Four suspected robbers arrested by the police at a popular Lagos market have claimed that they did not steal from the traders, but only came to collect their dues.
The suspects – Onyenge Osanie, Azuka Eboh, Ezelonwu Michael and Afolabi Shakiru – who are just four out of a ten-man gang, were arrested by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Lagos police command while robbing traders at the Alaba International Market, Ojo, on December 20.
According to the police, the gang, which is led by a runaway suspect simply identified as Friday, made use of locally-made guns in their operations.
It was learnt that most of the gang’s victims were phone dealers, who they allegedly dispossessed of about 70 smartphones and Ipads, said to be worth about N1.5m.
One of the suspects, Osanie, 35, who spoke with PUNCH Metro, said the gang robbed the traders and looted their shops, because they refused to ‘settle’ them. He added that they only targeted shops of traders who had ‘offended’ them.
He said, “We usually work with phone dealers in the market who specialise in selling stolen phones. When we steal, they sell, and they then settle us. But later on, some of them defaulted, and we attacked their shops. It was not as if we robbed them, we only came to ask for our money.
“On that day, we had taken only 10 phones before the police apprehended us. I had initially escaped, but two gang members who were caught at the scene later brought the police to arrest me”.
Osanie, a father of three, however, expressed regrets joining the gang and promised that if he was released, he would never get involved in robbery again.
Another member of the gang, 27-year-old Eboh, confessed that they did not only rob the shops, but also vandalised some property during the operation.
He said, “What we learnt initially was that a market chairman was coming to give out money but he later failed to show up. That was when we decided to deal with the traders. When we got to the shops, we broke their glasses and carted away expensive phones.
“I joined the gang because I did not have a job. I have been living in hardship with my family”.
Corroborating his partners-in-crime, Michael, 22, said he had joined the gang on three previous occasions, adding that they took advantage of the traders’ ‘misbehaviour’ to rob them.
“I was working as a truck driver before I met them. I had gone out with the gang on three occasions to rob in the market. We only took advantage of the commotion of the market to rob them. It was not deliberate”, he said.
The Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Kenneth Nwosu, confirmed the arrest of the suspects, adding that “Investigations are still ongoing on the matter at SARS”.