About four years ago, Dokun Adewusi, a 39-year-old from Abeokuta, Ogun State, thought of delving into the business of selling cars. Wanting to take after his friend who was also in the business, he said the huge profit being made attracted him to it, but he did not seek for advice from his friend before embarking upon it. Unfortunately for him, the first time he made a trip to Cotonou to buy a secondhand vehicle for resale in Nigeria, the car was impounded by the Nigeria Customs Service and he made a loss.
So when he got back to Nigeria, he went to his friend to seek for advice. It was then his friend told him about the secret behind his car dealership business: buy stolen vehicles from armed robbers at cheap prices and resell at higher prices, but still lower than the actual market prices.
For three years that Adewusi tried this method, he said he had sold up to 48 cars which were stolen by his armed robber partners. But ill luck caught up with him in June 2014 when one of the cars that his colleagues had stolen was tracked by the police. He was implicated in the matter and is now in the custody of the Special Anti Robbery Squad of the Lagos State Police Command.
He told Saturday PUNCH that, “Being in my mid-thirties and having nothing to show for it, I thought of businesses that I could do that would fetch me huge profit.
“I also partnered with some armed robbers that my friends introduced me to. They specialised in snatching cars and from them I used to buy and sell cars to people. I have been in the business for about three years now until June when I was arrested by SARS men. Meanwhile, I still used to travel to Cotonou to buy cars for resale, but many of the vehicles that I had sold so far were the ones I bought from these armed robbers.”
Adewusi added that his armed robber partners usually operated in Lagos and Abeokuta, Ogun State and that they only specialised in stealing Toyota and Honda cars because those were the two brands his clients used to demand from him and also because “those two brands are easier to maintain than any other brand of vehicle in Nigeria.”
He added, “Apart from selling to other people, I also used to sell these cars to some friends who would also resell them. I have sold about 50 stolen vehicles in my three years of operation. My suppliers used to majorly steal Toyota Corolla, Camry and Highlander, and some Hondas.
“Once they bring the stolen vehicles to me, I would give them money. They used to sell them for between N500,000 and N700,000 depending on the type of the vehicle. I would then resell them ranging from N1m to N1.2m depending on the type of the vehicle. People used to buy these vehicles from me a lot because they were cheap.”
Asked how he used to get the particulars for the vehicles since they were stolen, he said, “There is a person who used to process the vehicle particulars for me so that I would be able to sell them. The name is Moji and, she works in the Licensing Office in Oyingbo, Lagos. She would process everything for me. Those documents are, however, fake.”
Things were going fine for Adewusi until June 2014 when he was arrested by SARS officers when they traced a stolen vehicle to one of the armed robbers that was his supplier.
He said, “One of the armed robbers who used to supply me the vehicles called me one day and told me that the car he stole had been seized by the police. Unfortunately for us both, the car had a tracker and I guess the owner had alerted the police to track his car.
“The police were able to track the car and arrested him. But before then, there were people who used to help me remove trackers from them. Their names are Rasheed and M.S. It was unfortunate we had not removed the tracker of that car before it was traced to that my colleague.”
On the manner he used to sell the stolen cars, Adewusi concluded, “I had no car showroom. People just used to call me to supply them cars. I operated from my house in Abule-Egba, Lagos. They knew I was selling cars but they did not know where I used to get the cars from. What attracted them to me were the lower prices at which I used to sell the vehicles. I have four children now and a wife. They have all been shamed now because of my greed.”
Sitting alongside Adewusi is Henry Adebayo. He said he never knew Adewusi until they met in the custody of SARS operatives attached to the Lagos State Police Command, Ikeja in June 2014. Adebayo narrated the connection between the two of them.
He said, “I had a friend who we used to steal laptops and phones together sometime ago. One day, we were arrested and we spent some time in the prison. It was while we were in the prison that we made other friends. After we left the prison, my friend met two other ex-prison inmates and we started doing ‘tear net’ business again.”
According to Adebayo, the ‘tear net’ business is one which involves tearing people’s window nets and stealing laptops and phones through them. But while still in the prison, some of the prison inmates he made friends with were some of the armed robbers that used to supply Adewusi stolen vehicles for sale.
He said, “When we left the prison, my friend told me that one of our fellow prison inmates who was a car thief gave somebody a car and that the person wanted to send him money. He asked if he could use my account number. I told him I was not interested. However, when I came out of the prison, I was so broke that I had to visit him again to ask for money to eat. And since we came out of the prison, we had stolen four laptops and two phones again. After that operation, I told him I would not do the business again and I left him. “Two months later he called me that the person who we went to the prison together wanted to receive some money and that he had given him my account number. I called that person to know what kind of deal they had before sending money into my own account. His name is Monday.”
He continued, “I used to live in Agbara, Lagos but go for ‘tear net’ operations in Ajah. So one day, I went for a party with Monday and his other friends, our ex prison inmates: Ojukwu, Sunday, Alhaji and others. They said they were heading towards Ajah and I followed them for an operation. I was paid N15,000 as my share for the first operation and N10,000 for the second one.
“I knew Ojukwu while we were in the prison yard. I also learnt that Ojukwu had a stolen Toyota Highlander SUV. When we all left the prison yard, I called Ojukwu sometime in June 2014. We went to watch football in the Isolo area of Lagos as it was during the period of the Brazil World Cup. After the match, we went for out ‘tear net’ operation. For three days, we stole four laptops and two phones.
“After that, I said I would not do the business again for the second time. I wanted to do a local job, but I still used to call him whether he too had found something else to do. One day during our conversation, he asked if I had an account that someone wanted to send him some money. When I called the person, he told me to come for the money. I called Ojukwu back and he said it was the buyer of the stolen Highlander who bought the car when we were in the prison.
“As I called Ojukwu again one day, he told me to come and that we should go to the market. On that day I was arrested by the police because of my bank account being linked to the operation. That buyer of the Highlander from Ojukwu is this Henry Adebayo. It was through Ojukwu that I am now in the custody of SARS men. I never even collected the money. I knew nothing about it.”
Regretting his actions, he said, “I am 30 years old with two children and a wife. I used to be a mason before. I was also into agriculture before. In fact, I am a Christian and even used to be a worker in the church. It is not my destiny to be here. The next time I would be interviewed, it would be for good.”
The Lagos State Police PRO, Ngozi Braide, said she was yet to be informed on the case. “I am not aware of it,” she said. But a top officer in the SARS unit of the Lagos State Police Command, who is not authorised to speak on the matter, said investigations were still ongoing to arrest Moji, who used to process fake vehicle particulars for Adewusi and Rasheed who used to remove trackers from stolen vehicles before they were being sold by Adewusi.