By Chioma Okezie-Okeh
“I know that I am guilty but please tell the police not to send me to Ogun Correctional Centre. That place is evil.” Those were the pleas of a 22-year-old ex-convict who was re-arrested while trying to sell off a stolen Lexus Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV).
The suspect, identified as Abdulrafiu Olamilekan was nabbed with two others – Idris Adesina and Suleiman Aliyu by operatives of the Force Intelligence Response Team (IRT) in Lagos.
Police sources told Saturday Sun that they received a distress call on June 14 from a man whose car was snatched by robbers at Sango area of Ogun state. They raced to the scene but the robbers had fled with the Lexus and other valuables.
On same day, they struck at Agege and snatched another Lexus SUV from a man who was about to enter his compound.
Meanwhile another hotel in Agege had reported that a gang of five armed robbers invaded their hotel and stole from their customers about 11pm. They provided a CCTV footage, which showed a clear picture of the robbers.
Luckily, the operatives were able to get Abdulrafiu at the point of sale of the Lexus. He led the detectives to arrest two of his gang members – Idris and Aliyu, a notorious receiver based in Cotonou. Suleiman was lured into the country by Idris who asked him to come and pick up a stolen car.
When Idris’ house was searched, police operatives discovered a locally made gun and a bag that looked exactly like another seen with one of the armed robbers who had raided the hotel in Agege. It was then Idris admitted that he was the one holding that bag.
Idris and Abdulrafiu confessed to the police that they were once inmates at the Oba Correctional Centre in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Idris also said that he had lost count of the number of cars that he sent to one Baba Beji based in Cotonou, Benin Republic.
Please save me from Ogun prison
Very much aware that he had committed a crime, 22-year-old Abdulrafiu begged that he would prefer to be jailed in Lagos than Ogun. “I am from Oyo State but I live in Ogun State with my mother. My father, who is a solider, ran away when I was still in primary school. I was told by my mother that he left for Kaduna in 2008 and never returned. I have pleaded with my mother to connect me with him but she refused.
“I dropped out of school and became a panel beater. I was so good at my job that I know how to open a car without key. Sometime in 2019, I saw a car parked and the owner left his phone and wallet in the car. I tried to open it and, in the process, I was caught. This was how I ended up in Oba Correctional Centre in Ogun state.
“I spent six months inside that hell before I was released by the magistrate. If you are detained there you will never remain normal. Please, I am begging the police not to take me to Ogun court if they don’t want to forgive me.”
Recounting some of the experiences, Abdulrafiu alleged that they were permanently locked in their cells. “You can only see the sky through the window. In the morning, they would give us watery half cooked beans. You would be given a cup of garri without sugar to drink in afternoon and night.
“We ate rice cooked with palm oil and salt twice in a week. It was only on some Sundays that we had the opportunity to eat rice and meat when religious groups visited us, especially churches.”
He alleged that those who had been abandoned at the facility by their families resort to selling their anus to the highest buyer. “The hunger in the prison is real and a lot of people are abandoned. They do not go to court for years and their family members do not visit. They go about seducing the ones with money in order to survive. It is nothing new and the wardens are aware. They normally use the toilet area at night but if we catch them, they will be beaten up. During my six months in that prison, one of them was killed because he was seen performing oral sex on one of the new inmates. By the time he was taken to the clinic, he died.”
Despite all the horror that Abdulrafiu claimed that he experienced, he went back to crime as soon as he regained his freedom. “My mother helped me to get a lawyer and when I was released, I promised to face my panel beating work. I started working as a contract staff for companies, but along the line, a guy that I met in prison called me. I told him that I am still managing my life and he asked me to meet him.
“This was in May and we met at Sango Ota. We took a bike and spotted a man driving a Lexus SUV. He stopped to open the gate to enter his compound. This was around 11.30pm. We blocked him, snatched his car and locked him inside his toilet. Idris drove the car and, on our way, back to Lagos, we spotted another Lexus SUV. The owner stopped to buy something at a roadside stall. We also blocked him and snatched the car. Idris took one to Cotonou while I took one to a Lagos buyer.
“Two days later, we went for another operation and got a Lexus 330. I convinced them to allow me sell it in Lagos. My plan was to sell the car and run away with the entire money. Unfortunately, the buyer was working for the police.”
The second suspect, Idris, who participated in the hotel raid told Saturday Sun that his gang members got information that the hotel was not well guarded and that most of their customers are fraudsters.
“I am from Owode in Ogun and all my life I have tried to be useful but failed. I am a bus conductor. I ended up in prison when someone snatched phone from one of our passengers. I spent almost two years in Oba Correctional Centre because of the COVID 19 lockdown. This was where I met Abdulrafiu and when we were released, we formed a gang. We got the number of Baba Ibeji while in prison. He is always ready to buy any car that we send to him. To encourage us, he sent four locally made guns that we were using for the operation. So far, I have sent Toyota Avensis, Toyota Highlander, Acura SUV and about four Lexus SUVs. “The hotel job was brought by one Wandecole who told us that the hotel does not have much security. This was in June and we got there around 11.30pm. We tied up the gateman and receptionist before entering all the rooms. The agreement was that everyone should take whatever they found. I got N50,000 in the first room with phones. The second room was a couple and the man gave me the N25000 in his pocket. I took their phones and we left.”
On his part, the self-confessed receiver Suleiman told Saturday Sun that his job was just to move the stolen vehicles into Benin Republic and hand them over to Baba Beji. “I know Baba Beji as a car dealer who buys and sells cars in Nigeria. Most of the cars are fairly used cars that need to be smuggled into Nigeria. As a professional driver, I help him to move such cars.
“Initially, I never knew that those cars were stolen till he gave me four locally made guns to deliver in Nigeria. He normally paid me N45,000 for everyone that got to him without problem. I am aware that some cars smuggled into Cotonou are stolen cars. They will bring it into the country, change the colour and move it back to Nigeria for sale.”