When robbers get freed after arrest



A suspected member of a notorious gang of robbers believed to be responsible for many armed robbery attacks in Lagos has opened up on the strategies being adopted by criminals to evade punishment in the state.

Tunde Oyebande, 46, who was a furniture maker and dealer in aluminum products, was arrested by a team of policemen from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Ikeja after a gunfight in the Abule-Egba area of the state.

CRIME DIGEST learnt that the suspect was part of a gang that allegedly gathered recently on Ikoro Road in preparation for a robbery operation in a yet-to-be-determined part of Lagos.

Unknown to the gang, the police were already aware of their plans. Acting quickly, the police had raided the hideout of the suspected criminals.

In desperation, members of the gang engaged the policemen in a shootout. Oyebande was arrested, even as three others managed to escape.

Describing the circumstances that led to the routing of the gang, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Umaru Manko, told our correspondent that his men were led to the suspected robbers’ hideout by a girlfriend of one of them.

He said, “A gun fight had ensued when the robbers opened fire on the police. Three persons escaped, but Oyebande, who tried to escape in his Danfo bus, was caught.

“Several guns were recovered from the bus, including an AK 47 rifle, which was assigned to the late Cpl. Idowu Ohiolebo, who was killed by the same gang at Igando in 2010 during a robbery. A pistol was also recovered from them. It was assigned to the late Inspector Ibrahim Ahmed, who was killed during a robbery at Oshodi last year.”

On Monday, Oyebande did not only tell CRIME DIGEST how he got involved with the gang, he gave a chilling account of how his cronies were able to escape arrest and prosecution by law enforcement agencies.

He said, “About five years ago, I wasn’t a robber. I worked as a furniture maker at Agbedo. That was before I met Sule Fatai. After awhile, we became friends. One day, he brought a commercial bus to me and asked me to keep it. He said he would come occasionally for it whenever he had need for it.

“While it was in my care, I made use of the bus for transportation and whenever Fatai asked for it, I would release it. He never told me what he used the vehicle for on those occasions. Then, one day, I searched it and discovered some guns hidden beneath the back seat.”

From that moment, Oyebande became the official armourer of the 12-man gang of armed robbers. The bus became an easy means of transporting the weapons to the scene of any operation without drawing the suspicion of law enforcement agents.

Fatai was the leader of the gang, which included Saidi, Wale, Oke, small Sule, Bode, Ope, Shina, Femi Macaulay, Kehinde and Abbey.

Oyebande continued, “It was our gang that robbed the recharge card distributor at Allen, the Thermocool office at Oshodi and a big departmental store at Igando. Long before we carried out these robbery attacks, Fatai and Small Sule had already been arrested by the police on different occasions.

“While Fatai was arrested in Lagos, taken to court and eventually remanded at the Kirikiri Prisons, Small Sule, who was caught in Ijebu Ode while trying to bury some guns, was charged to court and remanded at Ibara Prisons, Ogun State.

“However in less than six months, Fatai was out on bail. He told me that he paid his lawyer N1.2m to get him out of jail. Small Sule spent close to a year at the Ibara prisons before he was finally released on bail; he too spent close to N700,000 to get out.”

CRIME DIGEST investigations show that armed robbery suspects are usually able to escape justice through a motion on bail application notice.

Reacting to the development, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mrs. Scholastisca Oziegbe, said, “Capital offences, such as armed robbery and murder, cannot be tried by the magistrate courts. When such cases are brought before the court, the magistrate would refer them to the Directorate of Public Prosecution for advice.

“While the DPP’s advice is being awaited, the suspect would have to be remanded in prison, although he is allowed to apply for bail through his counsel. This motion on bail notice is usually made at the high court, which is qualified to try capital offences.”

However, sources within the police expressed their dissatisfaction with the process. A source said, “More often than not, the police prosecutor is never aware of the motion on bail notice at the high court; we are never served.

“The suspect’s counsel will go to court to say what he likes and the state is never represented. Definitely, if the police is notified of such an application, we would make our case before the court why such suspects shouldn’t be released on bail because they would go straight back to crime.

“You can imagine our surprise when we hear that the criminals we had laboured hard to arrest are back on the streets, to business as usual. Usually, once these suspects get out, it is difficult to get them back. They would go underground.”

The names of several criminals who had allegedly escaped justice through such means were made available to CRIME DIGEST. One of them, Muyiwa Sangotokun, aka Big 90, was reportedly arrested by SARS in 2011 and charged to court for armed robbery, murder, theft and illegal possession of firearms.

The former naval rating was remanded at the Kirikiri Prisons while the prosecution awaited the DPP’s advice.

A few months after Big 90’s arrest, the SARS operatives received a petition against him; he had threatened a shop owner at Ikorodu road.

The source said, “We eventually learnt Big 90 had been released on bail by a higher court. We were never served concerning the bail hearing and since then, Big 90 has remained elusive.

“There was the case of Segun Okpere, aka Shaggy, who was arrested by the SARS for an alleged armed robbery attack and murder and subsequently charged for both offences at the Ikeja Magistrate’s Court II.

“Okpere is said to be a free citizen today, courtesy of the motion on bail notice.

“Also, one Niyi Oyeahile, who was arrested and charged at the Yaba Magistrate’s Court I, Somolu, for alleged criminal offences, is currently a unit chairman under the National Union of Road Transport Workers in Somolu.”

Not one of the cases involving the suspects ever went on trial after they were released on bail.

Seven members of Oyebande’s gang are still on the run. Five of them were killed on different occasions during confrontations with the police. CRIME DIGEST learnt that effort is being made to apprehend the fleeing members of the gang.

Via Punch

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