MOTUNRAYO JOEL writes about some of the methods car snatchers employ to carry out their activities.
Cases of car theft have become common in Nigeria. Though not a new trend, car snatchers have continued to devise new methods to carry out their nefarious act. Below are some of the new tricks to watch out for:
Ladies as bait
In this method, car snatchers use ladies to lure men into giving them a ride. The lady tells the man that she is heading to a location. There, some men, who are her accomplices, will be waiting at the location to snatch his car.
This was what allegedly happened to 65-year-old Mr. Ganiyu Jimoh, who was killed after being robbed of his vehicle.
According to Jimoh’s widow, her husband, who she described as an accommodating man, never liked refusing a stranger a lift in his Lexus RX 300 SUV.
Two weeks before he went missing, Jimoh had informed his wife that he had given a young woman a lift and that they both spoke at length. He went as far as exchanging numbers with the lady and informing her about the cost of his car when the lady inquired.
The day he went missing, the lady had called the deceased on the phone and told him to pick her up if he was going to pass through her route around Jakande Estate, Lagos, where they had first met.
The woman, who denied any involvement in Jimoh’s death, told the police that two men had accosted Jimoh after they stopped to buy fruits. She said the men drove the deceased away in the car.
Phoney punctured tyre alarm
According to the Ogun State Police Command, thieves and car snatchers mount motorbikes along major highways in Ogun State particularly along Lagos/Ibadan, Sagamu/Abeokuta, Abeokuta/Lagos and Sagamu/Ijebu Ode/Benin, to perpetrate evil acts. They pretend to show sympathy towards road users and eventually snatch their vehicles.
The hoodlums, in most cases, flag down motorists, or raise the alarm of a punctured tyre or damaged portion on one’s vehicle .They eventually rob anyone who yields to their fake care or alarm.
Under the cover of gridlock
There have been several reports on how motorists, who found themselves in gridlock, were forced to abandon their cars after the firing of gun shots by car snatchers.
Azeez Abiodun, a member of a 20-man robbery gang, while being questioned at the Lagos Police Command headquarters, Ikeja, said his team specialised in snatching vehicles in the metropolis.
He also admitted that he and his gang preferred to operate during gridlock. Abiodun added that the gang usually stormed an area on motorcycles and fired gun shots in the air. In the process, motorists would flee the scene, abandoning their vehicles.
He said he and his gang would then pick the car of their choice and zoom off. At other times, he said the gang would stand by the roadside, pretending to be waiting for commercial buses before snatching a car.
Bashing victim’s car deliberately
If you are behind the wheel and another car hits you from behind, storming out for an argument may not be a good idea as the offender may be a car snatcher, reports say.
Recently, five-man robbery gang that had been terrorising female car owners around Lagos Island, notably Epe, Ajah, Lekki Peninsula, Victoria Island, among others, was apprehended by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Lagos State Police Command.
One of the suspects, who identified himself as Ndubuisi Chinedu aka Stephen, 23, from Onitsha Ugbo, Delta State, revealed that whenever the gang sighted their would-be victim, especially a woman, they would drive fast and hit the woman’s car at the back.
The intention is to make the woman stop her car and come out to see the extent of the damage.
Chinedu said they would then wait for the woman to walk towards her car. The moment she moves closer, two of them would enter the woman’s car and drive off; while others would follow in their car.
Using domestic servants
Car snatchers also rely on informants to execute their act. Their informants are usually domestic servants or persons that work closely with their victims. These informants feed them with all the necessary information they need, including their victim’s whereabouts.
A personal driver to a retired clergyman and three members of a suspected robbery syndicate that specialised in snatching exotic vehicles were recently arrested by police in Oyo State.
Abiodun Fadairo, 23, had only been two days on the job, when he invited his gang members to rob his employer, who lived in Iworo town, near Ijebu Ode, Ogun State.
The suspects, including one Friday Pius, who was a domestic servant to the sister of their victim, were said to have stormed the cleric’s residence at about 9:30pm on January 10 and collected the keys of his brand new SUV, a 2009 model, and foreign currencies comprising $170; 400 Euros and 34,000 Cedis.
Using fake mechanics
One Samson, who was among the five persons suspected to be notorious car snatchers within Benin City, Edo State, and environs, confessed that he usually disguised as a mechanic to help stranded motorists fix their vehicles.
He said he made away with the cars after the owner submitted the keys. The Edo State Police Command said a Lexus RX 300 SUV was sold by the gang for N120,000 and another new Lexus SUV for N500,000.
The suspects, Alao Samson, Christopher Obanugo, Okwuchukwu Ntagu, Dickson Ogiemwonyi and a spray painter, Godwin Atanu, were arrested after they snatched five cars from different individuals.
Two other snatched cars, a Ford Focus and Toyota Matrix, were sprayed to other colours.
Drugging car owners
Four months ago, 49-year-old Garuba Ibrahim, arrested by operatives of the Inspector- General of Police Special Intelligence Response team, Abuja, confessed that he specialised in drugging his victims before taking their vehicles. His operation usually happened within Abuja, Benue and Kogi states. Eight vehicles suspected to have been stolen from his victims were recovered from the suspect.
Narrating his first car snatching operation, Ibrahim said he boarded a private cab from Makurdi to Gboko. On the journey, he bought food for the driver; without him knowing that Ibrahim had put drugs in the food. As soon as the driver tasted the food, he began to feel dizzy.
Ibrahim then brought the driver’s floor mat for him to lay on it. Before then, he had asked the driver for his car keys to scratch his ear and he willingly obliged.
Posing with fake wounds
Car snatchers, according to reports, go the extent of faking wounds to arouse sympathy of unsuspecting victims. This was the case of an alleged car thief, who was nabbed after he went to a church in Aba, pretending that he was involved in a fire accident.
The alleged thief was exposed after a doctor named Okebugwu Nwankwo, called him out and proved that his wounds were fake. Two stolen vehicle car keys were found on him.
Disguising as men of God
Some motorists allege that their cars were snatched after they offered lifts to car snatchers disguised as evangelists.
A taxi operator in Edo State was robbed of his Golf GT car in this manner. He alleged that three middle-aged men with Bibles along Akpakpava Street beckoned on him to stop while he was on motion and asked him to drop them at a church located along Jemide, Government Reservation Area. They claimed to be rushing for a church programme.
As the taxi operator negotiated into an enclosed street, one of the men pointed a gun at him and asked him to stop the vehicle. Apart from his car that was snatched, he was also disposed of his phone and some amount of money.
Pretending as stranded passengers
On many occasions, Nigerians have been warned against giving strangers a lift. The owner of a recovered vehicle, Mr. David Oriakhi, fell victim to this trick after he offered a stranger a lift.
On the day of the incident, Oriakhi said he had left his boss’ place around 5am hoping to get to his house before 7am.
Around Victoria Garden City, Lagos, a young man waved at him and requested for a lift. Oriakhi decided to offer him a helping hand. But on getting into the car, the man pointed a gun at him and asked him to hand over all his belongings to him. He was then ordered to make a U-turn and head towards Epe.
Oriakhi was saved by some members of the Rapid Response Squad, who chased the vehicle after he intentionally rammed it into them and shouted for help as the man ordered him to continue the journey.
Increase in car theft cases
About three months ago, the Delta State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Zanna Ibrahim, said cases of car snatching among other criminal acts in the state had increased.
He, however, said the police were patrolling busy places within Asaba and its environs where the car snatchers frequent to check their activities.
Ibrahim said, “My word for armed robbers, car snatchers and others is to relocate elsewhere or face the wrath of the police.”
Within the same time frame, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Plateau State, Tyopev Terna, advised car owners to be vigilant.
This advice was spurred by the increase in the rate of car theft in the state.
He said, “There was a rise in reported cases of car theft. But we rose to the task and burst the syndicate, who wanted to rubbish our efforts at reducing crime in the state. I suggest that car owners get pedal or steering locks. One could also install modern tracking devices to help in the tracking of their property.”
Similarly, in Sokoto State, the state police command said there had been rampant cases of car theft in the state.
Describing the case as worrisome, the command said it was tackling the menace with the support of vehicles owners.
“We have been receiving reports of car theft and car snatching, I advise motorists to install a tracking device in their cars or use pedal locks that are cheaper and very effective,” the command said.
In December 2016, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that 2, 544 vehicles were stolen between 2013 and 2015, out of which 1,377 vehicles were recovered, and this brings the national recovery rate to 54 per cent.
Further analysis of the NBS data shows that while the nation’s stolen vehicle recovery capability was five out of 10 stolen vehicles, only 14 states were able to achieve better results than the national average. Ekiti State topped the list while Kebbi State is at the bottom of the list.
Edo and Kaduna states’ police commands had 76 per cent and 75 per cent recovery rates indicating that they recovered eight out of every 10 stolen vehicles in their states. Ogun and Plateau states police commands could also recover seven out of every 10 vehicles stolen in their states. Gombe, FCT Abuja, Zamfara, and Taraba states had their recovery rates ranging from 61 per cent to 67 per cent while for Jigawa, Bauchi, Kano, Cross River and Borno states, their recovery rates of stolen vehicles range from 55 per cent to 59 per cent.
According to the report, Lagos is one of the states with poor stolen vehicle recovery capability.
The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Olarinde Famous-Cole, advised motorists to be more security conscious when plying the roads.
Famous-Cole said, “Drivers should make sure their vehicles are secure when they leave them and remove all valuables. Also think about where you park your vehicle – is it in a safe place? Well-lit, well-populated areas or car parks with security features such as CCTV and gated entry will give you greater peace of mind. Check that your vehicle is locked before leaving it. Listen for the locking noise, watch out for the lights to flash or mirrors to fold, or simply pull the door handle.”
Also, a security consultant, Mr. Bunmi Odukoya, warned motorists against giving strangers a lift.
He said, “Car snatchers, most of the time, act like stranded persons. If you feel kind enough to give someone a lift, ensure you are not the only one in the car. Car snatchers are devising new techniques every day; hence motorists must be extra careful.”