Member of a trans-border robbery gang arrested by the Lagos State Police Command last week, 29-year David Chineye said he confessed to his pastor after every operation.
The Imo State-born suspect was among eight suspected members of the gang arrested by the police. He said the gang’s operation extended from Benin Republic to Mali.
“I am a dedicated church worker. Nobody knew I was an armed robber,” he told Vanguard’s Crime Guard in an exclusive interview.
He gave the name of his church as Christ Ascension Church, Benin Republic branch.
“Every time I returned from any operation, my conscience would prick me. Thereafter, I would go to church for confession but would never disclose the exact sin I committed,” he continued.
“My wife didn’t know I was a robber either. This is because I stay in Benin Republic where she is permanently based for two months, before returning to Nigeria, where she believed I was working. I usually visited Benin Republic when we wanted to rob and would leave after investing my loot. This is to allow me get hints on the outcome of the operation, in terms of Police investigation,” the suspect said.
Members of his gang reportedly stormed a micro finance bank in Porto Novo, Benin Republic, last November, from where they carted away the equivalent of N100 million. He said they were planning to expand their operations to Togo when they were apprehended by the police.
Explaining how he got into robbery, Chinenye told CrimeGuard; “It all started after my apprenticeship in a pharmaceutical store, back in Owerri, the Imo state capital. My master refused to pay me off. Rather, he claimed that the money he ought to have settled me with was spent on the treatment of my ailing brother few months back. I left in anger and worked as a bus conductor until the engine of the bus got knocked.
“I was idle for some months, during which I met my wife who was visiting Nigeria for the first time. I went to Benin Republic with her, where I met some friends who introduced me into robbery. I started by breaking into peoples’ apartments, but it was not lucrative because at times, I won’t get anything from the houses”.
The suspect said he decided to return to Nigeria to find better prospects. He then met a new gang.
“During one of our meetings, I told my members that we should step up by going to operate in Benin Republic, since their Police were not as effective as ours. The first operation was in a filling station in Benin Republic. It took me two days to survey the place before I invited members of the gang.
“At the end of the operation, we lodged in a hotel there for two days, shared the loot before others left,while I stayed back. Three weeks later, as I was driving around Porto Novo, I saw a micro-finance bank. I studied the terrain that day and came back the next day to continue. I observed that policemen were not stationed there and that only unarmed private guards were there.
“Quickly, I came to Nigeria to inform my members and left back for Benin Republic. Three days later, we struck at the bank and made away with N100 million equivalent.
“During operation, we don’t use our real names. For instance, my operational name is Ishola. We have names like Mensah, Koffi, Messiah, master, etc. This is to give our victims the impression that we were from Benin Republic,” he said.
He described joining a robbery gang as the biggest mistake of his life. He also regretted not listening to his wife who had a premonition before he was arrested.
“Three days before I was nabbed, she told me she dreamed that I was arrested alongside other people for robbery and that I was killed in the process. Since then, she has been fasting and praying against sudden death. But I assured her all was well and that I was not into any dirty deal. If I had known I would have returned to Benin Republic , instead of remaining here in Nigeria.”