There was a mild drama at a car wash stand in Karsana district of Abuja recently. A customer, Hafiz, returned a few hours after dropping his Toyota Corolla for a wash and met its absence. The car wash operator was said to have disappeared with the car and all the valuables therein.
Initially, the victim thought it was a prank. He thought the car wash operator, Adamu, went out to buy something with the car since he left the car key with him each time he brought the car for wash. But after waiting for several hours, it became clear to him that the car has been stolen by Adamu.
Hafiz was confused. He waited and silently prayed for the return of his car but otherwise was the case. He was forced to temporarily accept his fate and began the search for the car. He could not know the whereabouts of the car wash operator, neither could he get a clue that could link him with his relations or anyone with useful information about him.
He thought of what to do. Suggestions came from different people on the next line of action to take. In the mid of confusion, he reported to the police with serious doubt on any possible help from the police.
According to him, the tracking system, which he installed in the car was deactivated few months to the theft due to some mechanical reasons. He decided to check with the installer on possible ways he could recover his car. After several checks, he made headway and was informed of possible steps that could help in the recovery.
He took action in that regard and the car was found at a location in Edo State. Additional enquiry produced the precise location of the car and helped in its recovery.
Howbeit, cases of car theft have been on the rise in Abuja. Police said cases of car theft are being reported everyday. While some of the cars are out rightly snatched at gunpoint, others are taken from places they were parked.
Police confirmed that car wash, markets, religious places, event centers especially at night hours, schools and other lonely places have been turned to operational bases for the thieves.
However, the car thefts, which used to be prevalent during festive seasons have turned to year round criminal activity. Car thieves have obviously increased in numbers and are strategically positioned across Abuja to do their dirty job.
From all indications, their targets are Toyota and Honda with particularly interest in Toyota Camry (pencil light and muzzle) and Toyota Corolla. The demand for these cars is high among the average class of people in the society. As such, they are easily sold. They are considered efficient, rugged and easy to maintain.
A car wash operator in Asokoro, Lucky, confirmed that some of their members have ulterior motive of joining car wash business. Some steal customers’ valuable items in the car and deny it:
“We have a good number of customers who drop their cars with us to wash alongside the car keys, with instructions to deliver the car at their offices or elsewhere. This was because of the level of trust and confidence they have on us. It will be total betrayal to temper with the trust.
“I wash different types of car everyday. In some cases, I see money and other valuables carelessly kept in some of the cars. Some people do it deliberately and otherwise. But the least I could do is to carefully and neatly keep the items for them. Some show immediate appreciation and others do at next call. I am not rich but I am contented.”
An Abuja based journalist (name withheld) told Daily Sun that his Toyota Camry otherwise known as pencil light was tampered with at the Federal Secretariat Complex, Abuja, where he parked it for few hours to attend a meeting:
“I returned after few hours to open my car only to discover that my door key was strongly tempered with. My car key could not go in anymore. I took a closer look at the door key and saw half key inside.
“Undoubtedly, the person had wanted to forcefully open the car door but was unsuccessful. My God intervened and his or her key broke inside. I came out and saw half of the key inside my car door key. I was seriously terrified. I looked around but couldn’t see anyone. I thanked God for His intervention and left.”
A motor mechanic in Nyanya, Abuja, Durojaiye Ismail, confirmed that the listed cars are lacking in good security system. And some of the owners are always reluctant to install security systems in the car, and that makes it vulnerable to theft:
“These car thieves are determined to unleash pain and loss on motorists, and they can use any possible means to do that. Like the devil in the Bible, they move about looking for whom to devour. Some of them were once car mechanics, electricians or panel beaters.
“They have good knowledge of their target cars and that is the reason for total success in most cases.” He encouraged users of such model of cars to be extra careful and vigilant, or better still, endeavour to install security or tracking device for the safety of the car.
Another victim, Walter, said his wife’s Toyota Corolla was stolen at Utako Market: “I reported the case to the police and they demanded for money from me before they could start investigation. I was obviously not comfortable with that response.”
FCT police spokesman, Anjuguri Manza, said he was aware of cases of car theft in Abuja but unaware of such cases allegedly orchestrated by car wash garage operators: “Besides, I am currently not in the office to give you update of what is happening or what might have happened at our different police divisions in Abuja.”
He, however, challenged car owners to be more security conscious. He said they have repeatedly advised car owners to install trackers, or use constructed pedal, steering or gear lever locks: “If you check how much is invested in the purchase and maintenance of your car, then it will be wise to fortify the security of the car. It is also unwise to trust anyone with your car, be it a car mechanic or car wash operator.”