THE END OF DERICO
Captured criminals were savagely beaten, mutilated, dismembered and even set on fire, all without trial. After heaping the remains of the suspects in the blazing flames, the Bakassi Boys then asked the onlookers and bystanders to raise their hands in what was a symbolic form of worship and surrender. The end of Derico would prove to be even more dramatic.
On the 9th of July 2001, six days after Derico was captured, Bakassi Boys chanting war songs drove in their clangorous buses to the ever-bustling Ochanja Market Junction (Roundabout) along Iweka Road in Onitsha, one of the commercial nerve centers of the state and right there in the middle of the market, their buses came to a screeching halt. Crazy shouts of excitement and unspeakable terror filled the atmosphere of one of West Africa’s most active markets.
Some of the Bakassi Boys did not even let their buses come to their typical maddening stop before they jumped out of the vehicles, some from the windows, the doors were barely closed as they sped recklessly towards the centre of Onitsha. Traders and shopowners at the market hurriedly closed their shops to have a full view of the drama that was about to unfold. Many had not even seen the infamous Derico before and did not know how he looked like, whether he was handsome like the Prince of the Air, or as old as Melchizedek. What many saw next was not what they expected.
Derico was dragged out, his face was thoroughly ‘panel-beaten’, a sure mark of the non-stop physical assault and the maximum shishi that he had received in the hands of the Bakassi Boys in the dungeon where they had locked him up. A 22-year-old lad, his body was ‘decorated’ with numerous cuts and gashes from cutlasses that went really deep into his brown, proteinous African flesh. It was the sight of savagery. Raw savagery. But the real savagery was to come.
Derico was in obvious pains but no one seemed to care. He was going to taste the same chilli pepper and ata rodo that he had rubbed in the eyes of the helpless Nigerians.
Still chanting war songs and edged on by the ecstatic mob, the Bakassi Boys were totally in control and in minutes, a huge crowd had formed around the arena, waiting for the most anticipated spectacle in July 2001 in Nigeria’s enterprising southeast.
At that moment, one of the ‘war commanders’ of the Bakassi Boys named Okpompi addressed the crowd, which was now swelling by the minute. With a voice that pierced through the electrified crowd, Okpompi said that the Bakassi Boys were not in the state for politics. He said they had no business with politics and they were strictly interested in fighting crime. He went to add that whoever was thinking they were involved in politics was a joker.
Although chaotic, the end of Derico still had some semblance of a ceremony, even if it was a most gory one indeed. Responding to approving roars from the bloodthirsty and vengeance-seeking crowd, the Bakassi Boys assured their people that insecurity would become a thing of the past in the state. At that point, the microphone was handed to Derico.
Life was already ebbing out of his poor soul and his vocal cords soon betrayed him. Trembling like a flayed cat on a dark, lonely winter night, he begged for his life and like all legendary criminals staring death in the face, he made some feeble last attempts to declare his innocence and plead for mercy that would never materialize. Full of regrets, shrieking in pain and covered with sweat, tears and blood, Derico twaddled:
“My name is Oddy, alias Derico, alias Nwa Mama. I appeal to you the people of Anambra State, please don’t kill me, I don’t like evil. It was when I killed Chiejina (another suspected robber) that people thought I am a strong guy, you know.’’
The crowd let out a confused mix of shouts and gibberish, the spirit of vengeance had possessed everyone in the city center but Derico continued begging and pleading for his life and at a point, he even denied robbing anyone:
“I trust Bakassi Boys. They are strong. Please, mercy for me. Nobody can identify me as…