In place of reform, three members of a gang of armed robbers emerged from various sentences at the Kirikiri Medium Prison in Lagos with vengeance and a penchant for the bizarre. Noted for terrorising the Lagos suburbs of Ijesha and Ikotun and Aguda, Surulere, the suspects identified as Francis Ogbonna, Chisom Joseph and Oloko Raheem identified a desire to right perceived economic inequalities in the society and the impact of economic recession as reasons for embarking on a car-snatching spree.
Once their activities gained the notice of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris, he ordered his Special Intelligence Response Team, (IRT) led by Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Abba Kyari, to swoop. IRT operatives swooped on the three gang members, arrested them and recovered four exotic cars and a locally made gun in Lagos.
The gang, which formed at the Kirikiri Medium Prison, robbed six owners of their cars at Ajao Estate, Surulere, Ijesha and Ikotun areas of Lagos State. A police source disclosed that the suspects were rounded up in a popular hotel by the police while they attempted to sell the stolen cars to a buyer.
Their activities were said to have prompted the IGP to deploy the IRT operatives.
Narrating the gang’s origin, its leader, Ogbonna, disclosed that he left prison an angry man on a mission to right the initial ‘mistake’ of not making enough money from armed robbery while relieving the rich of their cars. “I am 27 years old,” he said. “I am from Umuahia South Local Government Area of Abia State. After I finished my secondary school, I came to Lagos and I lived in Surulere. It was there that I started my taxi business. I worked until 2013 before relocating to the east.
“I went into crime last November. One of my friends, who was my secondary school classmate known as Uchenna, called me and asked that I should help to drive a stolen car from Lagos to Owerri. I knew Uchenna was an armed robber and I also knew that the car I was to drive was a stolen car. We move mainly at night, and he paid me N50, 000 for each of the cars. I delivered a Camry ‘tiny light’, and the second was a sequoia SUV. The third one was a Lexus 330, but I was arrested by some custom officials.
“I came to Lagos State on December 13 and we started going back on the 14th of the same month. At Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, some customs officials stopped us. I showed them the papers and they saw a telephone number on the customer license paper, and the owner identified the car that he was robbed of. I was arrested. Uche (Uchenna) ran away and I was taken to customs office in Ikeja.
“I was brought to the police station and I took them to Uchenna’s house in the village. They saw him but he managed to escape through the bush. I was charged to court afterwards and remanded in prison. We had two cars on the day I was arrested but I managed to escape with one of the vehicles. I asked him to get me fully involved.
“When I got to prison, I met Chimobi and Raheem. I knew them at Aguda, and we normally smoke at the canal. They knew me as a taxi driver, and when I saw them in prison, I was shocked. They told me that they went to rob and there was a Hausa guy known as Steven that they gave a car to but he was arrested and he led policemen to arrest them in a hotel. Since we came from the same area, we became very close.”
“In May 2016, Chisom and Raheem were released on bail and they left the prison, while I also regained my freedom in July. When I was in prison, I tried to connect with Uchenna. He told me that he was travelling out of the country because his guys were killed and he did not want to stay in the country again. I told him that he was the one who got me into trouble and when I persisted, he switched off his line and changed his number. I became angry because I was the only one facing the case. Then I decided that I would go fully into armed robbery. I met a guy called Amos, and he linked me to one Alhaji that buys stolen vehicles.
“I called him when I was in prison and he said he would wait for me until I was released. I also met one Tosin, who was a buyer. When I was released, I called Tosin and Alhaji that I had been released and I was heading for village. A few weeks after I was released, Tosin and Alhaji started calling me. I told Tosin that I had no gun. He asked me to come to Lagos and that he would ‘organise’ a gun for me.
“I informed Raheem about it and he told me that he was ready. I came into Lagos and I lodged at Hotel 36 in Aguda, Surulere. The next day, he brought a double barrel locally made pistol with five cartridges. I called Raheem, Chisom and one David who is from my state, and I asked them to meet him in my hotel.
“We went out. When we got to Ojuelegba, we collected a cab from the owner and we went to Ago Palace area where we snatched a Toyota Corolla from a guy. Alhaji was at Cele (Bus Stop) waiting for me with money and the moment I snatched the car, I went to Alhaji and handed over the car to him. I parked the taxi in Surulere and went away. The next day, I called Alhaji for our money and he refused to pick my calls.
“The next day, Tosin came around and I went to take the taxi from where I parked it. I snatched a Honda ‘Discussion continues’ at Kilo area and gave it to Tosin. We also snatched a Camry ‘Big for nothing’ inside Aguda. After that operation, we went to sleep and we then abandoned the taxi in a street. We parked the Camry in another street where we thought it would be safe.
“By Friday, we used the Camry to snatch a Honda car in Akerele area of Surulere. We also went to Ajao Estate and we snatched a Toyota Mosul. At that time, I had three cars in my possession. Later, the Alhaji answered my call and told me that the car has been tracked but I was angry that he didn’t tell me when the car was tracked.
“The next week, I checked into another hotel in Ikotun. Later, Tosin came with policemen and I was arrested. They found the guns and the car keys with me. Now I feel very bad. Now I know that crime does not pay.
I want to join the police force to fight crime.”
Joseph stated that poverty pushed him into a life of crime. He explained that he lost his parent at a very young and he was left to fend for himself. He said that one Tigana, who was killed recently by the police, led him to crime. He said: “I am 22-years-old and I stay in Ijesha area of Surulere. I met a friend, Ifeanyi, whom we call Tigana, and he was spending money. I am a barber. I was also cutting Tigana’s hair and he liked me so much. He was always giving me money, and one day when I was with him at the place where we smoked, I told him that I wanted him to teach me how to fish.
“I met him again. He took my phone number and called me and asked me to meet him in a hotel. He bought drinks for me. He later called Raheem and two others. We drove to Victoria Island, and Raheem was the one driving a taxi. We robbed a man of his car, money and phones. They gave the car to the Hausa guy called Steven and he took it away.
“In September, he called me that he was in a hotel and Raheem and the two other guys came again. We robbed a taxi and we used it to rob two cars. Tigana had a Toyota Corolla in his possession and while we were waiting for Steven to come pick the cars, he brought policemen to our hotel room and they arrested all of us and charged us to court. We were remanded in Kirikiri Medium Prison. In June 2015, Francis came to prison and we became friends. When I was released, I regrouped with Francis and we robbed five cars together.”
Raheem, a native of Epe, Lagos State, said: “I am a driver, and I was introduced into armed robbery by my bad friends. It was the situation of the country that led me into crime. I was into the business of car wash and we weren’t making much money. I am a family man with three children. It was the hardship and the bad company that led me into armed robbery. I was the one driving the gang around because I worked with Tigana in all the robberies and after I was released from prison, I joined Ogbonna’s gang.”