In an attempt to escape arrest by a team of policemen on patrol on the LASU-Isheri Expressway on Wednesday, a robbery suspect, Godwin Ibe, narrowly escaped death in the hands of a mob in Lagos.
Ibe, 29, was apprehended by some members of the Odua Peopleâ€™s Congress keeping the watch in the neighbourhood, in a manner that was reminiscent of the Aluu killings, at about 6 am with a shotgun and four live cartridges allegedly found on him.
Some moments before he was caught with the weapon, policemen patrolling the expressway had demanded to know the contents of the polythene bag in his possession. But scared that he might be discovered, he beat a hasty retreat and took to his heels.
CRIME DIGEST learnt that in order to prevent him from escaping, the patrolmen raised the alarm and followed him in a hot chase.
The sound of running feet attracted the attention of the resident OPC vigilante group. The latter joined in the chase and eventually caught up with the fleeing suspect.
But Ibe denied ownership of the gun found in his possession. In an interview with CRIME DIGEST, he said, â€œI came to that area in the morning at the behest of Moses, who is a friend of mine and a fellow armed robber. On the previous night, he told me that he was travelling and requested me to come get his gun for safe keeping. I agreed and sometime before 6 am the following day, I was on the LASU/Isheri Road.
â€œUsually, members of my gang often met with Moses in an oil pipeline area just off that road. Moses is the leader of our gang. I have known him for five months now. A mutual friend introduced him to me at the Abuja Line in Alaba International Market. He keeps the arms that we use during our operations. After he handed his gun to me, I bade him farewell and started walking back home.â€
Ibe admitted that on his way home he ran into the police patrol team at about 6 am. â€œThe policemen stopped me and asked me about the contents of the bag I was carrying. I was scared and I couldnâ€™t think up an excuse. So I ran away. But they raised the alarm and ran after me. Before they could get to me, some OPC men caught me. They checked my bag, saw the gun and immediately realised that I was a robber.
â€œThe OPC men beat me with pieces of wood and anything they could lay their hands on. They were about to set me on fire when the policemen, who had been chasing me, arrived on the spot and stopped them.â€
Nursing two head wounds and deep lacerations on his body, Ibe regretted his actions. He said, â€œI was arrested in 2010 and was jailed. I served at the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison for armed robbery. At the time, I was into bag snatching and I was arrested during an unsuccessful operation. I was eventually released early this year from prison and travelled back to my home state.
â€œI didnâ€™t return to Lagos until August. Starting life afresh was very difficult for me at the time. Although I am a trained mechanic, I tried my hand at being a casual worker at the Badagry beach. It was not profitable. Sometimes you made sales and at other times, you didnâ€™t. I got tired and eventually approached Moses for help.
â€œWe met regularly at a joint where Indian hemp was sold in the neighbourhood. But that was after he had been introduced to me. I told him that I needed his help and I has having difficulty making ends meet.
â€œMoses took pity on me and asked me to join his gang. Often, we would operate around the petroleum pipelines at Ojo, Okokomaiko and LASU. At first we started with bag snatching, harassing women who walked on the expressway in search of commercial motorcyclists on their way to work.
â€œEventually, we changed tactics and started to attack traders. Most of time, our victims were the traders who left their homes before 6 am to take their wares to the market. They always carried some money on them. Since we were four in number, we would surround our victims with two in front and then, rob them of their bags and goods.
â€œThe goods were usually taken to the premises of a public primary school located near the road. That is where we often met after every robbery to share our loot. We didnâ€™t even make much money because the news of our robbery attacks often spread and other traders became more cautious in the end. I got involved in robbery because I had nowhere else to go. I didnâ€™t mean to hurt anyone.â€
The Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Mr. Umaru Manko, confirmed the arrest. He said, â€œIbe was rescued and arrested by a police patrol team attached to Satellite division. He was eventually transferred to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad last Friday. Efforts are being made by the investigating SARS team to apprehend the remaining three gang members.
â€œHowever, this has been made more difficult because Ibe lost his phone while he was being mobbed by the OPC vigilante. He no longer has the contacts of his accomplices and has no idea where they live.
â€œIbe confessed that the gang usually met at a certain location on Allen Avenue in Ikeja before any robbery attack. Investigation is still ongoing and the suspect will be charged to court upon its conclusion.â€