By Evelyn Usman
They are four in number, although with different faces, heights and complexion but have one thing in common, frustration!,Â as they put it, led them to form a robbery gang . They operate in Ijebu-Ode at nights, only to come back to Lagos next morning, pretending to have gone to work.
The partners in crime until their arrest, engaged in flagging vehicles down with torch along Ijebu-Ode road, pretending to be security operatives, a devise that ordinarily would never give their identities away. This, they indulged in until they were arrested Thursday morning by policemen attached to the Federal High way patrol, while returning from a successful operation.
In this interview with Crime Alert, the suspects who identified themselves as Anayo Nwanga, Christian Obike, Omeyi Johnson and Chukwudi Nwakwo, begged to be given a second chance in order to amend their ways.
Although he denied being leader of the suspected robbery gang despite claim by his colleagues, 27-year-old Anayo Nwaga, said his gang never used any weapon during operation.Â Â Rather, he claimed they usually wrapped a stick with a black cellotape , making it look like a gun, with which they threatened their victims.
Said he: â€œ We always leave Lagos for Ijebu-Ode to operate because we did not want to be easily identified in Lagos. We have never killed because we do not use gun. What we did was to wrap a cellotape round a stick, making it look like a gun and we will stand at the middle of the road flagging vehicles down.
If we were lucky, some of them would stop thinking we were policemen and we would ask the driver to come down and give us his money. We usually operate between 9pm and 10pm. At times when any police patrol team approaches, we would run into the bush and return back after they must have passedâ€
KAI sent to to jail
Asked how he came in contact with other members of the gang, he revealed that he just finished serving a jail term, adding that he met some members of the gang in prison. Asked what offence he committed that took him to jail, he replied, â€œ Formerly , I had a shop at Ikorodu but it was demolished by the state government.
In my bid to fend for my family, I started hawking and one unfortunate day, I was arrested by an official ofÂ Kick Against Indiscipline(KAI) and was sent to Kirikiri because I had no money to bail myself.Â While narrating my ordeal to other inmates, I was asked not to worry that they would contact me when I got out.
I spent three months before gaining freedom. But when I came back, there was nothing to do and no one to help. That was how I spoke with some of my friends and we decided to go into this, promising we would not kill.
We had operated thrice before our arrest.Â Â In the first operation, my share was N15,000, in the second operation, my share was N17,000 . This is the third time and my share was supposed to be N10,000″, he stated.
On his part, his second in command who identified himself as Christian Obika, an indigene of Anyagwua, in Agbor, Delta State, blamed his indulgence on what he described as â€˜an unfriendly societyâ€™. Clad in a military camouflage short and a military bag to match, one would ordinarily mistake him for a military man. He was also discovered to have just finished serving a three- year jail term over a man slaughter charge.
Hear him, â€œ I met Anayo in prison while serving a jail term at Kirikiri. I was sent to jail because I had an accident with my commercial motorcycle called okada and the person I hit died in the process.Â Â Anayo left before me and after I was discharged, I met him in a club at Mile 12, where I had gone to relax.
After discussing with him, he asked me to join the gang and I did. My joining the gang was borne out of frustration. You know, like the proverbial saying that an idle mind is the devilâ€™s workshop, after the jail term , I got some jobs but nobody wanted to stand as a guarantor for me, not even members of my immediate familyâ€.
His job, according to him, was to hold the fake gun strategically . He revealed that the gang also usedÂ broken down vehicles as a means to stop moving vehicles.
According to the suspect who, incidentally is the last child in a family of ten, â€œ Any time we see a broken down vehicle, we would dispossess the driver and use the vehicle to block the road , as that would force on-coming vehicles to stopâ€.
Asked what he did with the money realised so far, he shook his head in self pity, saying, â€œ the first time I joined the gang, I realised N5,000.
I used the money to travel home to see my ailing father who was at the verge of dying becauseÂ I had not visited the village since I came back from prison. In the second operation, I got N10,000 which I used to pay for my house rent. I was unable to get my share from this last operation following our arrestâ€
On several occasions, he said he contemplated quitting but could not summon upÂ courage due to lack of an alternative job. â€œ I was always afraid anytime we were going on operation. I usually had it at the back of my mind that one day we would be arrested and I was likely to be sent back to jail.Â Â I knew that God was not happy with what I was doing but kept on because of lack of help.
I have six elderly brothers and sisters but none cared to help me. It is not as if they are not well to do. Even, one of my sisters is a serving police officerâ€.
Asked if their refusal to render him assistance was borne out of his uncanny behaviour, he shook his head in disagreement, stating that , â€œ I am not the type that go begging people for help because I do not like bothering people, that is why I took my destiny in my hand even though it was the wrong wayâ€.
How I was taught to fish
For 22-year-old Chukwudi Nwankwo, the story was the same, as he claimed he had to seek an alternative means to feed his family. Although he denied ever being to jail, he said he once had an accident with his Passat car , a situation that led to selling the car to pay for his hospital bills last year.
â€œWe all live together at Odoguyan, Ikorodu . When the situation became unbearable, I approached them to borrow me some money. But they asked how long I would continue borrowing to feed my family and suggested they would rather teach me how to fish than to be given fish to eat. They simply told me to follow them to Ijebu-Ode , promising that I would smile back home.
So yesterday (Wednesday), as we left at night, I told my wife I was going to do a bricklaying job over the night and she believed. I followed them without even knowing what they were going for. So, when we got to Ijebu-Ode, I saw them wrapping cellotape round a stick.
It was when I saw the shape like that of a gun that our mission there dawned on me. But I could not go back again because I had gone too far to turn back. I just stood watching them . After the successful operation, I was given six thousand naira. This is my first time of joining them and I regret everything because even the situation I envisaged would ameliorate, only aggravatedâ€ , he stated.
For Omehi Johnson , he said his commercial motorcycle was impounded by some Vehicle Inspection Officers (V.I.O) for not having a side mirror. â€œ I was asked to pay N17,000 before it would be released but I do not have the money. I was forced to join the gang. We usually did not return back to Lagos same night for fear of being arrested by policemen.
Most times, we spent the night in the bush after operation, where we shared the money and leave as early as 6am next day.
…..ArrestedÂ Â Â Â Â Â at lastÂ Â Â After sharing their loots which included cash and telephones , they reportedly boarded a car from Ijebu-Ode, heading back to their Lagos base. Barely had they arrived Lagos than the commercial bus that conveyed them was stopped by policemen attached to High way patrol. The fresh injury on Anayoâ€™s face and left hand first aroused suspicion. Then, his buggy pocket.
The passengers were all asked to come down , where a search conducted on them all, led to the discovery of several GSM handsets inside Anayoâ€™s nylon bag and squeezed naira notes in different denominations. They were reportedly arrested and during investigation, discovered to have been suspected members of a robbery gang.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Marvel Akpoyibo, who attributed their leaving Lagos for another state to the commandâ€™s zero tolerance to robbery, however stated that the command would not condone robbers operating in other states and coming to enjoy their loots in Lagos. He stated that the command would liaise with its Ogun state counterpart with a view to ascertaining the degree of robbery before prosecuting them.