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Saturday, April 14, 2012

'We Are Not Robbers; We Only Use Police Uniform To Steal'


A very funny drama is playing out at the office of Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, in Lagos as members of a 10-man robbery gang smashed by the team, have called on human rights organisations in Nigeria to help rescue them from the police,saying they were wrongly tagged as armed robbers.

According to the criminals, they are "mere" hijackers of goods on transit, using police uniform.
While speaking to a journalist on their case, the leader of the criminal gang, Emeka Amadi (28),a native of Mbaise in Imo State, argued that it was wrong to tag him and his boys as robbers since they did not operate with guns .

Amadi said a member of the gang named Julius "just" wore a MOPOL uniform with which the gang used to intimidate their victims by giving them the impression that they were members of a special task force constituted by the Federal Government to impound contraband goods.

Amadi said: “We were 10 in number. Each member had a role to play. My own role was to drive our operational vehicle. I used to lead the other members of the gang to spots where we hijackedtrucks. We didn’t carry guns at all .
“ Once our victims saw Julius in MOPOL uniform, they assumed that we were policemen. Hence, they promptly complied with our instructions . We also wore T-shirts that carried the label of task force.

“ Each time we blocked a truck ora trailer, we arrested the driver and the conductor and tied their hands and legs with their shirts. We didn’t even beat our victims . We normally dropped them at a spot where they could be easily assisted by passers-by.

“Even the truck or trailer we hijacked was dropped after off-loading the goods into the receivers’ trucks or trailers. The receivers of the goods usually hung around our operational areas for quick offloading.

“ During our first operation, we hijacked a truck that carried cartons of a brand of food seasoning. In the second operation, we hijacked a trailer loaded with engine oil . It was the arrest of the receiver of the engine oil that exposed us.

Tunji Abdul (21) one of the suspected receivers of the goods,claimed to hail from Oyo town in Oyo State. But he denied buying the stolen truckload of food seasoning. He said the only thing he bought from the gang was engine oil.

Abdul confessed that he had worked against efforts made by SARS operatives to track the hijackers, knowing that once they were arrested, the buyers of the hijacked goods would be exposed . But luck was on the side of SARS and five of the suspects were tracked tracked down while five others were at large.
“ I did not know that they were stolen goods. I did not know that they were hijackers. I am not their member. It was my first time of buying anything from them. I did not know that they were criminals ,” he said.

A Kano-based businessman who bought some of the hijacked goods from the gang was said to have ordered his boys not to sell them to retailers when he discovered that the matter was being investigated by the police.

But so far, I hear a few human rights organisations are considering the best way to take up the case of the 'young' criminals, since it appears they are not armed robbers, after all.

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