By Ifeanyi Okolie
14 members of a suspected notorious armed robbery gang that specialized in killing policemen and carting away their rifles are currently cooling their heels in the cells of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, Ikeja, Lagos State.
The suspects are believed to be members of an 18-man robbery gang that carried out attacks on 11 policemen in Lagos and OgunStates between October and November 2012. Their goal was to kill anyone who tried to render their mission unaccomplished. Not even the sight of policemen, no matter the number, could deter them. Some of them confessed to have learnt robbery skills while serving jail terms.
Rather than escaping at the approach of policemen, the dare-devils, usually armed with sophisticated weapons, would position themselves and tackle policemen fire for-fire, killing them (policemen) sometimes. A total of nine police AK 47 rifles, two English pump action pistols, 37 magazines fully loaded with 30 rounds of ammunition and two cans filled with 750 rounds of 7.36mm live ammunition each; and eight vehicles were recovered from the suspects during raids of their hideouts in Lagos and Ogun States. Sunday Vanguard also gathered that members of the gang took part in the September 9 bloody Sunday robbery attacks in Lagos State, during which two policemen and other persons were killed.
Few weeks later, precisely on October 23, they struck again. This time, it was in Abeokuta and Ibafo in OgunState, leaving in their trail the death of five policemen and carting away their rifles.
The gang did not stop at that; they struck again in Lagos, last month, killing over six policemen and many others.They confessed during interrogation to have been responsible for the robbery attack on Regal Seaview Estate, Lekki, Lagos, on November 10, 2012. In that operation, members of the gang, numbering about 20, reportedly carried a house-to- house raid on about 10 buildings,dispossessing their victims of cash and valuables.
During the operation, policemen attached to Maroko Division, alongside those of the Rapid Response Squad, stormed the scene in six vans and an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC). But the dare-devils, said to have had the advantage of superior firepower, reportedly, deflated the tyres of the APC and, at the end of the shoot-out, escaped with their loot. Lagos CP Wades In Worried by the dexterity with which the gang operated, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Umar Manko, reportedly, directed operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, to launch a manhunt for the gang, following which the officer in-charge, Mr. Abba Kyari, mobilised his men, who combed some hideouts in Abeokuta and Ibafo at the end of which 12 suspected members of the gang were arrested. The first suspect to be arrested, as gathered, was identified as one Gbenga Oni, (27).
He was said to have been apprehended on his way back from an operation. On interrogation, Oni reportedly confessed to all the robbery operations he had participated in, before taking the operatives to a forest in Ifo, OgunState, where he claimed the gang kept their arms and ammunition. When SARS operatives stormed the place, however, most of the arms had disappeared, with only 1,500 rounds of 7.36mm live ammunition recovered.
At that point, it became apparent that the gang had got wind of the operatives’ move. But a police source said the information Oni provided aided
the bursting and subsequent arrest of some top members of the gang at their hideouts in the Ikotun area of LagosState.
”While we were working on the informa tion Oni provided us, we tracked a Honda Baby-Boy car that was snatched by the gang to AnambaraState. We later found the car at the home of one Ejike Mbogu, one of the gang’s leaders. We met his mother with him who told us that the car was given to her by her son as a gift.
We retrieved the car and returned to Lagos. ”Acting on the information she gave us, with that from Oni, we stormed one of the gang’s hideouts at a hotel along Abaranje Road, Ikotun. We learnt that Ejike and three other members of the gang were using that hotel as their base and that the hotel also served as a rendezvous for other gangs. ”
We lured Ejike out of the midst of his members, with a view to apprehending him quietly. But the moment he noticed we were policemen he made an effort to escape by grabbing one of our rifles. In the process, he was shot by another operative covering up for us.
Wreathing in pains, Ejike swore never to suffer alone and, therefore, told us to move quickly into the hotel, that his colleagues might become suspicious if they do not see him within a short period. ”So, we proceeded to the hotel but, on getting there, we discovered that the whole place was crowded and, if we must arrest any of his colleagues we would need to cordon-off the whole place, which means we would need more men.
”We briefed our OC, Kyari, who deployed more men to the place but, unfortunately, they were trapped in traffic at Oke-Afa. We were then left to move in our number and, immediately, we entered the hall and ordered everyone to lie-down. Three members of Ejike’s gang swiftly made for the fence.
Two of them managed to escape while the third one was shot. We succeeded in arresting him and two others who identified themselves as Ogbona Ekene and Paul Ofule. Ejike later identified the injured man as Dada who has been on our wanted list while others who escaped were identified as Paul and Tosin.
In his confessional statement, Ejike told us that a member of their gang was arrested and detained at Badagry Police Station. He gave the identity of the man as Alhaji Mumuni and informed us that Mumuni told the policemen at Badagry that he was a car smuggler and that they are currently trying to secure his bail.
”We immediately contacted Badary Police Station and they transferred him to us. While we were on this, policemen in Ogun State also arrested two members of the gang; Ope and Eso, at a party in Ifo area of Ogun State”.
The Squad further made an arrest of seven other suspected members of the gang in Lagos and OgunStates whose identities were given as Oyedele Yemi (25), Shola Ayodele( 32), Seyi Aluko (33), Ganiyu Moshood( 25), Samuel Sulaiman ( 28) and Kunle Bello said to have sustained bullet wounds during gun battles with the operatives. Their confessional statements, as gathered, led to the arrest of the gang’s armorer, one Oyebanji Seun.
Seun reportedly took the operatives to a mechanic workshop at Oyingbo area of Lagos where he kept the gang’s arms and ammunition in a blue car. Confessions 23 -year-old Ejike, a native of Amaiko in Awka South of AnambraState, told Sunday Vanguard that he moved to Lagos in 2008 to live with his elder brother who sold refrigerator parts in Mushin and Lawanson, and later went into petty theft after his brother moved into provision.
He said he later met one Segun who claimed to be a soldier at Ijesha, Surulere, and got acquainted with him because of the way he spent money. ”I came back from the market one day without any money. When Segun came to visit, he told me to get into his car and we drove to a beer parlour at Ijesha, where he bought me a plate of pepper soup and a bottle of beer. Later, he asked if I had been involved in any crime in the past and I told him no.
He then said I do not have experience for the kind of job that fetched him and his friends money”, the suspect said. ”Again, he asked if I could ride a motorbike and I said yes. Few days later, he bought me a new motorcycle and said I should be working with it, but that whenever he needed me he would call me.
He called me one day and said I should convey him and his friend, one Shina, to work. That was how I was introduced into robbery. ”He told me our targets were people going to withdraw or deposit money from the bank. I worked with them for a while before they split and shared their guns. Segun later left for BeninRepublic to operate and, because I was still learning the ropes, I was attached to Alhaji Mumuni who was
into car snatching. ”We went as far as going to Cotonou and told some car dealers that we could get cars for them from Nigeria. They bought the idea and gave us locally made guns to rob cars and bring to them. But it later became difficult to take stolen cars to Cotonou and we devised another method by dismantling stolen cars and taking their parts there. Along the line, Mumuni was arrested because one of the stolen cars was found with his younger brother.
And during interrogation, he mentioned my name and three others. We were all arrested and taken to jail.
Payment for freedom ”While in prison I paid the sum of N200,000 to regain freedom. Dada and others did same and came out too. But while in prison, we got contacts of a gang that used AK-47 rifles; so when we came out, we contacted them and joined them. I can’t count the number of robberies I have participated in.
”We were responsible for the September 9 and 11 robberies in Lagos and Kwara States. It was after those two robberies that I lost my fear and respect for policemen. Policemen as targets ”I personally decided to get back at policemen for treating me badly while I was in their custody. They became our targets because we knew if we were caught, they won’t spare us. Whenever we saw a policeman , we would open fire on him, whether he was armed or not. We would make sure they are dead before leaving the scene. And if they were armed, we would take their rifles.
”I did same at Oko-Oba, Ibafon, Abekuta, Lekki, Isolo, Ejigbo and several other places. Some times I sold some of the rifles to other gangs that didn’t have AK-47 rifles. I was enjoying myself without knowing I will be arrested someday. And I was very careful too. But I don’t know how the police knew I was in Ikotun on the day I was arrested. Since I have been arrested, I won’t shield anyone. We have all done evil and we must all pay for our
sins”. ’In Abeokuta alone, we killed six policemen’ 27-year-old Oni , a former driver and private security guard at GSM mast in Abeokuta, told Sunday Vanguard that some operations he participated in included one “at a filling station at Ibafo, where we snatched two cars and a Jeep.
When we got there, Gwoke and Dada opened fire on some policemen who came to contain the situation and they died on the spot”. The suspect continued: “We also operated in a bank in Abeokuta, where we killed policemen who wanted to intervene. It was Ejike, Dada, Gwoke, Kazeem and Tosin that killed the policemen.
Two of the policemen ran into the bush and escaped. In Abeokuta alone, we killed at least six policemen” As for 48-year-old Taofeek Mumuni, a native of Odogbolu, OgunState, his role was to drive the gang to operations at the end of which he would be given his own share of the loot.
”We used Pathfinder and Infinity Jeeps as our armory. I was arrested last year for robbery and served a jailed term at Ikoyi Prison.” The gang’s informant, Shola Ayodele, who lives in Ikotun area of Lagos, revealed: ”My job is just to supply them with necessary information for robbery operations at Liasu Road”.
For 23 -year-old Ogbonnaya Ekweye, a native of AbiaState, he was a barber when he was with his in-law in Lagos before he joined the gang. He disclosed that his first outing with the gang was in Ekiti. He got N20 million for participating in the operation. Since the incident of the Black Sunday, the Police in Lagos have revved up their anti-robbery activities and a path on the back by Inspector General MD Abubakar would go a long way to further boost morale.
WEAPONS OF CRIME
*39 AK47 Rifles,
*3 General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMGs),
*1 Rocket Launcher,
*403 AK47 rifle Magazines,
*Over 20,000 rounds of AK 47 live ammunition.