Operatives of the FIB Intelligence Response Team (FIB-IRT) of the Nigeria Police Force have smashed a five-man trans-border robbery syndicate who specialised in snatching cars from Nigeria, refurbishing them in the neighbouring Benin Republic and bringing them back as tokunbo (fairly used) vehicles.
The breakthrough recorded by the security agents followed the arrest of a 23-year-old suspected member of the gang Abdulrafiu Olamilekan, following which two other members, namely Idris Adesina (26) and Suleiman Aliu (35) were also arrested. The remaining two members of the syndicate, Wandoko and Tunde Jonny a.k.a Elija, remained at large.
A police source said the gang was so organised that each member had a specific role to play during the robbery operations they usually carried out between the odd hours of 8 pm and 12 am.
For instance, the source said, the role of one of the members during attacks on victims’ homes and room to room operations in hotels or private buildings was to kick the door open.
And during car snatching operations, a member of the gang was saddled with the task of pointing a gun at the owner’s forehead and ordering him or her to vacate the driver’s seat so that their own driver would take over.
Once the operation was complete, they would drive the stolen vehicle to Cotonou in neighbouring Benin Republic.
The three members of the gang in police net were said to have been arrested after a robbery operation they carried out around 8 pm on June 14. After the operation, one of the members was said to have taken a snatched car to the receiver in Cotonou identified as Suleiman.
The gang’s nefarious activities was said to have come to the knowledge of the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, who directed the commander of FIB-IRT, Abba Kyari, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, to fish out the suspects and prosecute them so that the people they were terrorising, particularly in the Sango-Ota and Agege axis in Ogun and Lagos states would sleep with their two eyes closed.
IRT operatives swung into action, posing as buyers and calling Olamilekan, who was in possession of two of the gang’s stolen vehicles, and pretending to be interested in them. The moment he surfaced, they picked him up and later used him to arrest Idris Adesina and Suleiman Aliu while two other members of the gang remained at large.
Narrating their experiences at the Oba correctional centre in Ogun State where they were detained, the suspects complained about poor feeding, lack of medical care and other inhuman conditions. But by far the most worrisome, they said, is the attitude of homosexual inmates who are in the habits of luring their victims to the toilet.
Olamilekan, who described himself as an indigene of Iseyin Local Government Area, Oyo State, said: “I dropped out of school at JSS3. My father is a soldier, and when he was posted to Kaduna State, he separated from my mother and life became hard for us.
“I learnt panel beating and later joined somebody who was already established. But I later met a friend named Odunayo. He asked me what took me to prison because I am an ex-convict, and I told him that it was a car snatching offence and that I spent six months in prison.
“I told him that I could open any vehicle without the key and could drive any kind of vehicle. He then promised to get me a job with a big car-snatching gang.
“In my first operation, we saw a man at Ojuore in Ota, Ogun State on May 5, 2021. We were five in number. He came down to open the gate to his house and we rushed towards him. The one who held the gun among us arrested him and collected his money and phone. One of our gang members also led him to the toilet and locked him there to avoid him raising the alarm before we left.
“In another incident, we attacked the owner of a Lexus car and told him to hand over the key to Adesina. We then dragged the owner back into the car, dropped him along the way and zoomed off. The vehicle was then taken to Cotonou.
“Another car we snatched was kept with me in Nigeria, but the buyer I got for it happened to be a police officer. I sold the car for N500,000, but the police officer paid N100,000 and told me to come back for the balance.
“He arrested me when I went back to collect the balance, saying that the vehicle had an issue and somebody would come to interrogate me. That was on 14th June, 2021. That was how I was arrested.” On his part, Adesina, who hails from Owode Local Government Area, Ogun State, said he trained as a vulcanizer.
He said: “When my father died, I became a bus conductor in order to get daily money to feed. But the Lagos task force and LASTMA (Lagos State Transport Management Agency) frustrated us by asking us to pay for a ticket in the sum of N100,000.
“Seeing that we could not raise the money, we sold the bus. I then returned to Agege and started stealing phones. I was arrested and sent to prison in September, 2019 until I was discharged in April, 2021.
“When I joined the gang they asked me to be the gang’s driver. We operated with one gun. When we snatched a Toyota Avensis car, someone sent us the receiver’s phone number and the receiver came and took the vehicle to Cotonou at about 12 midnight, because that was the hour you would not see any police officer on the road.
“The Avensis was sold for N250,000 and they gave me N40,000. For the car I took to the receiver in Cotonou, they paid #250,000. When I was coming back, the receiver, Baba Ibeji, gave me four guns to give to the gang. I gave them three and kept one. I later snatched a (Toyota) Highlander and took it to Cotonou and Baba Ibeji paid #200,000.
“I was in my house when they called me to come and collect an Acura jeep. But when I showed up, they arrested me.”
Adesina recalled that five of them, namely Wandoko, Enife, Sadoko, Tunde Jonny a.k.a Elija and himself participated in the robbery of a hotel.
He said: “I monitored from outside but later joined them, because it was only the money and phone you got by yourself that belonged to you.
“As we entered the six-room hotel, we used our legs to pull down the doors. Unfortunately, we did not cover our faces because we did not know that there was CCTV camera there.”
In his own confession, Suleiman Aliu said: “I am from Porto Novo in Benin Republic and I am married with a child.
“It was Idris (Adesina) who called me to come and collect a vehicle and I came and waited for him at Owode in Ogun State. I had collected four vehicles from him, and I used to take them to my master in Cotonou named Baba Ibeji.
“I was a farmer, but when I got some money from armed robbery, I bought a cab for use in Porto Novo. There was a time they gave me four guns to give to the gang in Nigeria but I refused because I did not have the courage to carry such exhibits.
“I used to take tokunbo vehicles to Nigeria for Baba Ibeji. Initially I did not know that the tokunbo cars were vehicles stolen from Nigeria and brought to Cotonou where they are refurbished and sent back to Nigeria as tokunbo cars.
“Unfortunately, I could not talk because of the money I was making from taking tokunbo cars from Benin Republic to Nigeria.
“If I am released, I will not take stolen vehicles into Nigeria again. I have repented.”