Operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team have smashed a gang which specialised in drugging drivers and dispossessing them of their vehicles.
It was gathered that a revenue officer in charge of issuing vehicle documents in Akwa Ibom State, Iboro Umoh (40), and two others, Joseph Akpan (37) and Ini-Obong Akpan (44), have been arrested in connection with the crime.
According to the police, the gang, after robbing drivers of their vehicles, forges the vehicles’ documents and then sell them off. The forged documents make victims not to suspect that the vehicles were stolen.
The gang was smashed by IRT operatives led by a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari. The IRT operatives are hunting for a fleeing member of the gang, Emmanuel Unah.
The gang’s waterloo began after IRT operatives received a tip-off that a four-man gang used to drug drivers and steal their vehicles.
The gang, which operates within Lagos and Ogun States, targets mostly Jeep. After stealing these vehicles, the gang moves them to the eastern part of the country, where they are sold.
A police source said: “The gang uses sedatives on drivers before dispossessing them of their vehicles. The gang did a similar thing to a driver, Ibrahim Raji Kolagbemi, and dispossessed him of his Toyota Camry Saloon car, 2003 model. The hoodlums were tracked and arrested, while one escaped. In December 2018, one of the suspects, Joseph Akpan, engaged the services of a taxi driver, Ibrahim, to take him to Ijebu-Ode to attend a wedding. Joseph paid Ibrahim N6,000 in advance out of the N16,000 he charged him.
“When they got to Ijebu-Ode, he asked Ibrahim to park somewhere close to the wedding venue along the main road. Joseph told him that immediately the wedding was over, he would come out and they would head back to Lagos. Joseph actually gatecrashed the wedding. He was not invited. He, however, ate and drank like an invited guest. At the end, he came out with some snacks and drinks, including three bottles of Hero Lager Beer, which he had already drugged. He gave the items to Ibrahim.”
Ibrahim, who loves Hero Beer, was happy with his gifts and quickly gulped it. He soon fell asleep.
When Joseph saw that Ibrahim had fallen asleep, he pushed him out of the car, dumped him along the road and zoomed off with the victim’s car.
When Ibrahim petitioned the IGP, IRT operatives launched an investigation and moved to Akwa Ibom State, believing they would locate Joseph there, but he was not there. The operatives finally tracked and arrested him in Lagos State. The IRT operatives also recovered four stolen cars from the gang.
Umoh, who is married with three children, said he is a civil servant working with the Internal Revenue Service in Akwa Ibom State on a salary of N83,000. While adding that he was a licensing officer, Umoh said he studied Civil Engineering at the University of Port Harcourt.
He said: “I registered a Toyota Camry car for Mr. Joseph Akpan for N50,000. I registered two for him and two for Emmanuel at the rate of N45,000 each. I gave them original documents because the numbers of the stolen vehicles they brought were old numbers. Thus, the cars were easy to be registered because old numbers were not in the system. The Jeep and Sienna vehicles did not come with number. Once you upload the new numbers, it overrides the old one.
“Initially, I did not know that they were stolen vehicles. Normally, car owners, who come to us, asking for their vehicles’ registrations to be fast tracked, used to give us something, no matter how small to make us happy.
“When I realised that the vehicles were stolen, I told Joseph and his friend to stop bringing stolen cars because I would no longer register stolen cars. Joseph threatened to report me to the Akwa Ibom State Government so that I would be sacked. I had no alternative than to save my job by continuing with them.”
Joseph, while fielding questions from journalists, stated that he was also married and has two children. He used to sell clothes in a container in a plaza in Uyo. Before then, he had been residing in Libya. He was among thousands of Nigerians deported to Nigeria.
He said: ‘When I returned to Nigeria, I met Emmanuel Unah, who told me that if I could get a stolen car, he would help me to procure vehicle documents and also sell the car for me. Around September 2018, one Mr. Paul brought a Sienna car to me, which he said he removed from a parking lot. Emmanuel and I took the car to Akwa Ibom, Uyo to be specific, where Umoh assisted us to procure the vehicle’s documents. I also got the opportunity to know Ini-Obong, who is a friend of Emmanuel. There was a car we snatched and went to Uyo to sell, but Emmanuel and the other guy abandoned me in a hotel. When I got stranded, it was Umoh that rescued and gave me money for transport back to Lagos. He said that I should return to Lagos to work, that he would start dealing directly with me.
I returned to Lagos, got a multivitamin tablet called Cyprigold, which used to induce sleep and then grind it. I then hired a taxi driver. The driver had been drinking Alomo Bitters when I entered the wedding hall. When I came out with some drinks, I gave some to him. I put the drug in his cup in the car. We drank Hero beer. I took two bottles, while the driver drank three bottles and was demanding for more before he slept off. I dumped him by the road side and zoomed off. I took the car to Umoh and he sold it for N700,000. He gave me N500,000. He later removed N150,000, claiming that he used it to procure documents. Before I travelled to Libya, I used to sell cars.”
The third suspect, Ini-Obong Akpan (44), a cab driver, said he was arrested for selling a stolen car.
He recounted: “I told police that it was Emmanuel Unah that gave me the vehicle to sell. He told me that the car belonged to Joseph Akpan. I sold it N700,000 and they gave me my commission, which is N25,000. The car was sold in a car wash centre. Afterwards, Emmanuel sold the Toyota Prado Jeep to Honourable Ben Epkeyong and one Toyota Camry car to Mr. Ofomime Esine. He sold the Prado Jeep for N2.3 million and the Camry car for N500,000. I got N70,000 from the sale of the Prado Jeep and N45,000 from the sale of the Camry car. I used the proceeds to feed my family. They lied to me that the vehicles were bought at auction from Customs officers.”