Nigeria battles with the biggest civil insecurity in our history and each day is becoming scarier that the last. Citizens go about their daily lives with trepidation about their lives, properties and communities. The situation is more like an exacerbation of the state of sleeping with one eye open. This time, sleeping at all, is a fantasy.
What makes this far worse is that some men and women signed up to providing security for the nation have become an active part of its destabilization. The greed and desperation level of populace is quickly building the nation towards chaos and total collapse.
In this report, Freelanews.com features a true-life experience written by Ben Adenle, a Lagos based IT consultant on how the Nigerian Police Force could be abetting a syndicate of mobile phone thieves at the Computer Village, Ikeja, Lagos.
At around 4.30pm, Fatai (not real name) tried to buy a ‘UK-used’ iPhone 6 from a showglass seller, just along Kodesho, by Ikeja under-bridge. He could not afford the final price the seller maintained, so he walked to try his luck somewhere else. As he walked a few metres further he saw a lanky dude waving same brand and model of phone and beckoning on passersby to pratonise. Fatai went on to bargain with and soon pulled out a bundle of cash to pay. He was expecting to save a whooping N23,000 on the average sales price and quickly followed the guy to a corner to conclude transaction.
Few minutes into testing the phone and handing the seller his cash, another guy walked up and grabbed the seller by his trousers as though he was going to arrest him. The seller shouted to Fatai to run! Na police! Fatai not knowing what was going on and visibly scared of what he might be getting involved with dashed a few metres away and within a minute, both seller and the supposed policeman disappeared with the cash Fatai had paid and the phone.
Fatai waking up to the fact that he has been scammed quickly rushed to a police officer standing under the bridge to complain (now fully tearing up). The thieves were in sight walking off toward Ipodo market. Fatai pointed at them with so much anger and hope that the officer would immediately jump into action and apprehend them. The officer told him to go to Area F to state his case and returned to his on-looking.
I watched this play out and many more attempts and successful snatching, pocket-picking and scamming under the Ikeja Computer Village bridge, in broad day light, as I waited to get the screen of my phone fixed. The phone repairer told me this was normal and the boys are known. That they resume to work like all other legitimate businesses and hustlers in Computer Village. In fact, he started identifying them within the crowd seated under the bridge and those walking on the pedestrian walkway. It was like a movie, but this was the reality of the collapse of security in Nigeria. At some point the engineer warned me to stop staring so directly at the hub under the bridge, else I was going to be in trouble. Well, I got my phone repaired and made my way home, thinking that I have garnered enough information about the place to ever fall victim of this.
Fast forward to four months later. I just had my phone replaced with an expensive Samsumg Galaxy S21 Ultra (retailing for about N610,000 at the time). I protected the phone with my most acute senses knowing what losing it meant in terms of loses and disappointment.
Then, on February 15, I was back at Computer Village; this time to fix my wife’s spare phone and pick up the company’s official laptop that was with a repairer. I spent almost half of the day at the Village, because I had to wait to get both devices. At about 6.30pm I was done. I had my assigned macbook pro and the other macbook air I went to fix in a tote bag that I hung by my shoulders, meticulously cuddled so tightly to avoid any sort of picking, since the bag was open (here was my mistake, I ought to have gone with a bagpack).
As I walked towards the roundabout where I had parked, I was bumped into by this urchin. I was angry, but just passed by him knowing there wasn’t a thing I wanted to say to the fellow. He came after me and grabbed my belt with his both hands, shouting that I hit him and didn’t say sorry. My alertness immediately went o the laptops in the back, so I held more tightly with one arm and tried using the other hand to disentangle his claws to my trousers. After a few minutes of tussle, he left me and turned back. I immediately remembered I had my new phone in my pocket and quickly reached out to get it. My brothers and sisters in Nigeria, it was gone!
I was gutted, livid and disillusioned. Almost in biblical bro Job’s words, ‘the thing I feared most has come upon me’. I knew there wasn’t much I could do going to the police officers standing around, nor there was any hope with the Area F guys, so I went to meet contacts at Computer Village on how they are able to recover stolen phones.
A very close friend then informed me of some guy who links people up to officers specialized in that. The bill was N40k for tracking, and before arrest is made, one would pay some amount of money to be determined. The friend also decided to seize the opportunity to recover the iPhone 12 Pro Max he bought for his wife which was stolen also at the Computer Village some three months back. (Okay, some consolation that I wasn’t the stupidest of people, if this Computer Village veteran could be pilfered, who I be?).
He went on to forward details of the iPhone and the initial deposit for the tracking. Asked me to wait until he gets a report that the phone has been found with a proof of the tracking before putting my money, since he doesn’t know those people quite well.
Two weeks later, I followed up with a visit and he showed me the messaged that was forwarded to him, showing the contact using the phone at the moment, his triangulated location and mobility data. I decided to quickly put in my order.
Two weeks more and I got same information that the current user of my phone was in Agbara area of Lagos. Good news! I thought, so the next step is to wait for another three weeks for monitoring until arrest and recovery is initiated. Just over a week later, my friend (lets call him Daniel) called and asked me to come. This is the point of this whole story. The summary is given below
The arrest of the individual using the iPhone was made, without his knowledge. The police officer alleged that the person said he had resold the phone to someone in Benin Republic, but paid N470,000 as restitution. The policemen therefore told Daniel that he should send his account and they will transfer N220,000 to him being the left over from the money, after the deduction of their mobilization fee of N250,000. In the end what actually got to Daniel was N170,000!
I became weary of the possibility of suffering same fate, so I bailed on them in furtherance of our discussions towards the recovery of mine and reached out to some relative (that I only later remembered) for some more dependable intel on the state of the device.
Several discussions that followed this with the guys at computer village highlighted some very worrisome situations:
- Police men are one of the most frequent used mobile phone flippers, often high-end phones
- There is a syndicate for the stealing, flipping and covering of mobile phones and other gadgets at the Computer Village
- There is NOTHING like UK-used phone! There are a few used phones legally procured and imported from the US, but no such commercial quantities from the UK. Most of the foreign-used phones sold in Nigeria are refurbished phones from Huaqiangbei Mobile Phone market in China. Some with the assistance of Chinese speaker use taobao.com. These phones are often manufacturer returns, scrapped, etc., which purchasers then put together for resell. The other source of used phones is the Phone-Grabbing-Flipping Syndicate of Ikeja Computer Village, which puts buyers at the risk of bearing the consequences of theft.
- The Nigeria Police rank and file are the enablers for the criminal activities going on at Ikeja Computer village.
Based on the above true-life story, Freelanews launched an investigation within the ambit of the law and the report is staggering. We will be providing this report in a part two to this article, which features video evidence of the activities of the thieves, etc.