If as a motorist, commercial driver or regular passenger, you are wondering why mysterious potholes or craters keep springing up, now and then, on the Ijebu Ode corridor of the Lagos- Benin Expressway, wonder no more. A gang of six suspected armed robbers, now in police net, has revealed how, for more than three years, they dug the holes on that stretch of the expressway to trap unsuspecting victims. But their reign of terror was cut short recently when operatives from Lagos State Command, Ikeja, also set security trap in their own way for them and they fell into it.
The suspects identified as Samsom Pius, Ikenna Chidobi, Augustine Ifeanachor, Jonathan Olale, Egbeji Chigozie and John Umukoro were rounded up by detectives who were deployed to recover a Hiace bus that belongs to their latest victim. According to police source, as soon as Samson was picked up in Lagos, the others fled the state when they learnt of his arrest. But through police intelligence tracking, they were all picked, one after the other, from Ondo, Anambra and Imo State. They later confessed to have stolen the bus during one of their robbery operations in Lagos. In police custody, all, without exception, are now singing the all-familiar I-regret-what-I-did song. They all want state pardon with a promise not to go back to the crime if released.
How and why the gang was formed –Leader
According to confessions made by the suspects, their choice for the type of vehicle they go for is dependent on the market demand. Samson, the leader of the gang, revealed that he formed it weeks after he was released from prison on bail.
Talking about himself and his criminal career, he noted: “I am 39 years and hail from Anambra State. I was sent to Lagos to learn a trade. Unfortunately, I did not last for long and my master threw me out with the excuse that his goods were missing. I was not the only one serving him then but they decided to accuse me of everything.
“I started hustling at Ladipo market till police arrested us with stolen spare-parts. This was how I ended up in prison. While I was there I met a lot of bad boys who taught me a lot of things including where to find a gun and how to use it. So after two years, I was released on bail. Everyone knew that I was sent to the prison and when I was released they refused to associate with me. I had to form a gang. I knew they will join me because they are street boys.”
On why they chose Ijebu-Ode road, Samson said that he got the suggestion while in prison. “While in prison I got the phone numbers of some receivers of stolen cars. It was there that we exchanged ideas and suggestions. One of the inmates suggested that we concentrate on the Ijebu Ode-Benin expressway. What we normally do is to dig hole on the expressway and wait for a target. We normally start as early as four in the morning or as late as seven in the evening. Once our target vehicle is approaching we will jump out as soon as they reach the hole dug by us. They will definitely slow down and it will be easy for us to attack and snatch the vehicle. I have lost count of the number of cars or buses that we snatched on that road. The Hiace bus was snatched by us and sold to Baba who paid us N300, 000. I am very sorry and hope that Nigerians plying that road will forgive me. I was seen as a criminal. That is why we had to survive somehow,”
Asked about his wife and children, Samson claimed that his wife ran away when life became economically tough for him. “She is not aware that I am an armed robber. Before I was sent to prison things were very hard for me and she refused to stay by my side. She left me for a better life and I don’t blame her.”
A suspect’s reason for joining gang
The second suspect, Ikenna, admitted that they have snatched many cars on that route but that they were sold for a peanut. This is why the financial proceeds were not enough to settle them all. “I am sad that I found myself in this kind of trouble,” he said. “I was born and raised in Umuahia, Abia State. Some years ago, my father died and I am the only child of my mother. To help me become useful, my mother sent me to Aba to become a professional cobbler. I was not patient enough and ran away with a friend to Lagos.
“He promised me that I will get a job but when I got here, the reverse was the case. I ended up under Mile 2 bridge and later got a conductor job. It was under that bridge that I met Samson. When he came back from the prison and asked me to join his gang, I agreed. I have joined him to do several jobs and the highest that they paid me was N100,000 which I sent part of it to my mother to convince her that I was doing well in Lagos. The Hiace bus that police recovered was stolen in Lagos by us. We just saw where it was parked and broke into it and disappeared with it.
“Unfortunately, we ended up in police cell. I am disappointed because my mother will be devastated if she should hear that I am now a criminal. Please forgive me for the sake of my mother. I am so sorry.”
A litany of dangerous risks
In his own narration, Augustine told Saturday Sun that the risk involved was much because there were other robbers on that route. “We have run into security men before and they almost killed us,” he explained. “They were in mufti. But we never knew till they started shooting at us. In another instance, we bumped into kidnappers who were passing through. It is so dangerous that I begged that I should not be gotten involved again but Samson refused. If you fail to follow Samson, he will conclude that you have betrayed him and ask the others to kill you. Imagine after all the oaths that we took, he still took police to arrest all of us. I was arrested in Imo State where I ran to when I heard that had police had arrested him.”
The receiver of stolen car’s angle of the story
One of the receivers Egbeji who was found with the Hiace bus said that he bought it from them at the price of N300, 000.” I am aware that it is stolen, this is why I paid only N300, 000 for it,” he said. “We don t pay much because we know that the business is very risky; police might arrest you. I am sorry but I did not ask them to go and rob with guns.”