The recent spate of arrests of military personnel, particularly a naval rating, Femi Oyewole, raises fears about the increasing insecurity in the country as more law-enforcement agents are being nabbed for various crimes, SODIQ OJUROUNGBE writes
There is great concern among Nigerians and security experts over the repeated involvement of personnel of the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Air Force in various crimes of recent times.
Monitored reports, in the last few months, have indicated that some security operatives, also of the Nigerian Navy, now run kidnapping and robbery syndicates which by implication, threaten the security of lives and properties.
The recent of these arrests was that of a 50-year-old naval rating, Femi Oyewole, who was alleged to be the head of a car snatching syndicate that operates in Lagos and its environs.
According to Daily Trust, Oyewole, who was arrested by policemen attached to Zone 2, Police Command, Onikan, Lagos, confessed during a parade of suspects, which held last week Wednesday, to have sold most of the stolen cars to senior naval officers.
The naval rating was paraded alongside three others, identified as – Joshua Adeleke, Kabiru Ismaila, and Ukpabi Bright Ikechukwu.
The naval rating told journalists that he had been arrested three times for the same offence of car theft and robbery, but he always secured his freedom, and still continued with his nefarious activities.
He revealed that despite being caught, the Nigerian Navy did not set up any disciplinary committee against him because some of the senior officers were allegedly said to be accomplices.
He said, “I am a serving naval officer attached to the headquarters of the Western Naval Command, Naval Base, Harbour Road, Apapa. I am the leader of a car-snatching gang. I have served in the Nigerian Navy for 22 years. I have been arrested for similar offences by the police. I have also received more than 15 units of vehicles from members of my gang.
“In 2016, I was handed over to the Western Naval Command when the police discovered that I am a serving naval officer for necessary disciplinary action.
“I was subsequently arrested alongside Joshua Adeleke and Kabiru Ismaila for a similar offence by operatives of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in 2019, where seven units of vehicles were recovered from me.
“I was handed over to naval authorities
for necessary disciplinary action, while Joshua and Kabiru were prosecuted.
“No disciplinary action was taken against me because some of the receivers of the stolen vehicles are top officers in the Nigerian Navy,” he said.
The Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 2 (Lagos and Ogun states), Adeyinka Oyeleke, while parading Oyewole alongside the other suspects, said, he received intelligence on December 20, 2022, that a gang of car snatchers, robbed a victim of a Gold Toyota Sienna vehicle, and sold same to one of their numerous buyers.
The AIG, who was represented by Zonal Public Relations Officer, Hawa Idris Adamu, said the officer in charge of the Anti-Piracy Team, SP Mariam Ogunmolasuyi, was directed by the AIG, to unmask those behind the car snatching syndicate.
She said the officer swung into action, during which four suspects were arrested in connection with the crime.
During the arrest, two Gold colour Toyota Sienna (1999 model), and one white colour Toyota Camry (2003 model), were reportedly recovered from the suspects.
Speaking with our correspondent on Monday evening, the PPRO said the suspects had been charged to court.
Oyewole was not the first security operative caught operating a robbery syndicate. A few days before his arrest, a soldier with the Nigerian Army, was also caught in an alleged robbery operation at Phase One Post Service Estate in Kurudu, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Some days after, an Air Force personnel was also apprehended by some soldiers at PHDL Phase 5 Estate, Kurudu, Abuja, while assisting two civilians to kidnap a resident of the estate.
On January 23, 2022, an Army officer, Lance Corporal Mohammed, and Airman, Corporal Olathe, were reportedly arrested, also in Abuja, over alleged armed robbery and kidnapping.
The Nigerian Air Force spokesperson, Air Commodore Wapkerem Maigida in a telephone interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, said, “Investigation is ongoing concerning the incident, and he (Olathe) will be punished according to the Armed Forces rules if found guilty”.
When one of the suspects arrested with Oyewole was interviewed, Joshua Adeleke admitted snatching many vehicles along with Ismaila and that all the cars were handed over to Oyewole who sold them off.
Adeleke said Oyewole bought some of the vehicles at ridiculous prices such as N100,000 and N150,000.
He said, “Oyewole is our financier. It’s based on his instructions that we go out to steal cars, after which we hand them over to him.
“We have sold over 25 vehicles to Oyewole Femi. He buys them for ridiculous prices such as N100,000 and N150,000. He pays us the money in bits; at times N40,000 and at times N80,000. We sold the recent gold Toyota Camry 1999 model with registration number MUS 499 AM to him for N100,000,” the suspect disclosed.
On August 31, 2022, the Zamfara State police command arrested 41-year-old Sa’adu Lawal, a former Army officer. The police recovered one AK 47 riffle, No 0971987, and one AK49 riffle, No 347094 from the suspect.
According to the State’s police spokesman, SP Mohammed Shehu, other items recovered include 5017.62x51mm rounds of GPMG live ammunition and empty magazines.
The Niger State Police Command in December 2022 launched a manhunt for three soldiers and two police officers, including an Assistant Superintendent of Police, indicted in connection with the assassination attempt on the Senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa.
The State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department of the Force said an investigation by the police indicated that the three army officers, said to be from the 31 Artillery Brigade Minna, including CPL Mohammed J. were allegedly involved in the assassination attempts.
Security experts have identified the recruitment process and the much touted poor welfare package as major factors responsible for the involvement of security operatives in criminal activities.
An expert, Jackson Ojo insisted that the recruitment pattern into the Nigerian security forces is weak and unhealthy.
Ojo lamented that politicians have taken over the decision of who becomes a security operative in the country.
He noted that, people recruited into the security architecture of the country were supposed to be profiled, and also check mentally.
He said, “When you build a mansion on a very weak foundation, it is like you have not built at all. What is the recruitment pattern for Nigeria’s security forces? The recruitment pattern into Nigeria’s security forces is very weak, rotten, and unhealthy. There is nothing good in the recruitment process of our Nigerian security men and women.
“In Nigeria, when you want to do recruitment, they will not even do any profiling, they will just go to one politician and that politician will give them someone for the vacant position. The politician will bring some of his political thugs; it is politicians that will just give a list of criminals that have worked for him before and those are the people that will be recruited into our security forces.
“The recruitment pattern in Nigeria is very bad and wrong that is the reason why we can never get it right.
“The other factor we must consider is that no matter how disciplined someone is, by the time you confine that person to be a police officer or an army officer and there is no good welfare package, such a person will evolve into something else.
“When you recruit someone into the Nigerian army and you are paying him a wage that cannot buy him a pair of trousers or pay his rent, he will take to self-help. He will use that same uniform, the same gun you have given to him to fight criminality, he will use it to perpetrate criminality,” the security expert noted.
Another security expert, Ayo Bamidele disclosed that Nigerian security forces are allegedly overpopulated by criminals.
“Government needs to do more in ensuring that due process is followed in the recruitment exercise. It also needs to improve on their welfare because if the recruitment process is good and there is still a poor welfare package for our security operatives, we are still going to be faced with the same problems,” he observed.
Navy keeps mum
Efforts to get the spokesman for the Western Naval Command, Commander Edward Yeibo were not successful. He did not pick up calls or reply to several text messages sent to him.
Our correspondent also reached out to the spokesperson for the Navy, Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan. He did not pick up his calls or reply to WhatsApp messages sent to him, despite indications he had read them.