‘Growing up in Ajegunle without joining criminal gang is a miracle’
A serial armed robbery suspect, Ehuimwe Akhire, 35, has made startling revelations on his journey to the underworld operations.
According to the suspect, who allegedly engaged detectives that went after him in a gun duel, but was shot in one leg by superior firepower, surviving as a young person without joining any criminal gang in Ajegunle community is a miracle.
Akhire, a former prisoner and native of Uromi, Edo State, said he came to Lagos about 15 years ago as a “good boy, but was unfortunate to live in Ajegunle (AJ City), where joining a gang and taking drugs makes young people feel cool.”
He had allegedly participated in dozens of robbery operations in Lagos, Osun, Edo and other parts of the country before his arrest recently by operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) in Lagos, headed by Philip Rieninwa after a brutal robbery operation, following an order by the Commander of IRT, Abba Kyari, who had received reports of his gang’s activities in the Southwest.
Two fully-loaded Browning Pistols were recovered from Akhire, while members of his gang are still being trailed. The pistols rank among the 10 most dangerous guns in the world.
Akhire, who was described as a notorious robbery kingpin involved in all sorts of crimes, told The Guardian: “I am a criminal who has tasted all kinds of crimes. I was a petty thief before I graduated into armed robbery, but it was not my fault. The search for a better life brought me to Ajegunle, where crime is a way of life.
“It was when I came to AJ City that I came to realise that crime is a culture in the area, except you don’t want to make friends. Parents encourage their children to commit crimes in Ajegunle. You will be stigmatised if you don’t snatch bags or do petty stealing.
“It was when things became difficult for me and there was nobody to assist me that I decided to join them. For instance, when I begged people for as low as N10, they would tell me to join them in their ‘work.’ Stealing and robbery are called ‘work’ in AJ City.”
Continuing, Akhire said: “I noticed that almost every guy in the area belonged to one cartel or gang or the other. So, I decided to join a group, but I was given the condition to procure a gun before I would be accepted. It was while I was looking for a gun that I was arrested by the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS), Adeniji Adele.
“I was charged to court and remanded in prison. It was in the prison that I met other criminals from AJ City. We formed a gang in prison. When we came out, we started with pickpocketing, traffic robbery, and burglary. Along the line, my gang members started graduating to armed robbery operations. I was lagging behind, because I had no gun. My mates were making a mockery of me and often scolded me whenever we met in drinking joints.
“I made up my mind that I was going to grow up, so I also acquired a gun and I was initiated into real crime and the rest is history.
“My gang is strong and formidable. We do all sorts of crimes. I am telling you all this because I want to repent. On New Year’s day, I went to the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) to make a vow that I would no longer go into crime before I was caught.
“There was a robbery operation that nearly got my gang into problems, so all of us ran away when we knew that the Police were after us. Obilo, our gang leader, ran to Dubai and I ran to Osun State. I was happy that God scattered us, so I went to church on New Year’s day to confess my sins, even though I did not come out when the pastor made an altar call for sinners.
“I told God my mind and made a vow. Perhaps the devil needed my soul because a few days after I made the vow, Obilo called me that he had returned from Dubai. He convinced me again to go to work with him. He gathered us again and we resumed work. The result is that I was shot in the leg and I am on Police net now, while Obilo and others escaped.
“If God grants me another grace or opportunity, I would never go back to crime.”
Asked why he had charms on him and if he had actually repented this time around, he stated: “I have repented. I was planning to destroy the charms and my weapons when Obilo came. The charms are not for me to disappear, but for me not to be caught while I was escaping from a robbery scene.
“Yes, I had two guns stocked in my body when I was arrested, but I have never killed. I only use the guns to threaten victims to break car windows during traffic robbery.
“Like I told you, we have committed many crimes. We used to rob bank customers. We used to operate in three commercial motorcycles (Okada) and visit banks. While Festus, who dresses corporately, would enter the banking hall looking out for those withdrawing money, we would position ourselves like Okada riders. As soon as Festus comes out, he would point at the target and we would follow the victim till we find a convenient place to rob him or her.
“We used to go as far as Cotonou in Republic of Benin to rob. I have made money in robbery and bought many plots of land. We used to make money, but not too much. My highest share was N1.2million in an operation.”
“The risk is too much because we used to confront the Police during operations. I worked with many gangs and we sometimes joined other gangs to go for operations. We meet other gangs during operations. They would go their ways while we give them away to do their jobs. Many of the robbers that I knew died during a gun duel with the Police, but I had been so lucky until now.
Akhire has a piece of advice for young ones, especially those in Ajegunle: “Crime does not pay. They should not listen to advice from their peers who would be mocking them and blaming them for not being sociable. Don’t start, because once you start, it is very difficult to stop.
“The first, second and the third operations are always very successful, be it pick pocketing, traffic robbery or armed robbery, you must get the tangible amount or things that would tempt you to commit more.
“For parents, they should stop encouraging their children and wards to commit a crime. Most of our parents know what their children do, but they won’t correct them. Some parents collect or receive proceeds from crime from their children.
“Religious organisations, schools, and community leaders should carry out massive reorientation to change the mindsets of the children.”
A source at IRT said the suspect and four others were arrested around 4:30 pm on January 16 along Isheri-Igando Road as they attempted to start an operation.
“When our Commander got intelligence report that the gang, which had been on our wanted list for series of armed robberies, was planning to attack bank customers, he sent his special squad, led by the Southwest coordinator, to go after the robbers.
“The team rounded up Akhire and five others at Isheri-Igando Road.”