L-R. Gideon Bala, Idris Oyibo, and Soji Smart were arrested while attempting to hijack a trailer. Photo: PETER NKANGA
A discharged soldier, Idris Oyinbo, and a dismissed police officer, Gideon Baba, both went to the Apapa Wharf on March 15, 2010 with one mission in mind: commandeer and escort a trailer load of bags of sugar to awaiting buyers in Mushin, a suburb in Lagos State.
At about 6:30pm the same day, the duo, partially dressed in army and police outfits, met with their sponsor, one Kingsley (at large), who is believed to have masterminded the operation. In turn, Kingsley introduced them to Soji Smart, who would drive the trailer to their destination.
Having understood their roles, they followed the trailer, which had just left the wharf outward Lagos, in a chartered taxi, till it got to the Marine Bridge in Apapa. They then intercepted the truck and dragged the driver out of the truck into the taxi, while Mr. Smart together with his escorts drove off.
Mr. Smart said he was contracted to drive the truck for N4,000. Narrating how they were caught, he said luck ran out on them when they were stopped by officers of the Nigeria Police and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) while in traffic.
"A woman Police Inspector stopped us in go-slow. She asked for my driving license but I did not have. The two men said they were Force men, so she asked for their ID cards. The policeman showed his own but because the army man did not have his own, she asked everyone to come down," Mr. Smart said.
Other police officers quickly gathered at the scene and arrested the suspects, though Kingsley successfully got away.
In his confession, Mr. Oyinbo, a 40-year-old pensioner and father of two children, said he was discharged from the Army in March 2005 while serving as a corporal in the army's 81 Division.
Since then, he had been involved in various crimes, including car theft, while parading himself as a serving military personnel.
"I knew Kingsley late 2009 at Apapa Wharf. It was him who approached me to carry out the operation. I then called my police friend to follow me to escort the goods. I know it is not legal to do escort, but man must survive," Mr. Oyinbo said.
On his part, Mr. Baba, who comes from Kaduna, said after a prolonged leg injury, leading to his dismissal as a corporal from the police in 2006, he also began rendering escort services to sustain himself and his family.
In his words, "I know it is wrong to use my ID card, but I have to help myself because I am a family man".
Commenting on the arrests, the Lagos State Police spokesperson, Frank Mba, said the suspects led the police to Mushin where one Rukayat Abubakar and her friend, Kudi (at large), were waiting to receive the about 300 stolen bags of sugar valued at several millions.
"Our detectives within a space of twelve hours were able to make the whole arrest. The lady is actually one of the receivers just waiting for the syndicate somewhere in Mushin. As soon as investigations are over they would be prosecuted," Mr. Mba said.