For some years, two blood brothers, Mouruf and Saheed Yulusa masqueraded as respectable merchants, and while the farce lasted, they were widely known as importers of rice in Ilorin, capital of Kwara State.
Now they have been unmasked as thieves who broke into people’s shops in the dead of night and carted away their goods. Their thieving nature would have remained in the dark but an accidental discovery by law enforcement agents brought nemesis to their doorsteps.
Their true colour came to light when operatives of IGP Intelligence Response Team (IRT) stumbled on their racket while trailing a suspected car thief who allegedly sold a stolen vehicle to one of the brothers. Detectives tracking the car caught the brothers red-handed as they were conveying another stolen consignment with the stolen vehicle.
The rest of the story unravelled during interrogation: the pair turned out to be brothers and they allegedly confessed to have successfully burgled uncountable shops and stolen hundreds of bags of rice.
In this interview with Saturday Sun, these “sons of Belial” narrated how they found themselves walking the path of perfidy.
Undone by greed
The younger of the two brothers and the leader of the gang, Saheed Yulusa, claimed greed for quick money turned him into a thief.
The 28-year-old told Saturday Sun: “I am married with three children. I currently live in Okolowo area in Ilorin. It is a new site. I am well known in the area because I am a big boy; as young as I am, I have built my own house.
“We are seven children from my mother. Mouruf is my elder brother. I was born and brought up in Kwara State but my parents moved to Kano in search of greener pasture shortly after I graduated from secondary school.
While in Kano, my parents could not make enough money to help me further my education. I was sent to go and learn printing job and I practised that for some years before the Boko Haram problem got to Kano. My parents left Kano and returned to Kwara in 2015. I followed them since I was not doing well in Kano.
“My mother sells food at Offa Garage. She has accommodation close to the garage. With the little savings I had, she supported me and I bought a Golf car. I started using the car for commercial transportation, but a few months later, I had an accident and the car was destroyed. I sold it as scrap, added some money and bought a Toyota Matrix. It was while I was on my way back that I met one man who told me I was wasting my time in the transport business.”
According to him, the man showed him how easy it was to break into shops.
“Because I was tired of struggling to survive, I decided to join him,” he said.
What was more, he found that there were many shops with little or no security.
“We’d visit the shops at daytime and pretend to buy foodstuff. We’d use the opportunity to survey the surrounding and note the quantity of foodstuff inside the shop. Later in the night, around 1 pm, we’d return and break into the shops. It is very easy to open padlocks with a small metal.”
At his first attempt, he got 15 bags of rice. A good deal, he said.
That was in 2016. “Since then, I have lost count of the number of bags of rice that we have stolen, but I know the figure is more than 1000,” he narrated.
Saheed insisted that none of his customers suspected they were buying stolen goods. “I have a store in Ilorin and everyone sees me as a regular importer. We have several customers in Ilorin. They assumed that we bought our rice in bulk. A bag of rice is N15, 000; we normally sell to them at N14, 000. Because of the profit margin, they did not waste time to buy and pay cash.”
The baffling part of the story: how he lured his elder brother into crime––and why.
“I did it to save him from poverty,” Saheed claimed.
He explained: “As my elder brother, I felt that it is not right for him to be going around begging people for money. Shortly after he relocated from Kano, he became broke and hungry. His family gradually became a burden to me. He was always coming to borrow money from me and my mother. I had no choice but to open up to him and let him know how I was making my money. Initially, he was angry. He threatened to tell our mother. I was not worried because my mother will not hurt me even if she knew. But the next day, he came back and told me that he would join us.”
This was not the first time the law caught up with him. “I have been arrested in the past before my brother joined us. We were arrested by policemen in Offa, they charged us to court but I was granted bail. I had some money then, so it was easy for me to hire a good lawyer who ensured that I did not spend a night in prison. But I never went to court again. I assume they were tired of waiting for me. I continued from where I stopped because I did not know any other means of making money.”
Curiously, neither his wife nor his children were aware of his thieving character, despite his arrest in the past. “It was one of my cousins who took my bail. My family thought I was framed up,” he explained. “This is why I’d never gone home with a bag of rice. I’d only go home with small bags.”
He enjoyed the bubble while it lasted: “It was the proceeds from stolen rice that I used to train my children in good private schools in Ilorin and built the bungalow where we are currently living. I made a lot of money. I changed cars frequently because I used my personal car to convey the stolen bags of rice, the vehicle was affected by the weight, so as soon as it developed a fault, I’d dispose of it and buy a new car.”
An older brother without will
Mouruf, the older of the two brothers was consumed by self-recrimination. He blamed himself for falling so low as to be involved in a crime that drags the family’s name in the mud.
“I am ashamed because I am 38 which means that I am 10 years older and should have not allowed my younger brother to persuade me to steal,” he told Saturday Sun.
His confession started with details of the family background and their upbringings: “We are from Kishi in Irepo, Oyo State but our parents gave birth to us in Kwara State. After my secondary school, there was no money to further my education. I learnt how to repair cars till 2001 when my parents decided to relocate to Kano.”
He wasn’t prosperous in Kano because “they don’t pay mechanics very well.”
He continued: “It is so bad that after repairing their cars they will give you N200. I managed till 2003 when my sister encouraged me to go and learn to drill borehole from her husband. I joined him and learnt the work for three years. Luckily, he is a government contractor and was bringing business. Anyone that I arrange, I will make as much as N400, 000 in a month. This was how I survived and also managed to get married and start a family.”
He initially stayed back with his family after his parents left Kano after Boko Haram started attacking Kano. But his situation degenerated “because people were no longer drilling boreholes, they were more interested in staying alive.”
When contracts were no longer forthcoming, he returned to Kwara State with his family in 2018, but soon found out that starting all over again in a new environment had its disadvantages.
“I tried to start work as a mechanic but since I was new in town no one trusted me with their car. Life became so difficult he had to borrow money from his mother and junior brother to feed my family,” he recounted.
“It was when I tried to borrow N5, 000 from Saheed that he told me to join them to steal rice,” he said. “Initially, I was shocked and told him to stop such an act. When I threatened to tell our mother, he told me that all the money that I collected from him were proceeds from stolen rice. I fought the temptation for weeks but I realized that my children would soon be hungry, so, I decided to join them.”
He gave a summary of his involvement in the criminal enterprise: “I volunteered to use my car and during the first attempt, we took five bags of local rice. We sold each bag at N15,000. I was paid N30,000 after it was sold to a woman in Ilorin. The second attempt which was seven bags, I received N40,000. I normally collect the biggest share because the car belongs to me. We stole from shops in Offa; all I did was to transport them in my car; as soon as they succeeded in breaking in, I’d help them to move the bags into my car.”
Unfortunately for him, they ran out of luck sooner. “I had joined them three times; we were on our way back the third time after stealing 23 bags when policemen on patrol spotted us. We were forced to abandon the car and run into the bush.”
Like his brother, Mouruf too, also claimed he did not take stolen bags of rice to his home. “Because I have a conscience,” he said, “It is wrong to allow my children to eat from that rice; I’d rather use the money made to buy foodstuff for the house or give my wife cash.”
He felt sad and sorry for himself. Said he, “I am sorry that I allowed poverty to lead me into stealing other people’s property; I did not feel bad then because I assumed that anyone that owns a big shop must be rich and losing a few bags would not make them poor.”
Now at the end of the road of their criminal enterprise, both brothers are pleading for clemency.
“I swear I will be content with any money that I am able to make legitimately from now on,” Mouruf pleaded.
Saheed, his younger brother, pleaded: “I am begging government to forgive me and let me go; I don’t want to contact Coronavirus in prison.”