As Nigerians prepare for the yuletide, the criminal activities of traffic robbers and pickpockets in Lagos are increasing. Lagos State police command has also done so much to curtail their nefarious activities, haven succeeded in arresting many of these sets of criminals and putting them where they belong – prison. MATTHEW DIKE writes about the activities of these criminals, their modus operandi and the determination of the police to get rid of them
The economic hardship experienced by many Nigerians has contributed immensely to social problems such as armed robbery, kidnap, fraud, traffic robbery and pickpocketing.
Traffic robbers and pickpockets have devised many styles of snatching bags, cash, handsets and other valuables from unsuspecting victims, especially when there is traffic gridlock or at crowded places.
The modus operandi of traffic robbers and pickpockets in Lagos State.
LEADERSHIP Friday’s investigation revealed that during a traffic gridlock, many people usually reach out to their loved ones, colleagues and families on phone to explain the situation of the gridlock..
In the night while making calls, some of these set of hoodlums would pretend to be hawking either sachet water, sausage rolls, among others.
According to Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Fatai Owoseni, they would be looking out for their targets. When they eventually see a buoyant person making call with an exorbitant phone, they would smash the wind screen of the vehicle if the glasses are wound up. They would order the victim to surrender the phone(s) and whatever valuables to them. In some cases they would threaten to shoot the victim.
Recently, Owoseni warned Lagosians to be wary of those hawking sausage rolls and even warned people to stop patronising hawkers on the major road, especially during traffic jam.
There is another set of thieves popularly called pickpockets. They usually move in twos or threes. If there is traffic gridlock, they would be walking, pretending as if they are innocents, but the motorists and passengers would be unaware that they are wolves in sheep skin.
One would be at the driver’s side while the other would stand at the other side. To deceive the motorist, one may say, “’Oga’ look you have flat tyre at the back.” While you are anxious to see how flat the tyre is, his colleague in crime at the other side of the car would pick-up your mobile phones and they would both cross over to the other side of the expressway and take to their heels.
There are those who adopt a different style when they know there is money or handset in somebody’s pocket. They would sandwich the victim and begin an argument but before the victim knows what is happening, they would have dispossessed him or her of his or her valuables.
Some pickpockets are usually happy when there is scarcity of commercial buses. The commuters will be anxious to board vehicles at the bus stop while giving the hoodlums opportunities to steal.
So when any bus arrives at the bus stop, one pickpocket will swiftly pretend as if he wants to board the vehicle but instead use his body to block the main door while his criminal colleagues will be operating from behind.
In some cases the pickpockets succeed, but when luck runs out on them, they end up in the police cell.
Police to the rescue
Lagos State Command has arrested many traffic robbers and pickpockets in recent time. On November 27, 2015, policemen attached to Festac police station nabbed six traffic robbers while they were operating near Fatgbem Filing station, along Apapa- Oshodi expressway, Lagos State.
The state Commissioner of Police, Owoseni said while the anti- robbery policemen were on patrol duty, they “arrested six members of a gang of traffic robbers along Apapa – Oshodi expressway by Fatgbem filing station. The suspects had smashed the windscreen of vehicles and robbed the owners of their valuables at the above location when the police swooped on them.”
Owoseni also said: “Though incidents of traffic robbery /stealing on traffic have drastically reduced, a lot still needs to be done in view of the forthcoming yuletide and the perceived threats of terrorists. The command has tasked all area commanders and divisional police officers to ensure free- flow of traffic as a crime prevention strategy in their domains and constant raid of suspected criminal hideouts in their areas of responsibility.”
On Friday, another success story was recorded by operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of Lagos State Police Command, as they arrested an ex – convict and three traffic robbery suspects for allegedly stealing two mobile phones and a wallet from passers-by in Oshodi in the state.
The suspects, identified as Sodiq Hassan, 17; Lanre Makinde, 20, Ahmed Kazeem, 19, and Sunday Oyeniran, 21, were alleged to have connived with others, still at large, to steal a Tecno i-Pad, i-tel 105 phone and wallets from unsuspecting members of public.
One of the suspects arrested, Ahmed Kazeem, was alleged to have snatched an i-tel phone from his victim, Alagbada Jerry, while Sodiq Hassan, who was reported to have conspired with Awuwa, at large, also snatched another handset from one Oyebamiji Rasheedat in Oshodi., while Lanre Makinde, was alleged to have stolen the wallet of one Olamide Lookman, also in Oshodi Under Bridge. Sunday Oyeniran, an ex – convict, who was released on November 14, 2015, was found in the company of the mobile phones snatched by the gang
Victims narrate ordeal
Narrating his ordeal to the Police, Alagbada Jerry, a software analyst, working in Ikeja said, “I was descending Oshodi pedestrian bridge with my earphone on. Suddenly, Ahmed Kazeem brushed his shoulder against mine. I noticed the music I was listening to stopped. I used my hand to feel my phone hitherto kept in my pocket but it was no longer there”.
“One of the passers-by who saw him told me Kazeem had stolen my phone, by then he had run away to the middle of the expressway, looking at me. Unfortunately for him, as we made to chase him, he was prevented from running further only for him to face our direction that was how we caught him”. Upon catching him, he confessed to have stolen my phone but he told us he dropped it while he was being chased. He added that one Omoga, who was the leader of those that arrested him, was the one who later took the phone from where he dropped it” he added.
“It was the RRS men that arrested Sodiq but his colleague, Awuwa escaped with the i-Pad. We made series of efforts to locate Awuwa but he managed to escape. My i-Pad is still with him”, she said.
Bearing his mind on what happened, Ahmed Kazeem stated that he picked up the phone when it was falling down, pointing out that, the phone is with their ring leader, Omoga. Confessing to the Police, Kazeem added “I was influenced by peer pressure. I have observed the way boys from Idi – Oro operate and snatch phones from passers-by in Oshodi, I decided to demonstrate it”.
On his part, Sodiq Hassan, a primary school dropout, said that he is a bus conductor. “I learnt generator repairing in Ibadan, I came to Lagos to raise money for my freedom. I only sleep in Oshodi under Bridge”, he said.
“Although, we were together that morning, Awuwa was the one who stole the i-Pad. My colleagues and I have searched for him, we can’t find him. Awuwa is a very strong guy, none of us can confront him. He stays in Idi – Oro, Mushin”, he explained.
Another suspect, Lanre Makinde said, “I was on drugs when the incident happened, I was not conscious of what I was doing. I was looking for money for my graduation”, he explained.
Explaining his involvement with the gang, Sunday Oyeniran, said that since he was released from prison on November 14, 2015, he has severed his relationship with the gang, emphasising that Eegun and Yoppy are the leaders of the gang.
He confirmed knowing them as traffic robbers in Oshodi but stressed that he was never involved in any of the operations.
Culled from: http://leadership.ng/features/482419/combating-menace-traffic-robbers-lagos