Efforts of the Lagos State Police Command have paid off with the recent arrest of 10 notorious members of an armed robbery gang. Femi Ogbonnikan who spoke with the suspects, reports

Crack detectives attached to the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the Lagos State Police Command have apprehended a 10-man gang which specialised in raiding homes in a Lagos suburb. The arrest was made on Thursday, September 28, 2017 in Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of Anambra State.

Following incessant attacks on Ayobo community, Ipaja, in Alimosho Local Government Area of the state in the last one year, it was learnt that the residents, in their hundreds, thronged the RRS headquarters, Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja, where they demanded to see the Commander in-charge of the Squad, Mr. Olatunji Disu, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), who in response and having obtained clearance from the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Imohinmi Edgal, swiftly deployed decoy detectives, with the aid of tracking devices, to go after the notorious criminals.

A week, shortly after the intervention, it was gathered that the deployment of the detectives quickly paid off, culminating in the arrest of three suspects after which seven others were subsequently picked up at different locations in Anambra State and the recovery of 10 exotic vehicles from their buyers.

While parading the arrested 10 suspected armed robbers, alongside a score of others before newsmen at the Command Headquarters, Fajuyi Way, GRA, Ikeja, on Monday, October 2, 2017, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Edgal, stated that the command under his watch would not spare a rod at getting rid of criminal elements operating within the state. He said the command would go all out to recover all stolen loots from the state wherever they might be kept in any part of the country.

According to one of the prime suspects, Abayomi James, the gang’s operations were being coordinated from the Kirikiri Maximum Prison, Apapa, Lagos, by an inmate simply addressed as ‘Odudu’, who is currently serving a jail term.

James, 34-year-old, who is a resident of House No. 3, Oyewole Street, Ajegunle, Apapa, Lagos, said he first came in contact with Odudu at Kirikiri Prison when he (James) was sent to jail on conviction over an armed robbery incident sometime in 2016 at Ayobo, Ipaja, during his maiden operation at the affected community.

“I came in contact with Odudu at Kirikiri Maximum Prison when I was serving a jail term there. It happened that sometime in 2016, it happened that we went to operate at Ayobo late one night. Usually, we would prey at midnight when the entire members of the Ayobo would have gone to bed. On that particular day, we got to Ayobo community at 10:00p.m. We hid ourselves inside an uncompleted building within the neighbourhood. Usually, it is the responsibility of Nsima to do surveillance at daylight on where to operate and he had done that. He is also our armourer. I usually hire guns and buy ammunition which I subsequently give to Nsima for safekeeping until we have operations. But the task of Omokharo Efe is to hire boys that would participate in our operations. All the loots, including generating sets, television flat screen sets, wall clocks, wrist watches, cloths, cars, and others are usually in custody of Nsima. Immediately, we succeeded in making away with these loots, it is the responsibility of Nsima to call buyers, while he would park the carted away vehicles at Mile 2, awaiting the arrival of the would-be buyers to take delivery of them.

“But we were very unlucky on that day when we attempted to raid a home and night guards accosted and gave us a hot chase. I was the only member of the gang that was caught while others escaped by a whisker. I was taken to a nearest police station. From there, I was arraigned in court and sent to jail. It was in that jail that I came in contact with Odudu who also taught me the more on how to operate successfully without being arrested. While we were together I linked him up with my other members and he was coordinating operations from the prison. He directs where, how and when to operate. Odudu is serving a jail term for armed robbery. I met him in prison custody.

“We usually dispose of Toyota Camry Saloon cars (2001 model) for a give-away price of N150,000,” said the Ilaje, Ondo State-born suspect.

Uzuazomaro Joseph, a container truck boy at Apapa Port, Lagos, claimed it was Omokharo that initiated him into the criminal gang. According to him, it was Chukwudi Onyemara that usually gave him guns to keep and hand them over to Omokharo whenever they were preparing to carry out raids.

“When we were arrested by the Police in Anambra State, three vehicles were recovered from our buyers there,” said the 34-year-old suspect.

Chukwudi Onyemara, in his own confessions, claimed it was Abayomi and Omokharo that usually go on the prowl for snatching vehicles.

“Whenever we wanted to strike at the Ayobo homes, we would scale the fences, no matter how high they are and cut burglary proofs. After succeeding, we would at gunpoint ask our victims to surrender their entrance keys to us, dispossess them of their belongings and remove their vehicles. Usually, we would stay till daybreak with our victims before we would take our leave, in order to beat security checks we might encounter along our ways, if we have decided to leave earlier,” confessed the 28-year-old suspect.

He added that it was Nsima’s younger brother that introduced the armed robbery gang to him at an Indian hemp smoking joint in Ajegunle sometime in 2016.

“I know Abayomi in Ajegunle to be an Ilaje who along his kinsmen are deeply involved oil bunkering activities near Taqwa Bay, Ajah, Lagos.

“Since I joined the gang we have never killed anybody. We were only using the guns to intimidate our victims, in order to force them to surrender their belongings to us without hesitation.

“Like Abayomi had said, we used to hide inside bush where there are uncompleted buildings. Any building that has its generating set functioning we usually cash in on the noisy machine to launch our attacks. With the screaming hum of the generating set we would scale the fence, no matter the height of the fence and our victims would not know. All the loots were usually taken to Mile 2 and the following day, we would call our would-be buyers who are based in the Eastern part of the country to come for them.

“We sell Toyota Camry Saloon car (2010 model) at a give-away price of N300,000, while an Accura MDS Jeep goes for N800, 000. Also, a vehicle, like Mercedes Benz ML Jeep goes for N2.5 million,” added Onyemara.

Benedict Udoh, a vehicle registration agent who is responsible for re-registering all the stolen vehicles, disclosed he didn’t know that all the vehicles being brought to him were stolen.

“I never knew that all the vehicles I have been registering for Marvis Umeh are stolen ones. Initially, I was engaged as a vehicle clearing agent in Cotonou, Republic of Benin capital before I decided to relocate to Berger, Apapa, Lagos, as a vehicle registration agent. All along, I have known Marvis to be a vehicle clearing agent because that was what he introduced himself to be. But I never knew he is into vehicle snatching. I knew him through his elder brother who usually buys vehicles at Berger, Apapa, Lagos, regularly,” said the 35-year-old suspect.

But police sources hinted that Marvis is an ex-convict who had once served a jail term.

According to the police sources, the suspect was fond of registering vehicles without even seeing the vehicles he was registering. On every registration, it was hinted that Marvis charges N65,000 for a vehicle.

Augustine Uchenna, in his own confessions, said he, Sammy, Nsima, Collins and Ogwuma sometime in 2015 invaded Ayobo community but they were unlucky as they were arrested and sent to prison where they spent a year and a month before they were released on bail conditions.

“After our release from prison custody, I returned to my business as a Danfo bus driver. There was a day Nsima and I met again and we exchanged compliments. Soon afterwards, we met again and decided to raid Ayobo community, the second time. Again, we were unlucky as the night guards gave us a good fight and chased after us. We all escaped by a whisker. I escaped into a nearby church where they were doing vigil,” said Augustine, a father of seven children.

Samuel Shokunbi, 33 years old, said he was introduced into the gang by one Nsima. He said he met Nsima through a friend, Henry, a fellow clearing and forwarding agent at Apapa Sea Port.

A knife, a locally made pistol and four live cartridges were recovered from the suspects. The recovered vehicles include two Toyota Camry Saloon cars, a Toyota metric car, an Acura MDS Jeep, a Mercedes Benz ML Jeep and a Toyota Saloon car (2010 model).

Edgal, the Lagos CP, has directed that the 10 suspects be handed over to the operatives attached to the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) of the Command headquarters, for a discreet probe into the matter with a view to apprehending other suspects that might still be at large.

He added that the suspects would be arraigned in court as soon as investigations are concluded into the matter.