Fair-skinned Mariam Adesola, a 20-year-old hairdressing apprentice in Agege area of Lagos, sobbed as she sat on the ground on the premises of the Lagos State Police Command Headquarters, Ikeja.
If one is to take her word for it, she was merely a victim of her love for tattoos, or perhaps her willingness to readily obey her husband when he instructed her to get a specific tattoo.
Adesola was on a line-up of three other men, all from Agege area of Lagos. Three of them have a unique teardrop tattoo beside their left eyes.
That specific tattoo is the identity of members of the Awawa gang operating in Agege area of Lagos, the police have said.
The police revealed that a few suspects and members of the gang, who had been arrested in the past, confessed that the teardrop tattoo is the mark by which they identify their members.
The members of Awawa (loosely translated as ‘we are alive’) have gathered reputation in the last two years as a ruthless band of robbers, who unleash mayhem, loot shops and attack residents at gunpoint in Agege area of Lagos.
The ages of the members range from 17 to 23.
Unfortunately for Adesola, an arrested member, had manipulated her as an informant for the gang.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that before the police went after her, she herself walked into the Isokoko Police Division, Agege, to see her husband who was also in custody. She was oblivious that her identity had already been made known to the police.
Her husband is also said to be a member of the gang.
The police told journalists that the information they got from other captured members of the gang was that she was the one sent around the neighbourhood to identify potential targets of their robbery operations.
“I don’t know what the police are talking about. I am just a hairdresser. My husband told me to get the tattoo because he has it too. I liked the tattoo and I decided to get it on my face. Now it has destroyed my life.
She said, “The day I was arrested, I had only gone to see him in police custody. Then they arrested me. The police said they had been looking for me. I am in trouble.”
But one of the men paraded with her quickly pointed out that she was lying.
Nineteen-year-old Saheed Oyedeji, another suspected member of the gang, who was arrested during an investigation of the gang, also has the same tattoo. But he explained that he knew nothing about the Awawa gang.
As he was speaking, a victim, who was present during the parade of the suspects by the police, quickly pointed out to journalists that she recognised Oyedeji as the one who slapped her sister hard in the face when the Awawa gang attacked their house recently.
“I am just a barber. I have nothing to do with the Awawa Boys. I got the tattoo not long ago and it is nothing more than ‘fashion’ for me,” he said.
The Awawa gang has become so dreaded that a Facebook group, Anti-Awawa Boys in Agege, has been opened as a discussion forum for residents of the community on the gang’s activities.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, said a recent robbery carried out by the gang culminated in the arrest of the suspects.
He explained that the information on the tattoo used as identification mark by the gang would help in tracking down other members of the gang.