Saturday, May 17, 2014

We do escort service to survive –Uniformed robbery suspects

Christopher Abuo (30), Nwanorim Ukachukwu (40) and Ali Segun (37), three suspects recently arrested by the operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Ogun State Command, have something in common. The trio found a new calling in the same business after their dishonourable discharge from the Nigeria Police and the Army.

The three men were arrested last week following complaints about robbers in police and army uniforms terrorising motorists on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

With their training and knowledge, they probably thought it would be a waste of talent if they did not put the skills they had acquired during their service years into use.

Segun, the ex-soldier among the three, was impressed with himself when he narrated at SARS office in Abeokuta on Wednesday how he took part in the United Nations Mission in Liberia between 2007 and 2008.

But he became crestfallen when he got to the part about his discharge.

“We came back from the mission but felt bad about our unpaid allowances. I took part in the protest by soldiers in Akure. I was one of those dismissed by the Army.

“I am not angry anymore about the issue. We saw it coming because we knew what would be the consequences of the protest.”

It would be recalled that 27 soldiers were said to have been dismissed during the said protest.

Segun, who said he stopped schooling after his secondary school education in his hometown, Shaki in Oyo State, explained that he had searched for job without success numerous times until he met a young man named Aliu at Berger, a bus terminus between Lagos and Ogun states.

He said, “I was just coming from a security company where I had gone to submit my curriculum vitae when I met Aliu in military uniform around Berger. I did not have enough money to return to Ibadan where I live, which was why I approached him to help me.

“Aliu then asked if I could do escort business. He said all I needed to do was stop vehicles loaded with goods on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and serve as escort for them to anywhere they wanted to offload in Lagos. He provided me with the Army uniform.

“I have to provide for my family because I have five children and a wife to feed in Ibadan. I don’t rob passengers or commercial drivers on the expressway; I was just trying to survive.”

Abuo’s story too was similar to that of Segun. He said he was dismissed from MOPOL 23, Obalende, Lagos after absconding from duty in 2003.

Asked to provide the name and contacts of any serving policeman who could verify his claim, he said he could remember none.

He also could not remember the name of his commander when he was in service.

Abuo narrated his journey to the point where he decided to do the “escort” business, changing each line of his story everytime he realised that it did not seem to add up.

“I was hungry and I had tried to appeal my dismissal two times without success,” the Cross-River State indigene said. “God almighty sees me, I have never held a gun in my whole life,” he said.

Both he and Segun tried as much as they could to prove that what they made from their “escort” business was little.

At home, Abuo’s wife believes he is just a commercial motorcyclist, he told Saturday PUNCH.

But SARS operatives said they had got a series of complaints from residents and motorists about the menace of men garbed in police and military uniforms who rob people on the expressway, which was the reason they embarked on patrol of the area where they apprehended the suspects.

The third suspect and the oldest of the trio, Ukachukwu, also insisted that he was not a robber, adding that he was just an ex-policeman, who was dismissed after a few years in service.

He said, “I have two wives and two children. Using police uniforms on the expressway is the way I provide for them. I am even trying to get back into the police force. I don’t make much and I have only done the job for two years.”

According to him, he does not know why he was dismissed from the force. Asked how that was possible, Ukachukwu spread his hands skyward and said, “I too don’t know o.” He said he was dismissed shortly after he sustained a gunshot injury during an operation with his team

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