By Ngozi Uwujare
The “Operation Denda” of Benue State Police Command has arrested two suspected armed robbers and members of their syndicate. They suspects are believed to be specialists in robbing people who have a passion for the church.
Among their constant victims, it was gathered, are those that worship in the church as well as those returning from vigils. The suspects usually rob the victims of their valuable items, including Bibles, during the church services and vigils in different parts of Makurdi, the Benue State capital.
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Benue State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Wale Abass told Saturday Sun that the two suspects and members of their syndicate were specialists in robbing victims who were coming from vigil. After robbing them of their money and Bibles, the suspects would threaten to kill the worshippers if they do not cooperate with them.
He said some of the victims were robbed in the wee hours of the morning, some were robbed around 4.30am, while others were robbed on their way home. Many church members were also robbed inside the church premises while church services were going on.
He said the command has received several complaints over some hoodlums who robbed and attacked some victims while coming from church night service.
CP Abass said the command mapped out strategies, swung into action and clamped down on the two suspected armed robbers including other members of their syndicate. He said a number of items were recovered from the suspects, including some AK47 rifles, pump action, cartridges and some charms.
He explained further that the police “Operation Denda” through intelligence gathering swung into action and arrested them on February 14, 2022 in Makurdi axis.
He said they were arrested alongside other members of their syndicate when his men stormed their hideout in the forest. According to him, the police recovered some clothes, Bibles, Phones, shoes and other items that belong to the victims.
He said the police operatives had an encounter with the hoodlums saying some of the suspects escaped with bullet wounds and they abandoned their weapons. He added that their action prompted his men to arrest the two suspects, Ifeanyi Obi and Musa Dauda plus some other members of their syndicate.
In a chat with the reporter, one of the suspects, Ifeanyi Obi, explained his involvement in the robbery activities of the syndicate. He told Saturday Sun: “I hail from Enugu State. My parents stayed in Makurdi and I grew up in Benue State. I am a driver by profession. I joined armed robbery in 2020 with five people. We started to rob from house to house and collect their valuable items from them. Suddenly we changed the model of our operation, and we started robbing victims that were coming from vigils. We would and collect their money and their Bibles and threaten to kill them.
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“We usually threatened them with our dane guns and cutlasses. We would take the victims besides the bush and they would cooperate with us immediately. We would then rob them and collect their valuable items.
“We robbed some of the victims right in the church premises while the church services were going on. We disconnected the light of the church and we came in and collected all their phones, money and told them to lie down on the ground inside the church. After collecting all the items, we would immediately abandon them.
“We robbed some of them who passed through the bush path while coming from the vigil. We would drag some of the victims into the bush, and there we would collect their shoes, bags, money, phones and other items in the process. Some of the victims abandoned their shoes, clothes in the process of escaping from us at the scene of robbery,” he said.
The other suspect, Musa Dauda also told the reporter: “I hail from Nasarawa State. We have robbed several churches in Makurdi. My own way of operation is that I will join the church to start the vigil. I will study everybody in the church. Later I will phone my gang members to come and rob the church. Immediately they came, we would collect all the phones, money and take some Bibles away. We always sell some of the Bibles at cheap prices. We also sell some of the stolen phones and share the money among us. We enjoyed robbing churches because the victims, including the pastor, they normally do cooperate when we are robbing them. The little money they collect as offering, we would collect it from them. It is the pastor who will hand over the offering bag to us. We will leave the church quickly and we will go and share the money” he stated.
One of the victims, Mr Paul Dalong narrated his experience with the robbers. Hear him: “It was a horrifying ordeal. Armed robbers came to the church and robbed us, especially when we were having our vigils. We always have crowds during the vigils. We didn’t know that some of the people that come for the vigil were armed robbers. We would have three hours of praise and worship, and later the pastor would minister and preach. Immediately it was time for giving their offering, the members of church would start dancing and giving their offering. Suddenly, the lights would go off. They would start robbing us of our phones, money, wristwatches and other items.
“The hoodlums once went to our pastor and asked for the church offering and he handed it over to them. They don’t touch anybody. Once they collected the stolen items, they would leave. I was happy when I heard that the police operatives had arrested the suspects. I know that a sinner must not go unpunished.”
One other victim, Mrs. Onoja David said: “We have been robbed twice while coming from the vigil. They came across us around 5.15am while leaving the church. We thought it was a joke when we heard a voice saying, stop there! Suddenly, he flashed the torch lights on us and asked us to bring everything that we had. When we saw cutlasses and guns, we gave them our phones, money, shoe, bag and they asked us to walk quietly. They were five members of the gang that early morning. Since then, I stopped going to vigil. I heard they have been arrested. They should face their judgment.”
Another victim, Pastor Godspower Ezekiel, also experienced the trauma unleashed by the robbers. Hear him: “The hoodlums didn’t rob us in the church. They only robbed some of our church members who were going home after the vigil. They collected their phones, money and bags from them. Sometimes, we lodged complaints at the police station and to our Vigilante Group to assist us from this predicament.”
CP Abass said that the suspects would soon be charged to court. He expressed appreciation to the public for their useful information which he said led to the arrest of the suspects.