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Please Forgive Me I don’t Want to Catch Coronavirus in Prison, Thieve Begs After Stealing 1,000 Bags of Rice.
A suspect, Yulusa Saheed, 32, who confessed to have burgled several shops in Offa and Ilorin, both in Kwara State, stealing over 1,000 bags of rice, asked the Police to free him because he does not want to contract Coronavirus Disease in prison. Imagine! The suspect had been burgling shops for three years, causing some traders to become crippled financially before he was finally stopped by operatives of the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team in Kwara State.
Saheed’s greatest fear is that he would be remanded in one of the crowded Nigerian prisons, where social distancing, put in place by the Federal Government, wouldn’t be observed. He is worried that he might contract coronavirus in prison and die there. He said: “I’m begging government to forgive me and let me go. “I don’t want to contact Coronavirus in prison.”
Saheed was arrested along with his elder brother, Morufu in April 2020. The brothers were alleged to be notorious shop burglars and had penchant for burgling shops and targeting bags of rice. The Police said: “Saheed is younger brother to Morufu. They formed a gang in 2017 after Saheed bought a Toyota Matrix car, which he used in ferrying stolen bags of rice from burgled shops. The bags of rice are usually moved to different parts of the state, where they are sold at giveaway prices. One of Saheed’s methods of running his operation is changing of his operational vehicles. Once he buys a car, after using it for a while, he would sell it and buy a new one.”
The gang’s activities came to the attention of the Inspector-General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, after he received petitions about the suspects’ activities. The IG directed the IRT Unit, headed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, to find the suspects. After weeks of searching for the suspects, the operatives had a breakthrough. The breakthrough came after the operatives got information from the Police in Kwara State that a vehicle, loaded with 11 bags of rice, had been abandoned by suspected thieves. The thieves were alleged to have fled into the bush after they were flagged down by policemen.
IRT Operatives were detailed to Kwara State to track and arrest the fleeing thieves. Armed with the details of the vehicle, the operatives traced Morufu. While being interrogated, Morufu confessed to being a member of the gang. He further stated that he was the person that abandoned the vehicle filled with stolen bags of rice after he was flagged down by the Police. He also revealed that his younger brother, Saheed, was the leader of the gang. It was based on his confessions that the operatives went after Saheed.
Fielding questions from operatives, Saheed said he was once a cab driver before he took to burgling shops. According to him, he felt that he would realise more money from burgling shops than being a cab driver. He said: “I have stolen over 1,000 bags of rice from traders’ shops. I have bought several cars with proceeds and built a house.”
Saheed, a father of three further said: “Morufu is my elder brother. We’re seven from my mother. I currently live at Okolowo area of Ilorin. It is a new site. I’m well known in that area because everyone sees me as a big boy. It was after I completed secondary school that my parents relocated to Kano State. There was no money to further my education, so I decided to learn printing job. I did that for some years before Boko Haram problem started. My parents left Kano and returned to Kwara and since I was not doing well, I followed them.” The suspect said that his mother used to sell food at Offa Garage and secured accommodation close to the garage. He said that with the support of his mother, he bought a Gulf car and started using it for transportation business.
He recounted: “He started using the car for transportation business but months later, had an accident and the car was destroyed. He sold it as a scrap and added a little money to buy a Toyota Matrix. It was on his way back that he met a man, who told him that he was wasting his time on transportation business. He taught him how easy it was to break into people’s shops. There are so many shops with little or no security. They visit such shops during daylight, pretending to be customers that wanted to buy foodstuffs. They use the opportunity to check out the area and quantity of foodstuffs available in the shop.
“Later at night, when the owner has closed for the day, we return to break into the shop. It’s very easy to open padlocks with a small metal. On my first operation, we got 15 bags of rice. It was a good deal. I started this operation in 2017 and had lost count of the number of bags of rice I have stolen from people’s shops. But I know that it would have been more than 1,000 bags. We have several customers in Ilorin who patronised us. They thought we bought the rice in large quantities, they didn’t know we stole them. A bag of rice was N15,000 in open market, but we sold for N14,000. It was because we sold at lower prices that people rush to buy from us.
When his brother returned from Kano, he was financially down and hungry. “He had a family to feed and he became a burden to me. He was always coming to borrow money from my mother and I. I had no choice but to open up to him and let him know how I was making my money. He said. Initially, he was angry and threatened to tell their mother. “I was not worried because my mother will not hurt me even if she knew.” The next day, he came back and told me that he wanted to join us.
Saheed has been arrested in the past before his brother joined them by policemen from Offa Police Station. They were charged to court, but his family came and got them out on bail. He continued from where he stopped because that was the only way he knew how to make money. Saheed said that his wife and children were not aware that he was a thief. He noted that when he was first arrested and charged to court, it was his cousin he called to take his bail. He said: “My family thought I was framed. “Yes, I used to go home with the smallest bags of rice because I didn’t want my family to know what I was into. It was the proceeds from the stolen rice that I used in sending my children to the best private school in Ilorin.
Saheed built a bungalow where he’s currently living. He made so much money and was changing cars. “I normally use my personal cars to carry the bags of rice, so the weight always affected the cars. As soon as any of the car starts having fault, I buy a new one.”
The suspect’s brother, Morufu, an auto mechanic and a borehole driller, explained that he took to crime after he lost his means of livelihood to the Boko Haram insurgency in Kano State. He said: “After my secondary school, there was no money to further my education. I learnt how to repair cars and then in 2001 after my parents relocated to Kano State, I discovered that mechanics do not make much money. I then ventured into borehole drilling. I learnt the job from my elder sister’s husband, who is a government contractor.
Morufu was making close to N400,000 monthly. He got married later and started his own family. Unfortunately, the Boko Haram insurgency got to Kano and his parents had to run back to Kwara State. He stayed back until he stopped getting jobs. People were no longer interested in building houses or drilling boreholes. All they wanted was to stay alive. Things became difficult for him in Kano and in 2018, he was forced to return to Kwara State, where he joined his younger brother Saheed’s gang that specialised in burgling shops and stealing bags of rice. “After I joined him, we started using my car as our operational vehicle.
On their first operation, they stole five bags of Nigerian rice and sold them at the rate of N15,000 each to a woman in Ilorin. “I got N30,000 as my share. We also stole seven more bags of rice from another shop in Offa area of the state, which we sold to the same woman at the same rate. I got N40,000 as my share. I usually get the highest share of the loot because the car belonged to me. When we go for an operation, my brother is usually the person who breaks into the shops. I assist him in loading the bags of rice into my vehicle.
“On our third operation, we broke into a shop, also in Offa, and stole 11 bags of rice. We ran into some policemen on patrol on our way out of the town; we abandoned my car filled with the bags of rice and ran into the bush. I have never taken a stolen bag of rice to my house because I have a conscience. It is wrong to allow my children to eat from that rice. I rather use the money to buy foodstuffs for the house or give my wife cash. I’m sorry that I allowed poverty to lead me into stealing other people’s property. When stealing the bags of rice, I did not feel bad then because I assumed that anyone that owns a big shop must be rich. Stealing some bags of rice will not make them paupers. Please forgive me; I will never go back to crime.”
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