A member of a syndicate allegedly involved in snatching vehicles in Nigeria and taking them across the border to Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, Alhaji Rashidi Salami, has spoken on how he started the crime about 10 years ago, to the extent that he even purchased a gun from outside Nigeria for N250,000 to aid the gang’s operation.
Salami also opened up on how he was arrested, charged to court and jailed over the same issue, but decided to return to his vomit after serving prison term.
Salami, aged 50, was among the suspects recently paraded by the Oyo State Police Command for various offences.
In his maiden press briefing, the Commissioner of Police in the state, Adebola Ayinde Hamzat, told journalists of how the trans-border armed robbers were nabbed.
CP Hamzat said that through intelligence gathering, a team of police operatives attached to the Monitoring Unit, led by the commander, CSP Olusola Aremu, learnt of the activities of a trans-border armed robbery syndicate that specialised in using motorbikes to intercept and snatch exotic vehicles at gunpoint from unsuspecting members of the public at different locations in the state.
The team reportedly swung into action, resulting in the initial arrest of two suspected members identified as Oluwaseun Abiodun Sofolahan and Abiodun Mojeed Lameed and the recovery of a locally-made gun.
When interrogated, the suspects confessed to snatching exotic vehicles, including Toyota Highlander SUV, a Lexus SUV and three Toyota Corolla cars from their owners along Ibadan-Oyo expressway and other locations within Ibadan metropolis.
CP Hamzat stated further that the suspects’ confessional statements led to the arrest of Rashidi Salami and Aliu Soliu, who used to collect the vehicles from the armed robbers for immediate transportation to Ouagadougou for sale.
“The duo confessed to have received all the stolen vehicles and moved them across the border to Burkina Faso where they were sold to another criminal cartel,” the police boss added, saying that investigation was still ongoing.
Nigerian Tribune learnt that Lameed was the one who used to carry other gang members on bike while Oluwaseun would be in possession of gun. What they usually did was to block their victims and rob them of vehicles or motorcycles.
“I met Alhaji Salami who promised to buy a gun for me. I met him through my friends – Bola, Sunday and Sheriff – at joints, though I only smoke cigarette. I knew my friend, Sheriff, at Bodija market. I got connected with others through him. Sheriff told me that he was a buyer of snatched vehicles and asked me to join his robbery gang to snatch vehicles for Alhaji. I’ve snatched three vehicles for him. He told us he used to take the vehicles to Ouagadogou, Burkina Faso, for sale.”
HOW WE SNATCH VEHICLES
“We usually targeted anyone parking on a street at night. We would open the car door on the driver’s side and force its owner out at gunpoint. Out of the three vehicles I got for Alhaji, he paid N700,000 for the first one, a Toyota Highlander SUV, out of N1 million he promised to pay for it. I got N150,000 as my share. The second one was a Lexus SUV and he paid N800,000, telling us that he needed to carry out repairs because it was faulty. The third one was a Toyota Camry (muscle) car. Alhaji gave me the gun and cartridges.”
“I was arrested while sleeping in a woman’s house. She was my benefactor and I used to stay in her house whenever I was in Ibadan. My bag was recovered and a gun was seen in it.”
The second suspect, Lameed, an Ibadan indigene, aged 40, told the Nigerian Tribune that he was a vulcaniser until the machine stopped working. “I bought a motorcycle, paying in instalments. I became a commercial motorcyclist and met Oluwaseun through it.”
“On the day I first picked him, he paid me handsomely and asked if I could come back to pick him. I agreed. That was how we became close. On a particular day, I picked him again and he told me to wait after getting to his destination, saying that we would return together.”
“As I got there, he opened up, telling me that he was into car snatching. I agreed to join him. I joined the gang this year and followed others to a robbery operation, but I didn’t get any money because the Alhaji told us that the Camry car could not be taken across the border since it was faulty.”
Salami, who hailed from Saki, confessed to being a receiver of snatched vehicles and an expert in transferring them across the Nigeria-Burkina Faso border.
He said that he started receiving vehicles from armed robbers about 10 years ago. “After getting the vehicles from armed robbers, I would take them across the border to Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso where the buyers who are Nigerians would be waiting.”
“I was once arrested and paraded in Ibadan. I was charged to court and sentenced. I spent 18 months in prison. After regaining freedom, I rested for some time before starting the operations again,” he said.
He disclosed that he had received three vehicles from the arrested armed robbers after his release from prison but couldn’t take one of them to Ouagadougou because it stopped functioning along the way. He said that he called others to inform them. “I was on the way when the vehicle stopped working. I called the syndicate members to inform them and abandoned the vehicle at the spot and quickly left. I was afraid I would be caught if it was tracked and traced,” Salami stated.
He also confessed to buying a locally-made gun from a French country for one of the arrested suspects, Oluwaseun. According to him, “I contacted Soliu to help me purchase the gun and paid N250,000 for it. I was told that the locally-made guns over there are better than those in Nigeria.”
Blaming the devil for his involvement in crime, Salami said that his family members warned him to desist from such negative act but he did not listen to them. “The wife I had then left me and I just married another one. I will never be involved in crime again,” he promised.
In his own confession, Soliu said that he knew Salami when he was bringing parboiled rice and cowhide (ponmo) from Ouagadougou to Nigeria. “Things went down for me and he told me he was a car dealer, asking me to join him in the business. I didn’t know he was receiving snatched vehicles. I went with him just once and he gave me N150,000. He was the one who sent me with money to the man he got the gun from. I didn’t know what it was until he unwrapped it in my presence and I saw the gun. I stopped working with him but was recently arrested,” Soliu said.