Anyone who meets the trio of Oruaro Brilliant (29), Ajayi Jemibewon (23), and Farotimi Sunday (21) along Nigerian highways will no doubt take them for genuine officials of the Nigerian Customs Service. Dressed in some of the accoutrements of the agency and armed with weapons, their looks are enough to subdue any motorist trying to play smart.
The three young men were part of a five-member gang which had terrorized motorists by robbing them of their vehicles in the guise of impounding those without genuine Customs papers. Through this means, they were reported to have dispossessed people of many vehicles, until they were nabbed recently by operatives of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Ogun State Police Command.
According to Tribune the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Ikemefuna Okoye said that they used to operate between Ibafo and Mowe towns along Lagos-Ibadan expressway.After impounding the vehicles, they would tell victims to come to Customs office with their papers but that was always the last time the owners would sight their vehicles as the fake men would drive them away, never to be seen again.
Ajayi and Sunday were tracked to Ekiti State on September 28, 2014 and nabbed. After their arrest, they confessed to their deeds and led the police to Akure, where Oruaro was also arrested. The police commissioner said that during investigation, it was discovered that Oruaro had used the proceeds from his criminal acts to build a twin three-bedroom bungalow in Akure.
“The suspects also confessed that they were using master keys to open the doors of cars once the owners told them that they would go and bring Customs papers,”he added saying that 11 vehicles had been recovered from the suspects.
Crime Reports learnt that the suspects used guns during their operations and that one of the two at large was an Inspector of Customs before he was dismissed, and was the one who recruited others, got uniforms for them and gave them ranks.
Speaking with Crime Reports, the ‘most senior’ of the fake Customs officials , Oruaro, who wore the rank of an Assistant Superintendent of Customs, said:
“I am from Burutu Local Government, Bayelsa State. I live in Akure, Ondo State and I am married with two children. I was in Ghana after my school certificate holder to do business before I returned to Nigeria.I met Okojie Okocha who was a former Inspector of Customs before his dismissal and started working with him, using master key to open vehicles and steal them. He got us uniforms and identification cards which we were using to take the vehicles across to Benin, Edo State, Lagos State and other states.
“In January, 2014, he sat us down and brought up the idea of creating Customs check points. We were operating across states. Our modus operandi was to stop Tokunbo vehicles as well others and demand for Customs papers. If the particulars were not complete, we would seize the vehicles in the guise of taking them to Customs office and take them to dealers in Auchi, Benin, Lagos, Alagbole in Ogun State etc.
“The dealers knew that the vehicles were stolen and usually bought them at reduced prices, except the ones that were Tokunbo. We have made a lot of money but I cannot say specifically the amount. The vehicles were in different brands.
“Okocha tutored us very well in Customs ways and language. He did the identification cards for us at Computer Village, Ikeja and went to a place in the same Ikeja to get the uniforms and Customs’ accoutrements. He did not allow us to follow him there.He was the one who got us the guns we were using for our operations. We usually operated in the morning and evening. We have never been challenged by genuine Customs officials because we made sure we did not mount our road block along their routes. My wife knew what I was doing.”
The second suspect, Ajayi, also stated:
“I am from Ado Ekiti and live there. I was conscripted into the gang by Oruaro. He introduced himself to me as someone who just returned from abroad and promised to help me travel overseas whenever he would be returning. He asked me to be working with him. I have followed them three times and all I have got is N70,000.”
Sunday, an indigene of Ise Ekiti residing in Ado Ekiti told Crime Reports that he joined the gang in January 2014 through Ajayi.
“We used to operate in Sagamu, ijebu Ode and other places. I have made about N120,000,”