The month of February did not end well for the trio of Ayobami Akintunde (50), Niniola Abiola (48) and Monsurat Kareem (40), as they were almost lynched by an irate mob at Sango area of Ibadan, Oyo State, over suspected kidnapping.
They were, however, saved by policemen from Sango Division, led by the Divisional Police Officer, one SP Joyce, who was joined by operatives of the Anti-Kidnapping Squad of the Oyo State Police Command.
Saturday Tribune’s findings, which were confirmed by the state Commissioner of Police, Leye Oyebade, during a press briefing on Monday, March 7, however revealed that the suspects were conmen who belonged to a syndicate popularly called Gbajue or 419, who fraudulently obtained money from unsuspecting victims by playing on their psychology.
According to the police commissioner, the four-member syndicate operated in a Honda Saloon car with registration number BDJ 913 DB. One of them, Abiola, accosted a 28-year-old woman, Mrs Amina Gafar at Sango area on the fateful day, asking for direction to a non-existing area. From that point, other suspects, who pretended to be passersby, joined, while Abiola started making revelations about each of them.
Swallowing the bait, albeit reluctantly, Mrs Gafar, who had a polythene bag containing N5,000, dropped it so that she could walk a distance to pick a stone without looking back, as instructed by Abiola.
Gafar, however, went against the instruction at a point, only to discover, to her consternation that the ‘prophetess’ and the two ‘passersby’ had boarded a car, about to move away with her money.
She raised the alarm and people who came from different directions descended on three of the members while one of them escaped. Not only were they pummeled, the Honda car they operated in was vandalised and turned into scrap metal by the mob which insisted on setting them on fire.
One of the suspects, Abiola, had her right eye pierced with an object, making it drip blood. The three suspects still bore the wounds and bruises that resulted from the mob action as of the time of filing this report.
Narrating her experience, Gafar, a mother of six, said: “That day, I came to Sango area from Olomi area where I lived. On my way back home, I decided to go to Oritamerin market to buy soya beans that I was using to make cheese for sale.
As I stood waiting for a commercial bus, a woman (whom I later knew to be Kareem) asked me for direction to a place but I replied that I was not familiar with the area.
“She approached another woman and she also gave the same reply as I did, unknown to me that they belonged to the same syndicate. The next thing she said was that I should pray very well so that I would not cry over my first child.
I thanked her and made to go but she called me again and said I should buy three edible things like sugar cane, orange and aadun (a corn delicacy in Yorubaland) as alms so that I would not die before seven days. I became afraid.
“She also spoke to the other woman and told her that she had twins, one of whom was dead. The woman confirmed the statement. She then asked the woman to pray for twins for me. Inwardly, I wondered what I needed twins for.
She asked the woman to drop all the things she was holding and moved forward to about three poles without looking back and bring a stone back.
“Kareem asked me to hold her purse for her while she obeyed the instructions given to her. I told her I could not, so that I would not land in trouble in case she claimed anything was missing. But she insisted and pushed the purse into the polythene bag I was carrying, just to win my confidence.
“She went and came back. I was then told to do the same thing. I had a feeling that I should not go. I hesitantly moved a few steps and stopped. The woman came to me and said it was as if I didn’t believe her. She asked me to spit into my palm and I did. To my surprise, the saliva appeared at the back of my hand.
“A man also appeared and the woman told him to go and release the two people he put in cell. The man introduced himself as a policeman and said that the people he locked up were thieves. He then advised me that I should not doubt what I was told.
“His status gave me confidence and I moved forward to pick a stone as I was instructed. I was told not to look back but a spirit asked me to look back and I did. I saw that the two women were already in the car with a man. The other man who called himself a policeman was standing, and as I started shouting thief, thief, he ran away.
“The suspects quickly threw my polythene bag at me. The crowd stopped me from leaving the scene so that I could narrate my experience to the police.”
The woman vowed never to respond to any request from any stranger, saying that she learnt a hard lesson through her experience.
One of the suspects, Abiola, an Ibadan indigene, who confirmed the victim’s narration, confessed to Saturday Tribune thus: “Yes it is true we collected a woman’s money, but immediately she raised the alarm, we threw her money back at her.
But the mob descended on us and beat us silly until we were rescued by the police. I just started the fraud business about a month ago. It was one Sunday who escaped arrest that introduced the idea to me. The government should forgive me; I will never be involved in such a thing again.
Another suspect, Monsurat Kareem (40), who came from Lagos State to join other members of the syndicate, said she was also invited by Sunday. “I knew Sunday in Lagos.
I was greatly indebted as a result of money I borrowed from a microfinance bank. I invested in business but it collapsed. When I explained to him, he said I should come and join a group. That was how I got involved,” she explained.
Monsurat also disclosed that she had once been arrested over a similar case and spent three months in remand at Agodi prisons before she was released. “Please, help me appeal to the government not to take me to the prison because it would be like a death sentence.
“This is my second outing and I have never gained from this crime; I have always been at the receiving end. I believe that the beating I went through was God showing Himself to me that He was not happy at the path I have toed, which is a path of destruction.”
The third suspect, Ayobami Akintunde (50), an Ikire indigene who resides in Abeokuta, also claimed that he decided to be a fraudster because he could not pay his children’s school fees. “I use my private car for commercial purpose but it was not yielding much money for me. My role was to convey the syndicate members with my car.
I just thank God for the timely arrival of the police. If not, I would have been a dead man now. It is now that I know that police is our friend.”
Oyebade however said that the suspects would be charged to court after the conclusion of investigations.