From Molly kilete, Abuja
It was end of the road for an eight-man robbery gang who specialized in attacking and robbing petrol stations, gas plants and bank Automated Teller Machines (ATM) facilities and carting away millions of naira.
The gang which operates in Port Harcourt and Akwa Ibom state, has raided over 15 petrol stations, 10 gas plants and over 20 ATM facilities.
They were arrested by operatives of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), following several complaints by owners of petrol stations and a good number of banks over attacks on their facilities.
The group headed by Ebhure Napoleon, 45, a former employee of an oil servicing company and a native of Delta State, has been terrorizing business owners for over four years before they met their Waterloo.
Napoleon, who said that he formed the group after losing his job where he worked as a mechanic, disclosed that he took time to recruit members of the gang because of the nature of the operation having worked in the oil and gas sector.
To ensure an effective operation, the gang leader recruited a professional driver, an iron bender, a welder and other artisans as members.
He said that before carrying out any attack on petrol stations and ATM facilities, he sends out his men in surveillance to find out petrol stations that just received supplies and ATM facilities that have just been loaded with money.
When that is done they report back to him and he goes himself to ascertain their investigation and goes ahead to look for a truck to hire to siphon the product.
Their operations begins at about 12 midnight after they have carried out their surveillance and placed the hired truck at a vantage position.
After a successful operation, he said he would then look for a buyer, sell off the product and share the money amongst his members.
The suspect who was paraded alongside his gang members by the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, at the IRT headquarters in Abuja, told Sunday Sun of how they used the expertise of a welder to open ATM facilities especially those of them that are very strong and removed every kobo in them.
He gave the names of his gang members as Bright Obulo, 22; Omar Akilu, 39; Godwin Peter Abah, 34; Ifeanyi Obinna, 34; Godknows Columbus, 33; and Koko Itang Oko, 46.
Incidentally, Koko Itang, who happens to be an amputee having lost his right arm, acts as the Intelligence officer and driver for the group using his disability to confuse security operatives on the road each time they were embarking on an operation.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, Napoleon and his gang members explained the various roles they played in their operation.
First to speak, was Napoleon:
My name is Napoleon Ebhubere. I am 45 years old and I am a mechanic by profession. I and my gang members specialized in breaking into petrol stations, gas plants and bank ATM machines. We started robbing about four years ago. I was arrested by the police because we were caught breaking into a petrol station in port harcourt and stealing engine oil from there.
Apart from robbing petrol stations, we also rob gas stations where they use to fill gas and also cart away huge sums of money. I started the business in 2019 after I lost my job. I was working with Nek Oil and Gas servicing company as a mechanic. I worked with them for two years. Even though I have been operating as an armed robber for about four years now, I cannot say the specific amount I made because we do not do it regularly. We use to do it and stop and wait for the coast to clear before we start again.
During my operation, we broke into about 15 petrol stations and I can’t say how much we made but the last petrol station we broke and stole fuel we sold the product for N800,000. And we shared the money among ourselves. I used my own share to pay for my children’s school fees, then we used the remaining money for feeding. I am from Delta State and I am based in Port Harcourt, I live at Ada George. My family is in Port Harcourt. I was arrested at a hotel where they tracked me to. I did not use my money to carry women, I used it to take care of my family.
I was robbing only petrol stations until some group of boys introduced me into robbing ATM, that was in 2019. The group headed by one Bobby, Samuel and one Daniel from Rumuosi, popularly known as Dada boy, taught me the techniques and after I mastered the act, I overthrew him and took over as leader. Our first attack was at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. But I later heard that the IRT arrested Daniel during a robbery operation so since then I have not heard from him.
As the leader I ensured that my boys go out on surveillance to look for petrol stations where they have enough supply of fuel and then they get back to me to tell me their findings. After getting their information, I will personally visit the station to confirm their observation and when I am convinced that the station actually has enough supply, we will then make arrangement for trucks to go and steal the fuel and I am the one that usually go and look for buyers to buy the stolen fuel.
I am married with four kids. I am not happy about where I find myself because I know it is not a good example for my children. My family is not aware that I am a thief.
My name is Koko Itang. I am 46 years old and from Akwa Ibom State. I am a driver by profession and I act as the security man for the group by carrying out surveillance on the positions of policemen and other security operatives on the road. What I do is that I usually go around to see the number of security checkpoints on the road that we are going to use to go for our operation after the other people have surveyed and confirmed the station that we are going to rob. And when we get to the petrol station which is usually at night I will take a vantage position around where the security man is positioned and watch him until he sleeps then I will alert my members and we will then strike. Apart from monitoring the security man at the fuel station for my group, I am also charged with the responsibilities of getting vehicles for our operations. I have been with the group for sometime now, it was during one of our operations that I was arrested by the police.
I feel bad about the whole situation that I now found myself, but what actually led me into this act was because my landlord threw me out of his house because I don’t have money to pay for rent despite my begging him. I used to be a commercial driver plying the Port Harcourt and Akwa Ibom state routes before I got into armed robbery. While working as a commercial driver, I was attacked by armed robbers who chopped off my hand and I was hospitalized for a very long time. And after I was discharged from the hospital, I didn’t have money to pay my landlord because things were very difficult for me and I became very sick too because I have pneumonia and tuberculosis. So, I now contacted this my friend to tell him about my situation and he now told me that this is the kind of business that he was doing and I showed interest and joined them since I did not get a commercial bus to drive again to take care of myself.
The first time that he took me out, he said I should escort the security man and the second place he said I should look for a vehicle for the operation. The first place that we went to, we didn’t succeed. It was in the second place that he asked me to go and hire a bus. When we got the bus, he said what he sold the oil was not much so he gave me N20,000 and I now went to my landlord and paid him.
On how I was arrested, when things became difficult for me again, I called Napoleon and asked him where he was and he told me he was at slaughter and asked me to come over at the roundabout to meet him. So I cut my call and went to look for him at slaughter roundabout but I didn’t know that he had already been arrested by the police and that was how they arrested me too.
WELDER OF THE GROUP
My name is Pascal Okere. I am 42 years old and from Owerri, Imo State. I am a panel beater and spray painter by profession. I work at Elekahia Mechanic village in Port Harcourt.
I got to know this gang members because I used to work their motor for them and I didn’t know that they are into robbery. But by the time I discovered they were robbers, it was too late because usually when they go for operation they used to open the ATM with ease. But after the banks discovered that their machines were being destroyed, they decided to fortify their ATM. It was at this point that they contacted me to come and help them to use my equipment to help open the ATM. So I agreed and whenever we go for an operation, they usually leave me inside the car and call me only when they cannot force the machine open because of the heavy metal used in protecting it. So, I will bring down my welding equipment from the car and use fire to melt the tough areas to make it easy for us to open the ATM. We usually carry out these operations in the night. Usually when we go to the place, we conduct surveillance and wait until the security men fall asleep before we start and this is usually between 11-12 midnight. And it sometimes takes me between 30 minutes and 1 hour to open the machine depending on how tough it is.
I don’t usually get to know how much they get from the machine because immediately I open it, I will pack my equipment and go back to the car because it is heavy and if I wait for them to finish, the police may catch us in the process. I get between N100, 000, N50,000, N200,000, depending on how much they found in the machine.
I decided to join the group to help them break ATM because of the money I was getting but when I realized that what they were doing was wrong, I decided not to join the group again. When our leader noticed that I was no longer taking his calls and joining them for operations, he said I wanted to blackmail them, but I told him I was not going to do that.
I actually stopped following them last year when I realized what they were doing was wrong.
On how he was arrested, he said: I was with my wife when this man called me to say why am I behaving like this and why did I stop following them and why am I hiding or is it that I want to leak their secret. And I even told my mother about it that the man was threatening my life and my mother told me not to worry. I told him that my first wife ran away when she found out that I was into robbery and that I married a new wife and I don’t want her to run away. She left me with three children. I just married a new wife and she just put to bed and is pregnant again and I don’t want her to know that I am an armed robber, so I quit.
I came to Port Harcourt in the year 2000, I graduated from my panel beating job in 1998.
And my duty in the gang is that whenever we go for an operation, and they enter the place because I don’t usually go inside with them, if they see that the iron is very strong, they will call me then I will get down from the bus with my tools which include welding machine and I will weld the bolt open for them to carry out the money and I have operated with them 10 times. Some keys are strong so I use fire to open them.