By Albert Akpor

TWO good friends from the South East of the  Niger who came to Lagos some years back in search of greener pastures are currently in a hot soup at  the dreaded State Criminal Investigations Department (SCID), Panti, Yaba, Lagos for abandoning their earlier credible means of livelihood  and allegedly turning to criminality.

Henry Onwu, a 24- year-old Ebonyi state born ‘hustler’ at the popular Alaba International market in Ojo local government area of Lagos and his friend Ebuka Ozumba, also about the same age and a self- acclaimed musician, may spend the better part of their lives behind bars for allegedly conspiring to break into a warehouse located at the Alaba international market and carting away gas products and other valuables which monetary value have been put at N3.5m.

The Products allegedly carted away, Crime Guard scooped, belong to an unnamed Lagos- based business man what they stole  included:  camping gas and stove, Eneg Gas, Heating touch, glow lamp, Butane gas and different types of high- power regulators.  Like one of  the penitent robbers who was crucified along with Jesus Christ at Golgotha, suspect Henry owned up to the crime he is being  prosecuted for while his partner, Ebuka claimed he had no knowledge of the crime,  saying he was a professional musician who only went to assist his friend (Henry) to evacuate some goods in a warehouse.  But while the heinous plans to steal were being perfected,  the police got a tip- off and the result was the arrest of the duo and the recovery of the stolen products in far away Kano.

Narrating how the duo conspired to commit the crime, suspect Henry Onwu who reports said allegedly masterminded the operation, blamed his involvement on frustration, hunger and above all, family pressure.  According to him, “Anybody who is number one in a family and who has nobody to help him or her may see reason with me on why I did what I did. I came to Lagos state eight years ago, that is 2002 from Ebonyi state.

When I was coming to Lagos, I promised myself that I will never get involved in any act of criminality.  So, I started ‘hustling’ (struggling) at Alaba international market in Ojo. I have tried my hands in different businesses without meaningful result.  This is even as I  still ‘hustle’ helping prospective customers to locate the goods they want to buy.

And at the end of the day, I get some stipends and go home.  That has been my means of survival and I have been living on this until the devil crept into my mind.   Things got to a head when I was called from the village that my three siblings were to start secondary school almost at the same time.

As the first child with a surviving aged mother, it became my responsibility to cater for her and my younger ones.   So, one evening at the close of the day’s job,  I thought of bugling a warehouse having understudied the terrain perfectly well.  Then a thought came into me that I should involve my friends Ebuka and Sunday.

So, sometimes in the second week of January this year,  I and my friends called Sunday and Ebuka came together and burgled the warehouse after we negotiated for a ready market for the goods in Kano.   The first time we went there, we used a saw and destroyed the lock.    I used my own padlock to lock up the place. On the second operation, I went with both Sunday and Ebuka to remove some of the products into a waiting van.   That operation took place at about 5.00am.

On his part, suspect Ebuka Ozumba who was full of regret lamented that he did not partake in the burglary maintaining that he was only invited by Henry to help him load goods that he bought in a truck for onward movement to the north. “ I did not know that the goods were stolen, honestly.

I am a professional musician and I perform regularly at the Alaba international market when there is any social gathering.  Sometimes, I perform at social joints at Okota via Cele bus stop, Lagos.  This is what I live on since I came to Lagos in 2002, from my home in Anambra state.  But one day, Henry came and said he has a job for me and assured that if I can assist him to load some products into a truck in the early morning, he will pay me good money. I never knew that the goods were stolen”.

Looking resignedly while answering questions, the duo lamented their action admitting that it is criminal. “I could not have gone into this if not for frustration arising from the inability to make a headway from ‘hustling’ and especially family pressure.  Now I am in more trouble than what it was when I was trying to survive.  If the police can see reason with me and let me off this hook, I will just retire back home, start farming and settle down.” laments Henry Onwu.

On his part, Ebuka Ozumba though repentant still maintained that he was innocent contrary to Henry’s claim.  “I do not know anything about this allegation.  I am a musician and musicians are easy- going and fun -loving people.  I only went to assist a friend and now I am in this mess.  I want the police to investigate this matter properly and I am sure that at the end of he day, they will absolve me. But if it is the wish of God, let it be”.

Police react
But the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in -charge of SCID, Mr. Solomon Arase is not in anyway moved by the seeming fairy-tales by the suspects insisting that a crime had been committed which needed investigations and possible prosecution.  He assured that his men had spread their dragnet in Kano and other states mentioned by the suspects with a view to tracking down fleeing accomplice.

In strict compliance with the tenets of the law, the suspects would be charged to court if culpable.  Whether they like it not, a crime has been committed and it is the responsibility of the police to investigate and prosecute where necessary.  My men are still on the trail  of some of the accomplices indicted.  My men even had to travel to, as far as, Kano state where some of the stolen products were recovered. and of course, as you know, the suspects will be arraigned in court at the end of the investigation.” he assured.

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