CERTAINLY, these are not the best of times for trailer drivers.Â Â This is as a result of the increasing attacks by criminals who disguise as security operatives on patrol on major highways.Â They do this in order not to arouse suspicion from their victims and to also beat security checks.
They normally carry out their operations in a Hilux Jeep with tinted glasses and siren blaring to the highest decibel.Â The unsuspecting drivers usually pass them for security operatives on patrol.Â But their true intentions will manifest as soon as these criminals, who are always clad in military uniforms, intercept the drivers.
Pronto, the heavily-armed hoodlums will present aÂ warrant of arrest to their victims and then order them into their waitingÂ jeep.Â While inside, the driver and his conductor would be injected with sedatives, and thenÂ sleep off.Â After that, theÂ trailer is hijacked and the goods diverted to a waiting buyer in far-away Onitsha, Anambra State.
Crime Alert learnt that the nefarious activities of these criminal hijackers had been worrisome to detectives at the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FEDSARS) until recently when they arrested a 38-year-old member of the gang identified as Emeka Ikenga.
The Imo State-born suspect, who is at present a guest at FEDSARS office in Adeniji-Adele Street, Lagos, was arrested in his apartment at Apapa after the detectives who had been on his trail, swooped on him.
The suspect and other members of his gang had successfully hijacked a 40- feet container, conveying goods worth over N11million from its driver on the Benin-Ore Road and the goods were subsequently diverted to Onitsha, Anambra State. The driver of the truck and his conductor were abducted, sedated and slept offÂ and thereafter dumped in the Mile 2 areaÂ ofÂ Lagos.
It was gathered that these goods on arrival in the commercial town of Onitsha, would be received by the gangâ€™s ringleader, identified asÂ Obinna, who is reportedly notorious in receiving stolen goods.Â Â A police source, who craved anonymity, described him as ”an invisible and notorious criminal”, who had kept the police on their toes for long.
SearchÂ Â for Obinna
According to him, â€œWe have been on his search since 2007 and weâ€™ve not got any where close to him.Â He is invisible, notorious and dreadful.Â He receives over 60 per cent of the total number of stolen goods in this country.
He recruits young men, including military personnel for this job and we learnt he takes them to a shrine for oath before engaging them.Â In the past three years, weâ€™ve smashed over three sets of this gang including five soldiers, after which they were dismissed and charged to court.
”We raided the shrine at Ogidi and we arrested the chief priest.Â We also shut down a warehouse at Nnewi where he stores some of the stolen goods.Â Â It was in our bid to track down Obinna that we found Emeka.Â We intercepted a courier meant to pay N1million to Ikengaâ€™s account from ObinnaÂ but we could notÂ arrest him because there were no substantial evidence to get him but we kept our eyes on him until this recentÂ case.
Suspect on exploits
However, while narrating how he ended up at the dreaded FEDSARS,Â Â Ikenga,Â who spoke with Crime Alert, said he was prepared to assist the police nab the kingpin, if they would buy his idea.Â According to him: â€œIf they want to catch him, I can help them.
I know him very well and he trusts me a lot. Though he has deserted me because I have been caught, but if IÂ should callÂ him tomorrow to say I have been released by the police, he would want to have me back.Â Â Then, I can arrange with the police to get him.â€
When asked why he would betray his benefactor, he retorted: â€œbecause I am suffering here alone and others who were involved are walking out there as free men.Â He got me into this business and now he has left me here.Â He is the only one that could have facilitated my release if I had not mentioned his name to the police.
”He is highly fetish and his juju will always notify him whenever his name is mentioned to the police.Â But, if the police want to get him, I am the only one that can drag him out. I wish there is anyone who could surety my release, so I can go after him, but the police would not listen. That man is bad and he has to be taken out.â€
How they operate
”We are based in Lagos and he is at Onitsha.Â Â Whenever we get there for operation, he would instruct us on how to go about it.Â On the operation that brought me here, one of the conductors, Kalu, contactedÂ my Chairman,Â Obinna, and they made the arrangement.
The conductor supplied the name of the driver of the truck and the number-plate.Â And, when they started out for the journey, KaluÂ calledÂ my chairman, we got alerted and we went after them.
”We intercepted them with our operational Hilux Jeep at Ijebu-Ode and when the driver inquired what was happening, we showed him a warrant bearing his name and the number-plateÂ of the truck, claiming that it was an order from the Chief of Army Staff that all trucks passing en-route should be searched for arms and ammunition and that such vehicles should be towed to the nearest Police station.
”He insisted on driving his vehicle but we refused and pushed him and his conductor into the back seat of our Jeep.
”I went back into his truck. The other members of our gang together with the driver and his conductor, headed back to Lagos.
They injected them on the way though I was not there.Â After a little while, ObinnaÂ called us and instructed that we transfer the goods into another vehicle to prevent being trailed.Â Â We heeded his instruction andÂ Kalu followed one of the vehicles down to Onitsha and I came back to LagosÂ expecting my share of the lootÂ which I did not get untilÂ my arrest.
The Commissioner of Police in-charge ofÂ FEDSARS, Adeniji -Adele, Lagos, Mr. JubrilÂ Adele, said: â€œWeÂ were surprised with their new modus operandi.Â It is unusual in this part of the world forÂ criminals to use sedatives on operations like this.
The arrested suspect is now helping us in our search for other members of his gang. As for the ringleader, we are closing in on him, soon we will apprehend him. It will interest you to know that this man receives over 60 per cent of all the diverted goods in this country.
”It seems he has no fixed address and he meets with members of his gang at secluded places and they do most of their conversations on phone.Â Soon, I am positive, the long arm of the law will catch up with him.â€