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How I raided churches, big events; robbed Oxford Prof
By CHIOMA IGBOKWE
A 34-year-old suspected corporate thief, Prince Junior Agabi, is still unveiling series of high profile thefts, which he successfully executed within Lagos while attending events. Surprisingly, not even the House of God was spared in his unusual exploits.
Agabi, who currently is in the custody of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS), Lagos State Command, was declared wanted after he carted away valuables belonging to Professor Paul Collier, the Director of African Economies at Oxford University, London, United Kingdom, some weeks ago.
The professor was in Lagos to attend the 14th Annual Lecture of Center for Values in Leadership (CVL) at Muson Center, Onikan, Lagos on February 6, 2017, which was organized by Prof Pat Utomi.
Collier, who was the keynote speaker, discovered at the end of the event that his bag, containing an Apple laptop, one iPhone 4s, three British passports, foreign currencies and his identity card, amongst others was missing.
Lucky Agabi’s identity was captured by the Close Circuit Television (CCTV) camera in use at the venue and was after close examination declared wanted by the police.
He was arrested weeks later, at the flag off ceremony of the Lagos-Ibadan railway project, conducted by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osibanjo. Agabi, who had successfully defied protocols was found in company of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amechi. In his confession at the police station, he alleged that he had gone to greet the minister and to seek for an opportunity to be employed by him.
Shortly after his arrest, several other victims who learnt he was now in custody stormed the police station with their own complaints.
In the process, the police recovered several expensive laptops, phones and other valuables. Also arrested were all the buyers of the stolen property.
Distraught Oxford Prof
In an interview with respected journalist, Mike Awoyinfa, published in his column recently in Saturday Sun, Professor Collier gave a brief account of what happened before he left the country. He was quoted to have said: “On that day, I was about leaving the hall. There were an awful lot of people around me. And I was really tired after giving a long lecture. And my bag was rather heavy. So this man said to me: ‘Can I carry your bag?’ I thought he was part of the entourage of his Royal Highness (Ooni of Ife). I thought this man in white was part of the entourage, but he wasn’t. That was how I lost my bag.
“Fortunately, we have a photograph of him. By the time I emerged from the great crowd of young people who wanted to talk to me, it was too late. Then I realized that this man was gone. I was very satisfied by the reception of the lecture. The Lagos State governor was there, several deputy governors were there. And they gave me standing ovation. The governor while addressing the audience said he took four pages of notes.
“Nightmares like this come and go. It can happen anywhere. Let’s hope the guy gets caught. I need my stuff back. They are of no use to him, but absolutely vital to me. Did I have money in it? It isn’t about money. I did have a laptop. That laptop has a lot of my work on it. I need that bag.”
Another victim recounts encounter with Agabi
Applauding the efforts of the various security agencies that saw to the arrest of the suspect, the Chief Operating Officer of CLV, Uchenna Achunine, lamented that a well organized event was almost ruined by the act of Agabi when news of the missing bag of the Oxford professor got to them.
“It was at about 2pm, towards the end of the event when the Ooni of Ife and his entourage stood up to leave. Normally there is a protocol that involves his entourage dancing, while they announce the exit of the Ooni. The Oxford professor was excited and decided to join them and probably take a photograph with the Ooni.
“He held onto his bag dancing when a man dressed in white approached him and offered to help him hold his bag. He thought the man was part of the Ooni’s entourage and handed him his bag.
“It was at the end of the paparazzi that he discovered that the well-dressed healthy looking young man that volunteered to help him was a thief. He alerted the security who in turn contacted the Ooni’s protocol and they denied ever seeing the bag. It was at this point that we checked the CCTV footage and saw him leaving the hall,” Achunine said.
Another victim Kehinde Adekunle, a gospel artist, claimed that he also lost his laptop and phones to Agabi during a church service.
“I am a chorister at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, City of David branch in Victoria Island. On January 12, 2017, one of the pastors celebrated his birthday and I had the privilege to lead the teenage choir. During the ministration, I kept my bag on one of the chairs; it was after the service that I discovered that my bag was missing. I initially thought it was one of the choristers that helped me to pick and safeguard the bag. I panicked when no one agreed that it was with them.
“I quickly alerted the security men. They checked the Close Circuit Television (CCTV) footage, which recorded a man leaving with my bag after quickly checking the content.
In it was my laptop, international passport, hard drive and so many other things. I reported the matter to Maroko police station.
My joy knew no bound when recently, I saw it on Facebook that RRS has him in their custody,” he narrated.
Calm and well-fed, Prince Agabi who is still in RRS custody told Saturday Sun he became addicted to stealing after his first attempt. “I am a graduate of Mass Communication from the University of Calabar. I am yet to get a stable job, that was why I decided to go into the textile business, but failed to break even. I was finding it difficult to survive and depended on attending events to eat free food. Sometime in January, I attended a wedding at Queen’s park, Victoria Island. When it was time to go and eat, I discovered that a lady left her phone on the table that I was siting. I took the phone and immediately left the hall. I sold it at the computer village for N15, 000. It was free money and I was very happy.
“I decided that this was the best way to survive. I concentrated on my dressing, so that no one will throw me out of any event or suspect that I steal their stuff.”
Recalling some of his major thefts, Agabi said he has raided several churches on Lagos Island. “Although , I reside in Ikorodu, I knew where to find the rich men and women. I knew that people in areas like VI and Ikeja are so rich that they are careless with their stuffs. This was why I choose to operate in such places. Mostly on Sundays, I will dress very well and enter any church of my choice.
“In one of the cases I took the pastor’s phone while he was busy attending to members of the church and left his phone by his seat. I took advantage of the crowd and picked the phone. I also stole a bag that I saw close to the spot the choristers sat. In churches or events, I concentrate on observing people and ready to take advantage of any given situation.”
On the theft that nailed him, Agabi said he was gambling close to Civic Center on the Island when he discovered that people were trooping into the Shell hall of the Muson Centre. “My policy is to dress well in case opportunity presents itself. So I was neat enough to attend the event. I was lucky to secure a seat directly behind Governor Akinwumi Ambode and the special guest of honour.
“It was while I was observing that I saw the white man carrying a bag. Since I was dressed in white, it was easy to mix in the crowd and offered to help him carry the bag. Immediately, he gave it to me, I left the hall and ran as fast as my leg can carry me. I sold his Apple and HP laptops for N100, 000 and dropped his bag under a flower at Ikorodu on my way home.”
When asked if he learnt anything at the event, Agabi said, no. “I was there for a purpose, so my mind was on my mission, not the lecture by the professor.”
On how he was finally nabbed, Agabi said he heard an announcement on TV that the Vice President was coming to flag off the railway project and decided to attend.
“When I learnt that the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amechi, was coming, I was very excited. When he was still in PDP, I was one of the boys he used to seek for support for President Jonathan.
I was able to maneuver my way and greeted him, requesting for an opportunity to serve him again. It was then that some security men attached to the office of the governor of Lagos state called me aside. They accused me of theft and I denied. It was when I got to RRS office and met a senior colleague in the business of stealing that I realized that it’s time to tell the truth. I know that if I tell the truth and help the police to recover some of those items, I will be charged to court.
You can see that I do not have a scratch on my body and I am well fed.”
When asked if he had any regrets, Agabi said he would dedicate his life in helping the police track other criminals doing the same job. “The disgrace I am facing because of this is horrible. I have failed my family, especially my father who sent me to the University of Calabar, where I read Mass Communication. Most of the people I sold those stuffs to are in detention and are bitter that I did not keep my mouth shut. I confessed because I realized my offence was serious and I wanted God and those I offended to forgive me.”