“I joined armed robbery gang in order to get money to buy land and build my own house, so that I could give a testimony. Other people in the church had been giving testimonies, but I could not give any after the many years I had spent as a member.”
These were the confessional statements of Pastor in one of the new generation churches in Lagos, John Ogaba, a.k.a. General (43). He said that he had just completed pastoral training in the church. He was arrested along with three other suspected members of the gang on Lagos-Ibadan High way.
The leader of the gang, Charly Ebube (42) also confessed that the gang used to rob innocent motorists on highways by flashing fake police identity cards.
Ebube, a.k.a. Chairman, a native of Isele-Asaba, Delta State is the leader with Olawale Aminu (49), a native of Owode Obafemi, Ogun State, and Chidozie Aniekwe (29) from Arondizuogu, Imo State as active members.
Continuing with his confessional statement to the Police, Ogaba said: “I am a pastor. I completed a pastoral training, but I am yet to be ordained. I only head a house fellowship.
“I was into transportation and trading before I met Charly who lured me into his gang in July 2011. My role in the gang was to act as an assistant to Charly.
“I also joined the gang because between 2011 and 2013, I passed through some horrible financial problems caused by family illnesses. My sons and daughters became seriously sick and the hospitals gave me very high bills that consumed all the money I had.
“We operated from Monday to Friday. We would be on the highway looking for victims while on Saturdays, we would go home to see our families. Sometimes our vehicle would break down and we would have to go and repair it for two days.
“We used to lodge in an hotel in the Sango area of Ibadan, but the hotel’s management did not know that we were armed robbers because we disguised as responsible men any time we went there to lodge. We used to take the rooms that were very close to the backyard. We would not go to the bar to avoid meeting people who would know us.”
Also confessing his role in the gang, the leader of the gang, Charly said: “I was a trader before I became an armed robber. I live at No. 8 Zone B, Odono Elewe, Ibadan, Oyo State. I have a house in Ibadan. I was building a 12-room hotel in my village before it was destroyed by people who were fighting over the land.
“I was arrested during a robbery operation. We did not know that the operatives of the SARS were trailing us. As we reached where we wanted to do the operation and came down from our vehicle, they pounced on us and arrested us.
“We were not using guns. We were using fake police ID cards to stop any vehicle we intended to rob. We pretended to be police officers on patrol. Once we saw a vehicle we wanted to rob, we would flash the fake ID cards for the driver to stop. We robbed only on highways, particularly when we got information that a trader was carrying a large sum of money or had just sold his goods and was taking the money home or to the bank.
“Each of us went to operation with three different clothes to enable us to disguise after an operation. I have a three-bedroom flat in Ibadan.
“It was not in every operation that we got something. I bought a Space Wagon car for N388,000, and also bought a Nissan Micra for my wife for N300,000. I bought one Mikano generator which I use in my house.
“Each time my wife sought to know where I used to go to for two or three nights, I would tell her that I went on a business trip to Tin Can Island, Apapa, Lagos, and she would believe me. I have four children. I opened a beer parlour for my wife at Ibadan with N1.5 million.
“I was introduced to robbery by one Egbo Lance. He has since travelled to South Africa or Italy after one successful robbery operation we did together. I took charge when he travelled abroad and started recruiting new members.
“After 10 operations, any member is free to back out, so far he swears to an oath not to betray the gang or return to it if he is broke.”
Asked if he had any regrets, Charly said: “My wife will not be happy to hear that my friends and I were arrested for armed robbery. I used to tell her that they were my business partners. I had wanted to resign after building a hotel, but I changed my mind when the hotel was demolished.
“If I regain my freedom, I will never engage in robbery again. It is better to be poor than to be arrested for armed robbery. I am finished. Please tell my wife and children that I am a victim of circumstances. Don’t tell them that their father is an armed robber.”
The third suspect, Olawale, who claimed to have five children, said: “What is paining me now is that my wife does not know that I am an armed robber. If she gets to know that I have been arrested, she will become hypertensive. I am the gang’s operational driver. I drive a Nissan Primera car painted in police colour with police stickers on the windscreen.
“It is our chairman, Charly, who holds the fake police ID card. He is the commander of the gang and he flashed it to the driver of any vehicle we intended to stop and rob. I joined the gang in December last year. I was riding okada (commercial motorcycle) before I joined the gang last year.
“It was the accommodation problem that took me to Charles for help. I saw him as a very generous rich man. He used to give me N2,000 to go and drink and eat pepper soup every week.
“When I had the problem, I met him and he promised to help me solve my problem and even set me free from poverty. He told me where to meet him so that together we could go to Tin Can Island, Apapa, Lagos to do business. I did not know that we were going to rob on the highways.
“When they started operation, I was surprised. But I could not do anything because they would kill me if I acted funny. Most importantly, I needed money desperately to solve my accommodation problem. Unfortunately, the money I got after the first operation made me think of going to more operations.
“Even the first time he asked me to come and see him at the hotel, he asked whether I could drive and I thought he wanted to give me a commercial bus to drive for him. I did not know that he was preparing me for a robbery operation.
“It was when I was arrested that my eyes opened. Even when he gave me a Nissan Premeira car, I thought it was for commercial purposes until he asked me to slow down on a highway and he flashed his ID card to the driver of a vehicle. When the driver parked, they asked to park in front of the vehicle. They came down and went to the vehicle. I was asked to sit in the vehicle while they went to do the job. When they had finished with the vehicle, they joined me and we zoomed off.
“I operated with the gang more than six times. From the first operation, I got N90,000. The second operation fetched me N55,000 and the third one N10,000. But I got nothing from the fourth, fifth and sixth operations, while we were arrested during the seventh one.”
The fourth suspect, Chidozie, who said he was born in 1955 and hails from Arondizogu, Ideato LGA, Imo State said: “I drive commercial bus. I reside at No. 53 Owodunni Street by Orile. I have a wife and two children. My wife left me because I had not done the marriage rites.
“The owner of the LT bus I was driving bought it with hire purchase and when I could not meet up with the sum agreed as daily returns, he collected the bus from me. I became jobless and my family started suffering hunger and starvation.
“That was the situation I was when I met Charles and Ogaba at Alafia Bus Stop in Orile Iganmu, Lagos. My only regret is that I had planned to quit the gang after the last operation in which we were arrested.
“I would not have been arrested if I had listened to my wife because she had told me that she dreamt that policemen arrested me during one of my business trips. I did not tell her that my business was highway robbery.”