Eleven persons, including three serving personnel of the Nigerian Army and a dismissed Air Force personnel, have been arrested for allegedly vandalising solar panels belonging to government and private individuals in Lagos.
During preliminary investigations, the suspects were discovered to have been responsible for vandalising the solar items at Epe, Sangotedo, Elerangbe and Badagry area of the state.
As at yesterday, the serving Army personnel were said to have been taken to the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Victoria Island, where an in-house investigation on their culpability was said to have commenced.
Over 16 solar panels and batteries were recovered from the suspects, who confessed to be selling each for N25,000 as against the usual price of N100, 000.
Identities of the suspects were given as Samuel Ani, 30; Michael Omoregbe, 30; Efosa Philip Emmanuel, 27; Ifedayo Odufoye, 35; Chibizie Nnamani, 34; Festus Maduka, 26; John Nwokeoma, 31, and Chibuzor Chukwu, 23.
Ani, who admitted to be leader of the gang, disclosed that he usually paid each soldier N50,000 to escort the stolen items from where they were vandalised to Arena Market along Agege Motor Road, where they sold them to traders.
Briefing journalists on how they were arrested, the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Command, Imohimi Edgal, said: “On September 5, at about 2 a.m., seven armed men invaded Okemagbon Senior Secondary school, Epe, along with three soldiers in a truck with number plates LND 61 XQ.
“ They headed straight to the solar panel and vandalised 71 solar panels.”
He said that the suspects also forced the door of the container, where the inverter batteries and accessories were kept.
He added: “Immediately the local police was alerted, they mobilised a patrol team to the scene, where the suspects were arrested.
“Preliminary investigation also led operatives of the command to track other suspects to Delta, Anambra and Imo states, where one Festus Maduka was picked up in a hotel. He confessed to have received solar panels and inverter batteries from the gang.
“Sixteen solar panels and 33 inverter batteries were recovered from them.”
When approached, Ani revealed that a member of the gang, Michael Omerebe, a final year student of a South-West university, was responsible locating areas where solar panels were installed.
He said: “After vandalising, we will take it to Arena, where I sold solar panel for N25, 000 and the battery for N17,000. I used the soldiers as escorts.
“They charged us N150,000 to escort the items from Epe to Oshodi and they are aware that they are stolen items. I was yet to pay them the money before we were arrested.”