The Lagos State Police Command has arrested two suspects for allegedly vandalising Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) underground cables in Ikeja, the state capital.
The suspects Taofeek Babatunde (33) and Ibrahim Sise were paraded yesterday at the command headquarters in Ikeja.
They were also accused of offering N500,000 bribe to the policemen who caught them.
Police Commissioner Fatai Owoseni said the suspects were caught by anti-crime patrol team of the Ikeja Police Division.
He said: “They were caught vandalising, cutting, stealing and loading NITEL cables into a truck on Works Road junction beside the Lagos State High Court. When the suspects were accosted, they offered to the bribe the policemen to cover up their crime. They offered N500,000 and, of course, the policemen played along with them and collected the money.
“They arrested the suspects after collecting the money, which you can see right here. On counting the money, it was discovered that it amounted to N493,500 and the policemen, in furtherance to the call of responsible and effective policing by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), turned down the gratification.
“Those policemen stood their ground, although they played along as if they were going to collect the money, which they handed over to their Divisional Police Officer (DPO). The N493,500 offered as bribe, the Volvo truck with which they were about to cart away the vandalised cables, the saw blades they used as tools for cutting those underground cables and, of course, the cables that have been loaded in to the truck, were recovered and would be used as exhibits.
Efforts are on to arrest the third suspect, Wasiu Salami, who is on the run. The two suspects we have will be arraigned before the court on Tuesday.”
Sise denied being a vandal, saying he was a scrap dealer who usually bought items in quantities from some men.
According to him, he did not know his customers usually stole the items they sold to him.
Sise said he was only told by the same group of boys that they had a big business for him.
He said: “Some guys usually sold scraps to me but in little quantities, about N3,000 or N5,000. I don’t really know much about these guys, but I know they live at Apapa. They came to me on Sunday and said they wanted to bring a big business for me. But they requested for a huge amount of money, which I refused to give them.
“I insisted on accompanying them to the place. So, on getting there, I already knew it wasn’t legal. I asked them how they planned to do it and they said they were doing it with a police patrol team. Even before we left, they made me speak with the policemen.
“We went in the night. I saw the patrol team and the boys. I do not know how to cut; I only buy and sell. So, I just left there and went to a club at Ikeja under bridge. After two hours, I went back and saw that they had finished the job.
“We were packing the cables into the truck when another patrol team came. The two patrol teams met there. I’m saying the truth. So, the patrol team that arrested me was discussing with the patrol team we were with already.
“Our patrol team came to me and asked how much I could afford to give those people to settle them. I said they should negotiate with them and that any amount they agreed. We agreed that they would come and meet me and I would give them, if I had it with me.
“Later, he came to me and said I should give him N300,000. At that time, I had only N250,000. I had to go back and get money to complete it. I came back and gave them the money. The boys who stole the cable and loaded the vehicle were still around when I brought the money.
“The police told the driver to drive the vehicle to the station. We followed, even with the boys. When we got there, he (a policeman) said he would take N500,000 and I didn’t have any more money. I had to go back that night to knock on people’s doors to beg for money, just because I wanted to settle it. I came back, gave him the balance of N200,000, which is the money here.
“After collecting the money, he said I should stay with the driver that in the morning, when the DPO comes, we would talk. I stayed till the DPO came, and that was it. The police didn’t arrest the boys.
They went away scot-free. I have been doing this business for 13 years now. I have never been to a police station. I don’t know if this was a trap set for me.”
The driver, Babatunde, said he was promised N30,000 to drive the truck, adding that he agreed because he was told some policemen were part of the arrangement.