By Ifeanyi Okolie
Lagos State Police Command,over the week, recorded a breakthrough by arresting a 31-year-old man, Tochukwu Nweke, suspected to be the most notorious illegal arms dealer in the country. Arrested with the suspect are five other members of the gang that allegedly coordinated the high profile Sunday September 9 robbery in Lagos State during which several persons including three policemen were killed.
The gang members were also suspected to be the brains behind the deadly robbery operation at the First Bank in Kwara State on September 11, 2012, where they overran a police station, killing several policemen and carting away their rifles.
Parading the suspects before journalists at the state police command headquarters, Ikeja, yesterday, the Commissioner of police, Lagos State, Umar Manko, told reporters that a total of 14 Ak-47 rifles, one General Purpose Machine Gun, GPMG, 125 magazines, loaded with 6,672 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, four GPMG chain bullets with 100 rounds of live ammunition fully loaded, and 180 rounds of 9 mm live ammunition were recovered from the suspects.
Cp Manko, who gave the identities of the other suspects as Nonso Ndubisi, 26, Akindele Akinyemi,30, Emmanuel Ehianeta,27, Segun Runsewe,39, and Isiaka Lawal,55, added that their arrest came following the deadly robbery attack in Lagos State and Kwara on September 9 and 11, 2012 where several lives of innocent citizens and police rifles were lost.
According to him; “the close circuit television (CCTV) footage of the first bank, Share, obtained from Kwara state command was carefully analyzed and one Akindele Akinyemi, who has been on Police list as the most wanted armed robbery kingpin in recent time, was identified.
He was lured by the officer in charge of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, SP Abba Kyari and his men from where he was hibernating in Cotonou, the Republic of Benin and he was arrested with three other members of his gang; Ehianeta, Runsewe and Lawal. The above mentioned exhibits were recovered from them after the arrest.”
Continuing, the Police boss stated that this group merged with Uche Okeagbu’s group who were earlier arrested in September 2012, to carry out the September 9 and 11 robberies in Lagos and Kwara States. “They were formally members of a notorious armed robbery gang which included Fatia Sule, Tude Oyebade, Adewale Adeniyi, Bode Oyekan, Ismaila Showemimo, Ayomide Jeremiah and many others who have earlier met their waterloo in a gun battle with SARS operatives.
A total of 11 Ak47 rifles, two pump action guns, two pistols, 59 magazines, 1,770 live 7.62mm ammunition, six .9mm and one live cartridge were recovered through diligent follow up between November 2011 and July 2012. The suspects confessed to series of bank, bullion van, and Bureau De Change robberies in Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Okgi, and Edo States.”
Police sources intimated Crime Alert that based on the confessional statements made by Akinyemi and Ehianeta after the large catch of arms and ammunition were recovered from them, the name and contact address of their arms supplier, who they identified as Tochukwu Nweke was obtained.
Ehianeta reportedly claimed ownership of all the arms and ammunition and also confessed that he bought them with over N20 million from Nweke. He also revealed during interrogation that Nweke was getting his stock from the looted amoury of former Libyan leader, Muamar Gadaffi stating that Nweke has a contact in Niamey, the capital of Niger Republic who received a large catch of arms and ammunition looted from Libya.
The AK-47 rifles, he claimed were bought for as much as N450,000 while the GPMG was sold to him for N1million adding that Nweke had many other patronizers from different parts of Africa including Nigeria where they make the biggest and fastest sales. The suspects also disclosed that Nweke supplies dangerous weapons to the whole of South South and South Eastern parts of the country.
Based on these startling revelations, Crime Alert learnt that operatives of the special anti-robbery squad launched a massive manhunt for the man described as ‘the most notorious illegal arms dealer’ in the country. The Officer in charge swiftly mobilized a team of crack operatives in the squad to track down the notorious arm dealer.
The first thing the operatives did was to establish contacts with some of his boys in Lagos State. “At that time, we discovered that his phone lines were not connecting as he was out of the country. One of our operative who posed as a prospective buyer that needed two Ak-47 rifles started communicating with his boys and he asked us to pay N600, 000 for each of the rifles amounting to N1.2.
We agreed to his prices and offered to pay N900, 000, as first installment. And we asked him how we could get the money across to him and get rifles. He asked us to be patient and wait for instructions. While he thought we were waiting, we ran a track on Nweke and it was discovered that he was back in the country and his location was Onitsha. We quickly moved down to Onitsha and started hunting for him.
Eventually our efforts paid off on November 6, 2012, around 10 pm, Nweke was tracked to Sea Park Hotel, Asaba, in Delta State and the next day, the operatives invaded the hotel and arrested him. They searched his Mercedes Benz 230 and found two Ak-47 rifles, 750 live ammunition and 14 magazines concealed in specially constructed compartment under the back seat of the car.
“When Nweke was interrogated, he confessed that he imports Ak-47 rifles, GPMGS, Rocket launchers, and other military grade arms and ammunitions into the country from Niger Republic. He gave the name of his supplier as one Alhaji who resides at the border between Benin Republic and Niger Republic stating that each time he makes an order, Alhaji will package the arms and ammunition inside bags of onion and they will send them through waybill from Benin Republic into the country.
He also gave us the names of some of his buyers and led us to one Nonso Ndubisi, in Onitsha whom he had supplied four Ak-47 rifles.”
When Crime Alert interviewed some of the suspects, Akinyemi and Ehianeta admitted taking part in some deadly bank and bullion van robberies in various states. Ehianeta also told Crime Alert that he owns all the arms and ammunition recovered from them.
According to him “ I am from Edo state and I do not have a fixed address in the country, I spend most of my time in Ghana and Benin Republic. I was formally into internet fraud but I quit and joined armed robbery because it is faster and easy.
I invested over N20 million into armed robbery and I bought all my arms and ammunition from Tochukwu. He sold Ak-47 rifles to me for N450,000, magazines for N10,000, 7.62mm ammunition for N1,000 per one , GPMG for N1m and it .9mm ammunition, N1500 per one. He told me he could sell rocket launchers for N1.5m and the rocket for N500,000.
I decided to buy these ammunition because whoever owns the arms and ammunition used during any operation gets the highest share. I never knew I was going be arrested this way. I have had several successful trips but on the day I was arrested, I was with Akin and we got a call from a client who said he has a job for us.
The client said he wanted us to rob somebody of the sum of N10 million. So, I and Akin traveled to Lagos from Coutonu and asked the client to meet us at Ojota, but unknown to us, we were in a police sting operation. We didn’t know that the client was a police officer that wanted to lure us for arrest.
When we got to Ojota and we met with the client, before we knew what was happening, we have been surrounded by SARS operatives and they arrested us. I cooperated with them because I know the end has come. I took them to the place where I keep my rifles at the home of my herbalist in Ogun State and they recovered every thing. I have given them all the information I have and I hope I will get a second chance.”