It was a queer case of law enforcement becoming lawbreakers when three soldiers were found among eleven persons arrested by men of the Lagos Police Command for vandalising solar panels belonging to government and private individuals across the state before carting off the parts to be sold off.
Preliminary investigations reveal that the suspects were responsible for vandalising solar items at Epe, Sangotedo, Elerangbe and Badagry area of the state. No less than 16 solar panels and batteries were recovered from the suspects and they confessed to be selling each for N25,000 as against the usual price of N100,000.
The suspects were identified as: Samuel Ani, 30; Michael Omoregbe, 30; Efosa Philip Emmanuel, 27; Ifedayo Odufoye, 35; Chibizie Nnamani, 34; Festus Maduka, 26; John Nwokeoma, 31, and Chibuzor Chukwu, 23.
The three serving Army personnel were reported to have been taken to the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army in Victoria Island, and an in-house investigation to determine their involvement has commenced.
Lagos state Commissioner of Police, Imohimi Edgal, while explaining how the gang was arrested said:
“On September 5, at about 2 a.m., seven armed men invaded Okemagbon Senior Secondary school, Epe, along with three soldiers in a truck with number plates LND 61 XQ. They headed straight to the solar panel and vandalised 71 solar panels.”
He explained that the suspects also forced open the door of the container where the inverter batteries and accessories were kept. But they were undone when the local police station were alerted.
“Immediately the local police was alerted, they mobilised a patrol team to the scene, where the suspects were arrested.
“Preliminary investigation also led operatives of the command to track other suspects to Delta, Anambra and Imo states, where one Festus Maduka was picked up in a hotel. He confessed to have received solar panels and inverter batteries from the gang.
“Sixteen solar panels and 33 inverter batteries were recovered from them.”
When quizzed by newsmen, Samuel Ani who claimed to be leader of the gang revealed that a member of the gang, Michael Omerebe, who is a final year student of a South-West university, was responsible for locating areas where solar panels were installed.
He also revealed that he usually paid each soldier N50,000 to escort the stolen items from the location where they were vandalised to Arena Market along Agege Motor Road, Oshodi, where they were sold to merchants, Vanguard reports.
“After vandalising, we will take it to Arena, where I sold solar panel for N25, 000 and the battery for N17,000. I used the soldiers as escorts.
“They charged us N150,000 to escort the items from Epe to Oshodi and they are aware that they are stolen items. I was yet to pay them the money before we were arrested.”
It is indeed scary to know that some of those we are supposed to trust with our security are actually involved in such criminality. This development once again throws aspersions on the rationale behind allowing security officers act as escorts to merchant vehicles.