Six members of a syndicate, who specialise in vandalising and stealing underground electrical cables under the CMS flyover, Lagos, have been arrested and are currently cooling their heels behind the bars. Femi Ogbonnikan interrogated the suspects on their modus operandi
Six members of a syndicate who specialise in vandalising and stealing light-up cable wires, street lamps and light poles installed by the incumbent administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, in his ‘light-up Lagos project’, to illuminate the entire state, have been apprehended and they are currently singing like a canaries in the protective custody of the operatives of the Lagos State Security outfit, Rapid Response Squad (RRS), Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja.
Nemesis, it was gathered, caught up with the six suspects namely: Tunde Alaba, Saheed Ismail, Deji Afolorunso, Sunday Obasanmi, Jelili Abodunrin and Taofeek Oyedele in the wee hour of 2:30am on Thursday, October 13, 2016, under the CMS flyover, Lagos Island.
THISDAY learnt that the RRS operatives who were on routine patrol of the crime scene sighted the suspects, pulling down the street lamps, cables and poles, until they called for reinforcement for more personnel from the RRS Headquarters, Alausa, Ikeja, and effected their arrest.
Upon their interrogation, it was said that the suspects owned up to the crime, while they claimed they had been taking shelter under the CMS flyover for about four years.
Meanwhile, while flagging off the ‘Light-up Lagos project’, last year, Ambode had charged police officers and men and other security agents of the need to always protect and guide against criminal elements, vandalising and stealing armoured cable, powering the street lights across the state.
In a chat with THISDAY, Jelili Oyedele Abodunrin, who is the kingpin of the syndicate, noted that the economic hardship in the country forced him to take into the criminal act.
“I hail from Ipokia, Yewa, Ogun State. When I got to Lagos seven years ago, I began as a commercial bus driver, plying between CMS and Bar Beach (Victoria Island) route.
I was squatting in a ramshackle building, along Ibadan Street, Oko Baba, Oyingbo, Lagos Mainland. My mother’s friend whom we usually call, ‘Mamo’, allowed me to be staying there. My mother is still alive and she stays at Ajegunle Boundary, Apapa. She deals in firewood to make ends meet, while my father is late.
“Soon afterwards, precisely two years, I lost my job as a commercial bus driver and I later became a bus conductor, because there was no bus owner who was willing to give out his vehicle to me to drive. I left Oko Baba, Oyingbo, where I was squatting and joined the other colleagues under the CMS flyover to stay when I had no other place to live. Before my arrest, I was working as a labourer with the road construction company around Marina. But shortly after the road project ended, I chose to steal electrical cables, in order to earn a living.
“Usually, we would cut the underground laid electrical cables and sell to our would-be buyers who are many at Obalende. Depending on how they assess the stolen cables we take to them, they offer us between N4, 500 and N5, 000. But we deal with two Hausa men at Obalende. Once we were paid this money we use it to buy meals for the day,” said the 32 years old suspect.
On how he was arrested, he claimed he had vandalised and stolen a roll of the underground laid electrical cables on Wednesday night, October 12, 2016, and had kept it somewhere within the vicinity, for onward sales the following day, but unknown to him, one of his colleagues simply identified as ‘Muri’ who equally stays under the CMS flyover, sighted him the very day he was cutting the cable wire.
“This ‘Egbon Muri’, very tall in height, had sighted me when I was cutting the underground cable wire and where I hid the stolen item, pending when I would go there the following day to pick it and dispose it off, to the buyer at Obalende. I have two buyers at Obalende. But I never knew he had picked the stolen cable wire and kept it elsewhere.
“So, the following morning, which was on Thursday, October 13, 2016, at exactly 5:00 am, I woke up and went to buy a chewing stick from a Mallam nearby, preparatory to setting out for the day and pick the stolen cable wire for sale at Obalende. As I was returning, I saw ‘Egbon Muri’ emerging from nowhere and beckoning at my friend, Tunde Alaba, to come.
He also asked me to come. When Tunde and I surged closer to him, I heard him, asking me and Tunde to follow him to where a patrol vehicle of the RRS Operatives was stationed. It was when we got there, he (Egbon Muri) began to interrogate me in the presence of the RRS operatives, asking why I cut the underground laid electrical cable wire the previous day, that he saw me when I was cutting it. It was there too he made me realised that, he had picked the stolen cable wire where I kept it.
And that was how we were nabbed. From there, we started to name other accomplices and four others were picked up. But others had escaped. We had taken the RRS operatives to our buyers in Obalende, but we didn’t see them, because we don’t know where they stay. We usually meet them under the Obalende flyover whenever we have the loot to dispose off. Also, we have been calling their mobile phone numbers and they can’t be reached out to,” Abodunrin said.
Also, Tunde Alaba, who hails from Ede, Osun State, admitted being a member of the syndicate which has been responsible for vandalising and stealing electrical cable wires in Lagos Island.
According to the 28-year-old suspect, “I came to Lagos early this year, for greener pasture. Upon my arrival, I took to bus conducting business and our vehicle was plying between CMS and Ajah. I was squatting with a friend somewhere in Lagos Island, but I soon left when I felt Lagos Island was unsafe for me. To avoid untimely death, due to incessant clashes between rival street urchin groups in the area, I moved out and I was staying under the CMS flyover for shelter. I ran away for my dear life, for fear of death.
Lagos Island is not safe for me any longer, because of the incessant and rampant clashes, resulting in killings. Although I have not been doing anything tangible, since I arrived the state, but I do have my daily meals through the proceeds from the sales of stolen electrical cable wires and iron steels,” Alaba confessed.
Another suspect, Deji Afolorunsho, who hails from Odogbolu, Ogun State, claimed he was once a market sweeper, before he ventured into barber’s trade.
“I was sweeping the whole market every night and I was being offered N2, 500 on a daily basis. But lack of contentment led me to the crime. In order to disguise being a criminal, I feigned operating a barber’s shop, while at night I go out with my friends to vandalise and steal electrical cable wires,” said the 26-year-old suspect.
Sunday Obasanmi, 27 years old and a native of Isara-Remo, Ogun State, disclosed it was after he was sacked as a security guard at AP Filling Station, located at Old Federal Secretariat, Alagbon, Ikoyi, Lagos, that he joined the syndicate in vandalising and stealing electrical cable wires under the CMS flyover.
However, SP Dolapo Badmus, Lagos State Police Command spokesperson, confirmed the arrests of the six suspects.
She added that the suspects would be charged, accordingly to the court of the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences Task Force, Alausa, Ikeja, as soon as investigations are concluded into the matter.