The sparsely furnished room is a bedsitter. On the wooden bed directly under the sunlight pouring in from the unshod window is a well thumbed copy of the Holy Bible. The open pages of the Good Book were painted with ink. On the bed covered with a threadbare cloth is a slender man in a branded shirt which sleeves had been cut off. Slightly hidden by the door which is ajar is a pair of crutches, for Olusegun Kokumo Adaralese Raji known as Okuta, one of the armed robbers that terrorised the country for about 20 years, who is now bedridden: a result of a ghastly road crash around Badagry, Lagos on 3 December, 2011. Now an evangelist, Okuta in this concluding interview gave a detailed account of his last operation, the death of another armed robbery kingpin of his era, Shina Rambo, amongst others.
After his arrest barely two days after his first robbery operation, the then governor of Benue Plateau State, Mr Joseph Gomwalk convinced him to help arrest Umoru Meijeri, his boss and tutor.
After a speedy and celebrated trial other members of his group were sentenced to die by firing squad while he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. This, however, marked Olusegun’s real conscious birth to the world of crime.
“One evening, at the Jos prisons took the spoon we used for making eba: a very long and strong spoon and I hid it inside my tunic. When it was dark enough, I made for the well and hid inside it. It was a very deep well and it was lined with stones.
So, what I did was enter it and shut the lid on myself. As I was doing this the guard dogs were barking furiously but I kept the lid on myself.
As soon as I noticed some stillness in the air, I felt for one of the stones that was a bit loose, removed it and started digging towards the direction of the fence. As I was doing this, one of the big stones used to line the wall of the well gave way.
But I struggled to hold on and still clung tightly to the others. After securing a better foothold I continued with the digging. This went on for some time until I felt I had dug the tunnel more than six feet.
This would have made me pass the foundation of the prison wall. When my mind told me I had done this, I started digging upwards. After some time, I felt some spongy like things.
These were the roots of the grasses that surrounded the well. I dug further and removed some of these thereby creating a hole which I peeped through. I was praying that this would still not be within the enclosure of the prison.
But then I noticed that it was outside. Quickly I made the hole bigger, got out and ran as far as my legs would carry me.
I then hid behind some rocks. Not very long after this, a man was riding pass on a bicycle. Swiftly I pounced on him, dealt him some hard punches and ordered him to strip.
Once he noticed that I was in prison garb, he quickly complied. I asked him to wear mine, he put on the tunic. But when I asked him to put on the trousers he begged me with God saying none of his family had ever been to jail. Anyway, I also collected his bicycle and rode like hell out of the place towards Akwanga.
“By then, my escape had been broadcast. From Akwanga, I boarded a train for Minna. In Minna, the first thing I did was to go to a hemp smoking joint. As I was smoking, I noticed some people starring at me suspiciously. I left the place and found a way of boarding a vehicle to Ilorin.
“When I got to Ilorin I felt save. From Ilorin I found my way to Ogbomoso. That was how I got to Ogbomoso. “When I got to Ogbomoso, I got formed a gang and started operating.
By now I knew I was a criminal so I just continued. But it didn’t take long before we were arrested. We had gone to operate in Ilorin but we were caught and docked in court. But my grandfather was then an Assistant Director in Water Corporation. He was well known and connected.
He now used his connection with the trial judge so I was sentenced to five years imprisonment for stealing instead of armed robbery. My partners were sentenced to death for armed robbery. I was taken to the Ilesa prison. I was discharged on 27 December, 1977.
A year in the prison is not 12 calendar months as it obtains outside.” But how did he get to Lagos? After my discharge from the Ilesa Prisons, I was ashamed. I could no longer stay in Ogbomoso, so I came to Lagos.
With the belief that Lagos is not for the slow witted, Okuta decided not to leave any stone unturned to make his dream of becoming a successful armed robber come to past. The first thing he believed he should was to fortify himself spiritually through the use of charms.
“Immediately I got to Lagos, he continued, “I went into the occult. The first group I joined was the Ogboni cult. But I soon left when I discovered that they are not as powerful as we see them. They are cowards (shows the reporter the mark of initiation). Anyway, I left them when I committed another crime. Then people told me that I could only be saved by Awo Opa.
This is their mark on my back (shows the reporter this also). I don’t want to say anything about them because they are very vicious.
I need to protect my wife and children. After that I did Imule, Irele, Dariagbe, Gbarayile, and Adakeja. I was also initiated into the Oro cult. It was only the Egungun cult that I did not join. I have never been their fan. I was also initiated into the Ifa cult. My ancestral ogbe (Ifa corpus) is Ogbe Irete. My mother was Ona Ara. The Ona Ara bus stop in Abule Egba was named after her.”
Not satisfied with being only members of different occult groups for charms and personal connection, he went into charms making himself. “I was so versed in charm making and their various uses that I was feared and revered. My charms were so potent that they claimed the lives of two of my children.” How did this happen? Okuta cleared his throat and smiled sadly.
“There was a day that I was coming from the war front (we call our operations war fronts), “he began, “I was so decked in charms that I was a moving arsenal of charms. That morning as I entered as I arrived home one of my daughters came to bid me welcome.
The eight-year-old ran up to me and hugged me. She dried up immediately. The spirits of the charms had sucked up her blood. She died before the end of the week. It was very painful. I was wearing bante (charm apron). It could perform nine tasks.
I could use to turn (transmutate) into other things like cat, snake, in short anything. It was this apron that sucked her blood.
That of the other child was deliberate. It was only five days old. Then, i was always having brushes with the police. I was always under survallance. It was when the problems appeared insurmountable that soime elders advised me to make a charm that would enable me go scot free.
It would however need a baby that had not been named. Since my wife had just given birth, i used the baby.” How did he convince the babe’s mother, Saturday Mirror would like to know.
“No, it was not a physical thing. Would any mother agree to such a thing? I called the spirit of the child and he was used in the metaphysical realm.
What happened was that the baby just died in the physical world,” Okuta explained almost tearfully. The former robbery kingpin is averse to dishonesty or any form of lie.
Little wonder why his countenance changed when asked about another robber who shook the country, a contemporary of his in the underworld, Shina Rambo.
“Not that I just encountered Shina Rambo. He was a friend. He was always coming here (his residence).
His real name was Ayinla. He was from Ile Pako compound, Oke Koto. His mother was a fishmonger and known as Iya Ayinla.
She was from Abeokuta. We never operated together but he was my friend. “Rambo had charms. He was heavily fortified by his mother. He had two main charms: fear and asegbe (going scot free after committing a crime) they were done for him by his mother.
When Rambo appeared everybody must feel jittery. “He was killed in 1993 by Policemen from Pedro Police Station. But even the policemen who killed him never knew that it was Shina Rambo that they killed.
It is confirmed that Shina Rambo had been killed.” But what about a certain evangelist who moves around saying he is Shina Rambo? “Don’t mind him. He is a fake. Let us meet face to face. There are a few questions that I will like to ask him.
When I heard in a particular year that there was a man snatching cars around Cotonou that was arrested and that he was Shina Rambo. I told the people around me then that he was not Shina Rambo.
Later the man himself confessed that he was not Shina Rambo. “Shina Rambo and I met at a shrine. We call where hemp is sold and smoked shrine or arena.
When we met initially we never had any relationship. It was just hell, hell – two gangster chiefs showing each other mutual respect. “However, we got to know more at Osokoto in Egun land. There was a man in the Benin Republic called Jibiti.
He dealt in exotic stolen cars. It was there that we started fraternizing as one armed robber chief to another. We were meeting at Jibiti’s constantly when we came to dispose of the vehicles we snatched.
“Jibiti which means swindling in the Yoruba language got his name from the way he deals with his customers: armed robbers.
If you took 50 keke (cars) to Jibiti, he would go to them one by one, tap their bodies insisted that they are accident cars and then offer a ridiculously low amount for the merchandise. “At this point, there would be nothing the patron could do but collect any pittance offered by Jibiti.
He would offer N100,00 for a car of about N2 million. He wouldn’t even pay at once he might give N30,000 and ask you to come back for it later. Of course you know that is the end. It was so bad then that all the gangs in Lagos then started going for cash. That was in 1992, 93, 94 and 95. If you recollect, car snatching was almost nil at that time.
There were only seven gangs operating in the whole of Lagos then. I mean serious armed robbers and we knew one another. “Shina Rambo was not killed in operation. He was killed like just an ordinary man.
The policemen who killed him did not even know. He was on his way to Lanrewaju Motors to buy a Pathfinder SUV when he was apprehended by the police on the Ojota New Garage Long Bridge. There was a police check point there in those days.
It was the case that stopped them from staying there. “Rambo was not the one driving. When the police stopped them, they discovered a lot of money in a cartoon in the trunk of the Datsun car.
When they started questioning him on the possession of such huge an amount, an argument ensued and he attempted to disarm one of the policemen.
It was one of the policemen at the other side of the road who shot him down. “They were able to get him because he was not with his charms. He was free of charms since he was not going for operation.
As this was going on, the driver of the vehicle had jumped inside the canal and made his escape. The police just dragged his body into their vehicle. They first carried his corpse around and later dumped him into the canal when it was dark.”
But how did you know all these? Okuta looked at the reporter sternly and said: “I say he was my friend and apart from that we have our own ways of getting information. At that place there place there were some people making cane chairs.
They are still there till today. It was those people who perceived a stench and later discovered it was coming from a decomposing body. These people now made a report to the police.
Incidentally they came to the same Pedro Police Station where those policemen who killed him came from. While they were reporting those in the cell overheard and they retorted that, “it was Shina Rambo’s body that you dumped there that was smelling” how did they know this.
When Rambo’s partner escaped, he told the garage boys what happened. A fight later took place in the garage and some of the boys were arrested. It was some of those arrested who were in the cell that responded to the police when the people making cane chairs came there to complain.
“Those policemen were later rounded up and arrested. I still insist that the one parading himself around as Shina Rambo is a counterfeit. The police authorities were irked by their not knowing that Shina Rambo was the one killed.”
Looking one again at the surrounding, one would hardly believe that this slight man had made so much money. What was the highest money he realised in a single operation, the reporter asks.
The man looks into space apparently racking his brain, the his reply comes simply, “I had got N1.2 million in one single operation.”
As if reading the reporter’s mind, he adds, “but I spent everything on charms. There is nothing to show for it except perhaps this house. It was even the police who helped fix the burglary proof to this building.
They had to when I was also raided by a gang of armed robber. That was after I had left the trade though”. When last did you go out for an armed robbery operation?
The bedridden man takes a long pause. His now frail arms that had once been the terror of law enforcement agents and hapless victims, are folded across his laps, he gazes once more into space yet for a longer period.
After what seems like eternity, he coughs, makes an excuse and says: “My last operation was on 1 July, 1993. It was a Monday. It rained in the early hours of that day. It was a job involving bureau de change.
One of their workers brought the job. The boy, a Ghanaian, said he needed the money to return to his country. He told us that the money would be hidden in women’s clothes and moved across Agege- Ojurin.
They usually move the money very early in the morning. He said that the money should not be less than N6million. He, however, demanded for at least N500,000.
But I promised him that if actually we could get N6million we would give him N1million. “We went to Chukwu in Ikeja to rent four Kalashnikovs. We tripped (dismantled) them so that we would reassemble them when we get to our destination.
We left home around 7:30pm to lay ambush against the following morning. We first went to New Garage where they sell meat.
There each person took a table and slept off. Not long after there was a commotion. The garage boys had been engaged in some trouble outside and they were being chased by the police towards our direction. This was bad. So we had to drop into the drainages and hide there until the commotion lasted.
“Then, when armed robbery was not as rampant as it is now, fuel was being sold at filling stations early in the morning.
“Initially, we had got ourselves a getaway car. But as we moved out early in the morning, a man was buying fuel at the fuel station and we noticed his Peugeot 504 was better. Quickly we snatched it.
“We didn’t lay in ambush for a long time when we noticed some people bearing bags supposedly filled with women’s cloth. We knew it was the money.
Quickly we commanded them to bring the money. But they refused. Hence we fired into the air. You know the place is close to a police station. On hearing our shots, the police responded. But there was a boy in my gang, Lafe Komo. He was a sharp shooter. Immediately the police started shooting at us, Lafe zeroed in on the one at the counter and brought him down.
This further infuriated the police who were now bent on killing all of us. The money was already in the trunk of the car and we sped off. But the police would not let us be. They gave us a hot pursuit. The gun battle was fierce. When we got to Orile Agege junction we branched off to the right but the police still followed. The shooting was heavy.
They were firing at us and we were responding. By the time we got to Mulero. It became face-to-face. Lafe got down from the vehicle and faced them. He had on a bullet-proof vest. But despite the charms he still had on, the police bullets penetrated his arms and his gun dropped on the road.
They also got his legs. He went down. I couldn’t believe my eyes so I had to go out myself to rescue him. (It was later that I got to know that he had slept with a woman and that he had donned the charm without taking his bath and doing all the necessary things. This rendered the bullet-proof charm impotent.)
Anyway, we all had on our bullet- proof vests but it was I went who got down the vehicle and covered him while others pulled him and dragged him into the car. We took off again.
We abandoned that car, snatched another one, dragged Lafe into it and took off again. Eventually we escaped.
“We went to Arowolo, Abule Egba by GTB. There was a particular house there which we made for. It was there we shared the loot.
Armed robbers always give a share to owner of the place the split loot. The owner of the house was so impressed with the N20,000 we gave him that he asked us to be using his house anytime we want to do such a thing. We laughed at his foolishness and greed and his apparent lack of understanding of the working of an armed robber’s mind. We would mention him as an accomplice anytime we are caught. That was my last operation.
Source: National Mirror Online