• It’s a quick means of making money –Suspects
• I did it to recover from bad business, says Chidiebere
• ‘It’s a lucrative business’
Buying and selling of stolen goods is an act that contravenes the law of the land; yet those dealing in it say the business is lucrative. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports that many citizens have met their untimely deaths while others have been sentenced to different jail terms for dealing in stolen items, knowingly or unknowingly
Ignorantia juris non excusat or ignorantia legis neminem excusat is the Latin expression for “Ignorance of the law excuses not” and “ignorance of law excuses no one” respectively. It’s, therefore, a legal principle holding that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because one was unaware of its existence.
The law contravenes stealing, selling or buying of stolen items, knowingly or unknowingly. Many citizens across the world have met their untimely deaths while others have been sentenced to different jail terms for the same reason.
Sunday Telegraph reports that though these promulgations were made to deter citizens from committing acts inimical to the law of the land yet a litmus test, which the law was subjected to, showed that people still contravene these laws for several reasons among, which is quick money.
A journey to Masalashi area of Lagos State along Old Ojo Road revealed a thriving market for stolen items. It was learnt that all manner of items that go missing around that axis and by extension, Festac are found and sold there.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that any stolen item not found there will not be seen again, which is the reason many victims of robbery will always rush to the spot first to register the item should the thieves take them there or before the item is sold off.
Ejike’s wrist watch was stolen in a church in Festac Town and a day after, it was seen on another person’s wrist at Old Ojo. When he got it from, he said, he bought the wrist watch at the same spot.
According to Ejike, they were working in the church and he removed his watch and placed it at the altar so that it would be safe but little did he know that some people who come to church do not come for purpose of serving God.
He said: “We were washing our church in Festac and I removed the watch and placed it on the altar so that I will pick it afterwards. But by the time I was done, I didn’t find my wrist watch again. We asked all the people that were there, no one know its whereabout
“Fortunately for me, a church member that knows the watch saw it on another person’s hand a day after at Old Ojo Road and called me. When we approached him and wanted to beat him up, he said he bought it from somebody.
“We asked him to take us to where he bought, though we didn’t meet the person that sold it to him but we have to give him his money N3, 500, which he claimed he bought the watch before he could release it to us.”
Also, he said that the spot was notorious for stolen items, saying that the buyers encourage more stealing because once the people know that somebody is waiting to buy the items, they will try to steal more yet the police are not helping matters.
“Once there is a case of robbery, the victims first of all rush to Mosalasi to know if the thieves or the robbers took their items there for sale,” said Jide Balogun, whose residence was plundered by thieves and made away with cash of N500, 000, laptop and shoes.
According to him, his house was ransacked by thieves a day after his brother brought in a cash of N500, 000, shoes and an apple laptop meant for his boss and made away with the items and money.
He continued: “This happened in the broad day light and by the time we came back in the evening, I went to the Mosalasi with two of my co-tenants but we were told that the items have not been brought there. The guys said nobody brought anything to them. We told them to keep it for us in case they come with the laptop and shoes.”
Asked why he was so certain that the guys told them the truth, “No, they know me and they don’t tell lies about this. Anything they tell you, that’s the way it is except they don’t trust you. But even at that, they have police cover and the police know what they do there.
“There are some police officers that work with them. Once something is missing, those bad police will go there to confirm if they receive the items and also determine what their own share will be. The police officers, I supposed, come from Old Ojo Police Barracks near Total filling station.”
On the authenticity of this strong allegation against the police, he said: “I’m sure of what I’m saying. This is my area and I know what happens around here. Sometimes, you will see police patrol van there, you will think they are investigating a matter but they went there to collect their share.
“Things are happening in this country. Everybody has to be careful. This has been going on for long and these guys are living big. But when the DPO was changed we saw a slight improvement as the new DPO is a no nonsense man.
“Well, what I don’t know is if the DPO is aware that some of his colleagues are part of the crime. I know a number of cases the genuine police squad visited the location but there was nobody to arrest. After the visit, we heard that their police accomplices gave them information and they all disappeared.”
According to Sule O., a panel beater in one of the mechanic workshops around there, the criminals connive with some bad eggs in the police to do this business, saying that the boys make some remittance to them for protection.
On how they operate, he said: “Once they receive stolen items and they report to the police, the police will want to carry out investigation. The moment they give the investigation to these people, the case is as good as closed and if the police didn’t give them the case, they will sabotage it.
“For instance, they have a code. If they are coming to their area, they will sound siren and shoot two times in the air, then the boys will know that it’s their ally that are coming, but if they shoot once or more, they will know that there is danger and they will take cover.
“Even when the boys are arrested, give them matter of short while, they will be released. So this is not a new thing here. They work hand in hand with the bad police. Some police work hand in hand with area boys and sometimes criminals. They know all the strong criminals in this area. It’s no longer a new story nahh.”
For Karmal Gegede, a staff of one of the leading newspaper companies in the country with headquarters in Lagos State, whose car was snatched around Palmgrove at a gun point same years ago, involvement of police in the search of the vehicle was something he would rather leave uncommunicated.
Gegede, whose Honda (Baby Boy) brand of car had reported the matter to the police who in turn, asked him to pay N50, 000 to enable them get their errand boys (area-boys/thieve) who know the whereabouts around town to find and return the car but this didn’t happen as he was promised.
He explained: “After I reported the matter, I was asked to bring N50, 000 so that they will give their boy to go to Cotonou in Benin Republic in search of the vehicle which I obliged. After some weeks, there was no response from them and I called the police. Shockingly, they told me that they boy they sent was involved in a motor accident and died.
“The money, I wasn’t refunded and at the same time, I didn’t see my motor till today. There was nothing I could do. So, I have my reservations when it comes to relationship between police and criminals.”
According to some residents of the area, the secured market of stolen items from that axis has encouraged door-to-door stealing and robbery since the thieves are sure of disposing of their spoils.
They noted that these activities are being carried out mostly by some notorious cult members in the area, whose activities have been on the rise in the past three years irrespective of the former Commissioner of Police (CP)’s warning on zero tolerance for cultism in Lagos.
A resident, who revealed her name as Jumoke, said there are known persons who help to look for the items once there are cases of robbery or ‘break and enter’ which involved stolen items.
She noted that criminal activities like stealing, selling or buying stolen items are a great offence against the state but wondering if some people and her area are exempted from the punishment that comes with violation of this law.
She lamented that buying and selling of stolen items in the area has fallen on the blind spot of the government which is the reason an area will be known for such level of crime yet nothing is done to stop it.
“This makes many people to believe that police gives them cover,” she added.
On the same Ojo area recently, two traders identified as Ozurumba and Chizoba were caught by the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Fed. SARS) dealing on stolen goods. They said stolen goods business is lucrative and easy to dispose off.
Earlier Police’s investigation showed that the traders have been in the business of stolen goods for time being, until they were arrested. They conspired and hijacked a container, having held the driver hostage. They diverted its contents belonging to LG Electronics to a warehouse in Alaba International Market preparatory to quick disposal.
The goods were allegedly sold to Mr. Chidiebere for as low as N5million. Chidiebere, who trades mainly on power generating sets, had difficulties selling off the goods and then, sold it at a ‘give away’ price to Chizoba and Abiodun.
Police investigators upon report, traced the TV serial numbers to Chizoba’s shop who during interrogation confessed that he bought them from Chidiebere. They both confessed to the crime, saying they were into stolen goods business because it is very lucrative.
According to Chidiebere stolen goods/items business is a quick way of making money.
He said: “I saw it as quick means of making money and have been making money from it. I knew they were stolen goods, but I was eager to recover from the previous business I did, which was on generators.
“In that deal, I lost over N10million because after I bought them, the police came and arrested me. They emptied my shops and took away both the genuine and stolen goods I have. Ever since then, I have been trying to recover my money.
“So, when they brought these goods for me to buy. I took it as an opportunity of recovering my lost money. The goods were sold to me at a price twice lower than the original market price. I quickly paid N5m because I don’t want them to sell it to someone else.
“Thereafter, I had a little problem selling the goods because I don’t sell television sets. This was why I contacted Chizoba and Marcus because they deal in television sets in the market. I, in turn sold the goods to them at a price a bit lower.
“But the truth is that, they were aware that the goods were stolen. I think they were interested in the profit they will also make out of the goods that was why they accepted to buy them. But how the police got to find out is something I am yet to understand because the people that sold the goods to me, promised never to tell anybody.
“I was surprise when some policemen brought Chizoba to my shop and they got me arrested. I feel terrible getting myself into this situation. My life and family are all shattered. My brothers have been coming to get my bail but they have not been able yet.”
In his reaction, the Commissioner of Police in-charge of the Federal SAR Lagos, Mr. Jubril Adeniji, described the business of stolen goods as criminal, adding that the buyers are themselves more liable because according to him, if there is no ready market for these stolen goods criminals would be discouraged to go stealing.
He said: “They are more liable because when the criminals steal, somebody somewhere is waiting to clear the goods, the criminals will be encouraged to steal more but if they didn’t buy it, they will be discouraged.”
He confirmed the arraignment of the suspects before a court of law at the end of the investigations.
Also, when contacted the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Bala Elkana to react to the allegation that some bad eggs in police give some of these people who deal in stolen goods cover, proved abortive as none of the calls put across to his cell phone was responded.
Also, text message sent to his cell phone was not acknowledged nor responded to.
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