This chase and capture of Derico inspired Lancelot Imasuen’s Issakaba, described as one of Nigeria’s greatest action films.

Salaudeen Olayinka

A lover of history

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