By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor & Knigsley Omonobi
LAGOS — Mobile policemen guarding the house of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in Abuja have allegedly burgled it, carting away expensive properties worth millions of naira.
Reports on online portal, Premium Times, alleged that the theft was carried out by three mobile policemen in the residence located at No. 89, Fourth Avenue in the Gwarimpa district of Abuja.
This came as FCT Police Command disclosed, yesterday that a case of theft had been reported against the policemen, saying the suspects were being investigated.
In fact, the Police authorities said they would soon commence orderly room trial of the policemen.
The stolen items, according to Premium Times, include “sets of furniture, dozens of plasma television sets, refrigerators, air-condition units and box-loads of clothes, such as designer suits imprinted with the former president’s name, male and female Ijaw traditional attires, lace materials and bowler hats.
“It was gathered that the three mobile police officers allegedly conducted the systematic looting over a period of three months beginning from around March 2016, until they totally stripped the house of all movable items, which they sold piecemeal to dealers at Panteka second-hand materials market at Tipper Garage, Gwarimpa.
According to a security source involved in the investigation, by the time family members of the former President were alerted to the looting early this month, the house had been stripped bare.
On getting wind of the arrest of the policemen, two dealers who had been main recipients of the stolen items were said to have closed down their shops at Panteka market and have since remained at large.
The source revealed that the looting was discovered when a neighbour noticed “severe damage in the house” and called a member of President Jonathan’s family to ask whether the house was undergoing renovation.
The former President was said to have personally gone to inspect the property after which he reported the vandalism to the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
“After a team of officers dispatched to the scene confirmed the crime, Mr. Idris was said to have ordered the arrest of the three police officers who were still on guard duty at the residence. They were arrested about two weeks ago,” the source stated.
A trader at Panteka market, who confessed to being close to one of the fleeing buyers of the stolen items, according to sources, said the police officers first brought some items to the market for sale in early 2016.
Sgt Musa at Panteka Market
“It all started sometimes around March 2016 when a mobile police sergeant came to Tipper Garage market and brought some items for sale. He approached one of the wholesalers to buy them, but the trader said he does not buy items from an unconfirmed owner.
“The officer who identified himself as Sergeant Musa told the trader that he was one of the security men guarding Mr. Jonathan’s private residence at Gwarimpa. He took the trader to follow him to confirm that he was not a thief who had come to sell off stolen properties in the market.
‘’The trader followed him to the residence where he met two other policemen, an Inspector and a Sergeant. They convinced him that the items were part of gifts to them,’’ the source said.
Sources said it was noticed subsequently that the stream of transaction had no end, as Sergeant Musa continued to invite the trader to the residence to pick up fresh items.
The source said: “At a point, the trader became scared when he suspected foul play and told Sergeant Musa that he was no longer interested in the transaction. However, the officer later got another customer, a wholesaler in the market, who would eventually buy almost 80 per cent of all the properties removed from President Jonathan’s residence.
Jonathan had lived in the house for about a year when he was vice president. His mother was also said to have lived in the house after the former President moved to Aso Rock Villa upon becoming Acting President in 2010.
Jonathan’s spokesman confirms burglary
When contacted, former President Jonathan’s spokesman, Ikechukwu Eze, confirmed the development.
He said: “The house was burgled and I think the police is already handling the case. I cannot confirm whether the case was reported to the Inspector-General of Police or not but, I know they must have made arrests.”
How looted property were sold
Premium Times in its report said that its undercover reporter went to the Tipper Garage market and found out that both the purchase and resale of the items were not hidden, as many of the traders were aware of the racket.
“Whenever particular or specific items of our interest were brought for sale from Mr. Jonathan’s residence, we used to buy from the wholesaler who bought them in large quantity,” a trader said.
Further probes by the online portal confirmed that the traders sold off the stolen items such as suits, women wears, traditional cloth popularly called ‘babban riga,’ Ankara fabrics at about N5,000.00 apiece and bowler hats. It could, however, not be confirmed how much the bowler hats were sold. A petty trader at the market said he witnessed the sale of one of the sets of furniture.
“The policeman sold one to the wholesaler who is now on the run at N50, 000.00. The wholesaler sold it at N180,000.00 to a lucky buyer in the market who in turn instantly sold it at N390,000.00.
“I personally bought babban riga, and a suit with Jonathan’s name printed underneath it at the cost of N5,000.00 each.”
The petty trader, who claimed to be an apprentice at Tipper Garage, said they were scared when they heard that the three police officers had been arrested in connection with the theft of the properties from Mr. Jonathan’s residence.
Three Policemen to face Orderly Room Trial
Confirming, yesterday, that the policemen would face orderly room trial, spokesman of FCT Police Command, DSP Anjuguri Manzah, said in a statement: “The FCT Police Command wishes to inform the general public that it has commenced full-fledged investigation into the case of theft in the Gwarimpa residence of former President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
“Preliminary police investigation on the matter has revealed that some items were found to be missing in the house.
“Meanwhile, the Policemen who are supposed to be on guard duty at the house have been detained for questioning.
“Investigation to find out what actually happened is currently in progress. The command wants to assure all that the result of findings on the on-going investigation will be made public.”