By Taye Obateru & Hope Ofobike
The Plateau State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Olakpe recently paraded suspects said to belong to a 24-member criminal gang that specializes in snatching cars and driving them across the border to dispose. He disclosed that about 18 cars were recovered from them. Crime Alert spoke to two of the suspects who narrated their modus operandi.
“My name is Chijioke Egbo and I am the leader of the robbery gang. We snatch cars or steal them and take them to Cotonou to sell. I was co-leading the gang with a military officer friend who is now dead.
Snatching cars and robbing people
He died in a car crash along Kano-Potiskum road some months back. We started as car dealers and normally took cars to Potiskum to sell. But along the line, the story changed and we started snatching cars and robbing people. It is the devil’s work.
“My military friend was accompanying me in his uniform so, we had no problem with checking by security personnel on the roads. Later on, he gave me a pair of uniforms to wear whenever he could not travel with me. That was how I had possession of a military uniform.
Whenever I travel from Cotonou back to Jos, there are a lot of check points on the road, but with the uniform, I can pass all check points without being stopped. But the business collapsed when my friend died and that was when I went into crime.
“With the uniform and identity card, no one knows my true identity; we specialize in snatching cars and selling them out in Cotonou.”
Also speaking, another suspect, John Jacob, alleged to be the producer of the guns used by the gang said he learnt how to produce guns from technical school. “I attended technical school in Kuru and graduated from there in 2002. After school, I started doing ‘business’ and after a while, I went into manufacturing guns for people. I only produce small guns for interested buyers and I sell each one for N10,000.
“I cannot say what pushed me into this but it was not poverty. My customers to whom I sell guns bring other customers to me and I do not have specific clients to whom I sell the guns.” Jacob who limps, said he was injured by one of his customers who mistakenly shot him while trying to test the gun he sold to him. “A person I wanted to sell a gun to decided to test it and mistakenly shot me in the waist,” he said.
Briefing journalists earlier, the Police commissioner said the war against crime in the state was yielding fruits and the smashing of the armed robbery syndicate was evidence of that. Parading the suspects at the police headquarters, Olakpe said, “the gang members, some of who claim to be students of the University of Jos, specialize in car robbery using pistols and handmade guns.
“We also have in our custody, an occult gang who murdered a man last December, putting his battered body into a jute bag.” He said the cars were recovered from neighbouring states of Bauchi, Kano and Nassarawa and called on the public to be alert he also urged car owners to ensure they do not move at odd times.
According to him, “The general public should ensure that their vehicles have modern security gadgets such as car tracking and also ensure their cars are insured, cars should be locked with pedal and motorists should avoid plying lonely routes at odd times, this is to help curb the menace of car theft in the state.”
While lamenting the increasing rate of crime in the country, he said, “we are committed to our constitutional responsibilities and will ensure that total peace returns to the state. We call on the public to cooperate with police and other security agencies by volunteering credible information and report suspicious movements in their environment.”
One of their victims whose car was recovered, Azoba Johnbosco recounted his experience: “my car was stolen on the 12th of April 2013. I was returning from a friend’s bachelor’s eve at Rayfield when some boys double-crossed me and stopped my car, they told me they wished to speak to the girl in my car, and when I wound down my glasses, they pointed a pistol at me.”