– End of road for robbery gang members terrorising Ondo, Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Kogi residents

Chioma Igbokwe

Five suspected criminals recently arrested by the police have one thing in common: they were all former inmates of Olokuta Prisons, Akure, Ondo State. The suspects Olawale Olarewaju, Akinjide Ibitoye, Fisayo Olatubosun, Osai Amechi and Atoyebi Olajide were arrested by detectives attached to the IGP Intelligence Response Team (IRT).

According to our police source, they got an intelligence report about a man with one hand that has been attacking and snatching cars across South West states. Most of these cars were later found in Benin Republic.

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The commander in charge of IRT, DCP Abba Kyari sent his team with credible intelligence to smoke out the suspected criminals. Luckily, Ibitoye the man with an amputated hand was arrested. He led the police to the arrest of five other gang members.

They told the police that while they were in prison, they decided to join the association of car snatchers. As soon as they were released, they started snatching cars and have been stealing cars in Ondo, Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Kogi states for several years. Although the police had arrested and arraigned some of them, they regrouped as soon as they were granted bail.

Life after prison

At the police station, the first suspect, Olawale, a graduate of Federal Polytechnic, Ado Ekiti claimed that he was introduced to the world of crime while he was in school. “I was initiated into cultism in 2009 while I was in school. I was just a member but I knew everything that was going on whenever they decide to attack people. As soon as I graduated, my mother who knew about my involvement in cult activities tried her best to remove me from that group. She went as far as taking a loan for me since I couldn’t get a job.

“With the money that my mother gave me, I relocated to Port Harcourt and started buying and selling plumbing materials. Unfortunately, my shop got burnt and I was left without a job. Sometime in December, 2013, I attended my old students association party and I met one of my old friends known as Olaniyi Olakunle. I told him that I am jobless and he invited me to join his smuggling business. I discovered that he was very successful. He owns a house, a beautiful wife and a fat bank account. The day I visited him, he gave me N50, 000 and he said that was because I drove him to another state.

“I went home and decided to think about it. I decided to call him in January 2014. He told me to drive him to Eket and on our way he stopped at Osogbo with the excuse that he wanted to pick someone but suddenly, he pulled out his gun and snatched a car at gunpoint.

“I was shocked but when he gave me N120, 000 for just watching him snatch a car, I calmed down. He also gave me the handset of the owner of the car. I started using it, till I was arrested by the police. They asked me who gave me the phone and I took them to Olakunle’s house but he escaped. I was charged to court and remanded in Olokuta Prison. I spent three years before I was released. It was while I was in prison that I met Amechi. He told me that he is a car dealer that I should call him if I have any stolen car.

“In March 2017, I was released from prison and my younger brother who came to pick me advised that I should stop robbery and face internet fraud. He even taught me the job and assured me that if police should arrest me, they will later release me. The internet fraud business was okay and I made at least $270 a week. I was comfortable and my family was well fed.

“Unfortunately, in October 2017, one of my friends known as Emmanuel who I met in Olokuta prison Akure, called me and said that he was in Ibadan. It was a big car and I knew that I will make up to one million naira. We sold the car and made a lot of money. This was how I went back to the same trade to the point that I snatched cars and robbed people’s houses. One of my most successful raids was when we stole N8million from the house of one man in Kogi sometime in February 2018.”

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The second suspect, Ibitoye, a native of Erin Osun claimed that it was in his quest to improve his financial situation that landed him in Benin Republic where he was recruited. Although he lost one of his hands in the course of his evil deeds, Ibitoye said that it became a disguise, which he used to draw public sympathy.

“I used to be a carpenter before my shop was demolished by our local government. Sometime in 2014, I travelled to Benin Republic to do business. Unfortunately the Nigerian man, Obalola who allowed me to work with him buys and sells stolen vehicles. He told me that he has boys in Nigeria whose job is to steal the cars and bring them to him. He linked me up with them.

“The first car that we stole was a Range Rover sports and I was given N350, 000 as my share. I was so excited because that was big money. We started moving from state to state especially in the southwest and at the end of each robbery; we will all relocate to Benin Republic and wait. We preferred Toyota cars because they can be sold easily. So many of us were arrested either in the process of snatching the car or much later. I was lucky because I normally relocate to Benin Republic. Our duty was also to raise money and help those in prison to get a lawyer.

“Unfortunately in 2016, I was arrested and sent to Olokuta Prison where I spent a year and six months before I was released on bail. As soon as I was released I returned to Benin Republic and decided to steal a motorcycle. I was caught and the people in the area broke my right hand. By the time I got to the hospital, there was nothing they could do than to amputate the hand.”

Expected to learn a lesson from that experience, Ibitoye said he was bitter but soon realized that it was an advantage. “I was so broke and hungry. I decided to steal a wallet and when they started searching everyone, they did not search me because they assumed that since I have no hand it will not be possible. Unknown to them, my left hand was more efficient than the right hand. I came back and continued in the car snatching business till the police arrested me and others.”

On the day of his arrest, Ibitoye said that he came to Nigeria to visit his family. “The police did not believe that I am Ibitoye till the other gang members identified me. I also took care of my wife and four children. I know that they are disappointed in me, but they should understand that I did it to make sure that they do not suffer.”

Another suspect, Olatubosun, an indigene of Osun State said he decided to become a robber since police sent him to prison because of the crime of his brother. “In 2010, I was living with my elder brother who is a mechanic. I normally stay with him if I have nothing doing. One day policemen came looking for my brother. I was told that he normally receive stolen cars and repaint them. I told them that I knew nothing about it but since they could not find my brother, they arrested me. I was charged to court and remanded in prison. I spent three years in prison and while I was there, I met friends of my brother. They took care of me and also taught me how to be a successful criminal. I learnt how to enter people’s houses without waking them up. I was also told that I should avoid anything that has to do with gun. When I was finally released, I started breaking into houses. The money I made was enough till I met Olawale. He was able to convince me to join him and snatch a car. He started driving the car around and police stopped him. Since he could not prove that he can afford to buy such car he was arrested. I guess he was the one that told the police about me.”

Yet another suspect, Amechi also claimed that he was innocent but the police still charged him to court in 2016. “I am from Delta State and married with a child. I lost my job and was recruited by a drug baron to serve as his personal driver. I thought they were only into drug business but along the line, I realized that they were also buying and selling stolen cars. It was when the police caught me while driving one of his cars that I realized that I was working for a car snatcher . I was charged to court in Ondo State and remanded in Olokuta Prison.

“I spent two years in prison before I was released in 2016. While in prison, I made a lot of contacts. As soon as I came out, I joined a gang and since I knew who the buyers were, it was easy for me to be accepted by the gang. I also started cultivating Indian Hemp in Edo State. I did well for myself and family until I was arrested by the police.”

The last suspect Olayide was also arrested and remanded in prison sometime in 2017. “I was arrested in November 2017 because the police in Akure saw me with a stolen vehicle. Luckily for me, my family helped in raising fund which was used to pay the lawyer and I spent only two months in prison. I decided to stop but a friend called and the offer was so good. I started snatching and selling cars till police arrested me. I am sorry, I have disappointed my family.”