Metro & Crime

Indebted, ostracised after prison, engineer teams up with car snatchers

…delivers 15 stolen vehicles to receiver

A 29-year-old graduate of Electrical Engineering, Usman Shewu, who has only recently been released from prison, has been rearrested for allegedly moving 15 stolen vehicles out of Nigeria. Shewu had reportedly delivered over 15 stolen vehicles to a receiver identified as Abdullah Magaji. After receiving the vehicles, Magaji will move to Alhaji Baba in the Republic of the Niger. The vehicles were mainly Toyota Corolla and Hilux vans. Shewu confessed to have delivered seven Hilux vans and eight Toyota Corolla vehicles to Baba in the Republic of the Niger.

Shewu explained that after he graduated, he worked with a cement company and then got a contract to install transformers. The contract lasted only two years. According to him, for reasons he couldn’t fathom, he delved into installing metres illegally and was soon arrested, taken to prison, where he spent 11 months. He said: “When I returned from prison, people no longer trusted me and many wouldn’t do business with me. While in prison, I became friendly with a guy called Bashiru.

He promised to assist me whenever I needed his assistance. He said that I could always count on his support and assistance. Before I was released from prison, I entered into an agreement with the court that I would be paying N20,000 to the complainant that made the court to remand me in prison. I was indebted and nobody wanted to do metre business with me again.

“I called Bashiru, who had also left prison and told him my situation. He asked me to wait for him as he was on his way to Abuja. That was in October 2020. When Bashiru came to Abuja, he gave me N20,000 and asked me to meet him the next day at Mabushi in Abuja.” Shewu noted that when he met with Bashiru, the latter gave him a Toyota Corolla car and asked him to take it to a friend of his in Zaria, Kaduna State. “On my way to Zaria, the vehicle suddenly stopped at Jere, in Born State.

I called and reported the situation to Bashiru. He, however, instructed me to leave the car there and return to Abuja. When I asked him why, he said that I shouldn’t bother, that he would sort the issue of the car himself,” recollected Shewu. When Shewu returned to Abuja, he met Bashiru at Gwarinpa. Bashiru, this time, gave him a Toyota Hilux and instructed him to move it once again to Zaria, Kaduna State for him. When Shewu got to Zaria, the receiver told him that he came too late. The receiver urged him to take the car to Kano State for him and then gave him the venue and contact person. Shewu accepted and moved the car to Kano.

He said: “But the next day happened to be my day in court. I was expected to remit the N20,000, which I had as an agreement with the court. I called and told Bashiru and he immediately sent me N30,000, which I quickly sent to the man who stood as surety for me.

While I was on my way back, Bashiru called and asked me to wait for him on the Abuja-Kaduna Road. When he got to where I had been waiting, he gave me another vehicle and asked me to take it to Zaria. That was when I started suspecting the job wasn’t legal.

But I had no option because I needed money to pay my debt. I succeeded in transporting 15 vehicles for him and some of them stopped on the road and I abandoned them. Bashiru paid me for 11 of the vehicles, but he did not pay for four. Sometimes in January, he gave me a Hilux van at Onando Filling Station in Gwarinpa and N4,000 to buy fuel. I then proceeded to Zaria. When I got to the Katari axis of the Abuja-Kaduna Highway, the police intercepted me. I later led the police to arrest Magaji, who was the person receiving the vehicles from me.”

The gang was smashed by operatives of the Force Intelligence Response Team (IRT). It was learnt that on January 6, 2021, the head of the IRT Unit, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Mr. Abba Kyari, received information about the operations of the gang. According to the tip-off, car snatchers stole a Hilux vehicle and were heading to Kaduna State. Working on the information received, police mounted a road block on the Abuja-Kaduna Highway.

The police were able to arrest Shewu, who was driving the Hilux van. He told the policemen that he was going to deliver the vehicle to Magaji. According to the police, Abdul, Sherief and Bashiru were the gang members, who used to snatch vehicles from their owners in Abuja.

The gang’s modus operandi is to steal and move the vehicles to Magaji in Zaria, who then sell them to Alhaji Baba residing in the Republic of Niger. Police explained that they recovered five vehicles from Magaji; three Honda Civic cars and two Volkswagen Golf wagons.

The police said: “We also arrested a key maker, who used to fabricate keys for the gang. We also found out that Alhaji Baba was the person in charge of placing orders for the master keys, which the gang members used in stealing the vehicles. The name of the key fabricator is Abduldraman Zakare.” The 27-year-old Magaji, who has a wife and two children, introduced himself as a bricklayer. He explained that it was one Suraju who introduced him to Alhaji Baba in the Republic of Niger. According to Magaji, the said Suraju was his friend and even bought land in his community.

He said: “Alhaji Baba asked me to always receive stolen vehicles from his contacts who come to Zaria. I received seven vehicles from Usman. I also received two vehicles from one Osama. I took the vehicles to one Maritala, who used to smuggle them to Alhaji Baba in the Republic of Niger.

They used to pay me N20,000 for each of the vehicles. I knew all the vehicles were stolen, but I indulged in the business because of the money I was getting from it. Before my arrest, I had stolen over five cars in Kano State, using a master key. I sold all the cars to one Nuru who has a car stand in Kano, at a very low price. Nuru bought the vehicles below N200,000 each from me. He sold them out to lots of innocent buyers. After my arrest, I led the police to Nuru’s stand and he was arrested.

He led the police to recover all the stolen cars from their new owners in Kano State.” The key fabricator, Zakari (28), said he had been in the business of manufacturing master keys for five years. He said: “I started making master keys for car thieves in 2019 and it was Suraju who got me involved with the gang. I started making master keys for Toyota and Golf cars and I have produced countless numbers of keys for members of the gang which they have used to steal vehicles. They pay me N5,000 for each of the keys.”

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