By Chioma Okezie-Okeh
In the murky world of armed robbers, it was like a smoking gun turned full cycle, a nemesis coming home to roost.
In November 2020, a gang of armed robbers concluded plans to rob, and if she resisted, kill a successful businesswoman called Rebecca, a major dealer in watermelon in a popular market in Lafia, Nasarawa State. But on the D-day, something went terribly wrong. In a strange twist of fate, instead of the targeted woman being the one that got killed in the process of the robbery, , the victim turned out to be the father of the leader of the gang.
The elderly man identified as Alhaji Isa was, like Rebecca, a major dealer in the watermelon business. He was buried according to Islamic tradition, without the rest of his immediate family members knowing exactly how he got killed. The only one that knew was Baba Mbuga, his son, the gang leader.
But the truth recently came to the fore when some members of the gang that carried out the evil deed in error were arrested in a major security sweep. A police source told Saturday Sun that that happened on March 3, 2021, when security operatives nabbed one Abdullahi Dansoho and Ovie Yusuf. They allegedly confessed to the crime. Baba Mbuga and three others involved are currently said to be on the run.
“The suspects confessed amongst other things that sometime in November 2020, they conspired to rob one Rebecca of the proceeds of the sale of her farm produce,” the source stated. “In the process, they encountered one Alhaji Isa, who they shot dead. It was after they had left that they realised that the deceased was the father of their gang leader, known as Baba Mbuga.”.
Why mistake happened
Recounting what transpired on that day, 29-year-old Ovie, from Lafia in Nasarawa State, claimed that the gang members decided to run for their dear lives after it was confirmed that the man they killed was actually the father of their gang leader.
He started his story by narrating how and why he took to armed robbery.
“I am a farmer,” he said. “After my secondary school education, I went into farming. I was into the planting of corn and watermelon. It was in the line of the job that I discovered that I could make more money from buying and selling watermelon. We have a lot of customers from the south and gradually we formed an association. We are known as Melon Sellers Association and we normally meet on Fridays.
“Although I am a farmer, the money I make is never enough, so I decided to join Baba Mbuga’s gang. He is also a farmer but he has an armed robbery gang and once in a while, they kidnap or rob people to make extra money. On one of the days as we were planning for the operation, and were suggesting who to rob, the name of Madam Rebecca came up. She is our association member. But she is one of the richest dealers in watermelon at the market.
“Baba Mbuga also confirmed that. We all agreed that she should be robbed. Usually, on Thursdays, her customers are many and they usually pay cash. Because of this, she does not go home but lodges in one of the guest houses in the market close to her warehouse. We agreed that on that day we would strike and collect the money she made. And if it was not enough, we would kidnap her in addition to robbing her. At about 8 pm on the agreed day, Baba Mbuga dropped us off and went to stay far away from the place. He said if he participated, his body size could make people to know that he was the one who came to rob the woman. He said that the woman could use that to identify him later.
“But since he was the one who did the surveillance for us, he pointed us to the room where he claimed Madam Rebecca was seen at 7 pm that Thursday. Unknown to us the woman left the place that night and Alhaji Isa who also sleeps in the guest house from time to time took over the room. Immediately, we broke into the room, he woke up and asked, ‘who is there?’ We were surprised to hear the voice of a man instead of a woman. We thought maybe it was her husband. But before we could speak or shout at him, he picked up his spear and charged at us. He wanted to kill us. We dodged his weapon. And, to neutralise him, we had no choice but to shoot him. But after killing him, we were shocked to discover that there was no woman anywhere in the room. We panicked and ran away. We thought we must have entered the wrong room. Initially, no one knew who the man that was shot was.
“We ran away and reported the matter to Baba Mbuga. He asked us to go home and wait till the following day. It was in the morning that we learned that the man we killed was his father. From there, everyone ran away from the market because we are afraid that Baba Mbuga would kill us all, out of anger. It was his mistake because the house he pointed us to was the one we entered.”
How the gang leader knew, by the second suspect
The second suspect, Abdulahi, 25, a father of four, claimed that the robbery incident was the only one in which they recorded a casualty since they started operating as a gang. The man, who was also linked to the invasion of a hospital clinic at Kan-stakuwa, Lafia, and subsequent kidnapping of some patients sometime ago, noted that Baba Mbuga would usually call on him anytime he had a lucrative kidnapping or armed robbery job.
“I am good at surveillance. That is why Baba Mbuga would always insist that I be part of any operation,” he explained. “I was the one who recommended that Ovie and others be part of our gang. We were hanging out when the issue of Madam Rebecca came up. On the day of the attack, I visited the market with Baba Mbuga and we saw Madam Rebecca. In fact, she recognized me and I even bought a bag of watermelon from her which I resold immediately. We saw her enter that room, so we concluded that she would surely sleep there that night. Since she already recognized us, we felt it would be risky joining them. We used our motorcycle and dropped Ovie and three others close to the market lodge.
“We were waiting for them at an agreed spot when Ovie called and said that they had killed a man found in the room because he attacked them. We asked everybody to go home while I followed Baba Mbuga to his house. We were on our way when his brother called screaming that their father was dead. He said armed robbers attacked him at the melon market lodge. It was then that it dawned on us that the man they killed was Baba Mbuga’s father. Baba Mbuga cried very much that day. But when we got to their compound, we pretended as if we did not know what happened. I guess Allah decided to punish us.”
On how he met Baba Mbuga, he claimed that they are childhood friends. “When we became adults, he relocated to Benin to do business. Things did not work out well for him as he planned and he decided to come back. He was stranded and I accommodated him. It was when he realised that I too was finding it difficult to feed my family that he told me the way out. He said that they were doing kidnapping and armed robbery work in Benin but the community discovered and he had to run away. Assuming that operation was successful, I was supposed to collect half of the proceeds because I brought the gun.”