The son of a director in the civil service of a South West state, Tosin George a.k.a. Olorunwa, a robbery gang kingpin, is currently on the wanted list of the Oyo State Police Command after about seven vehicles snatched from different victims were recovered from different parts of the country by operatives of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Ibadan. Also arrested were five of his gang members. George, a polytechnic dropout turned driver, had once been arrested by SARS operatives in Ibadan for robbery but had to have his charge changed to stealing when his father allegedly threatened to sue the police for defaming the character of his son. It was learnt, however, that the father himself had been faced with realities of his son’s activities when it was discovered that he even registered one of the snatched vehicles in his father’s name. The vehicle was discovered in his father’s compound.
This was revealed recently when the suspects were paraded before journalists at the police headquarters in Ibadan. The robbery suspects’ names were given as Saheed Awoniyi, Adewale Kazeem, Olakunle Olabimtan while the suspected gang leader, Tosin George a.k.a. Olorunwa and another member popularly known as Morning Star are still at large. Tosin was said to have special interest in unregistered vehicles.
Also arrested was one Anthony Ugbedi a.k.a. Biggie Port who was accused of receiving stolen cars from George’s gang, and from whom the Toyota Camry car snatched at Ashi area of Ibadan was recovered in Port Harcourt. The fifth suspect, Raphael Amuta, was also accused of being a receiver of stolen vehicle.
During the press briefing, the Oyo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mohammed Indabawa, who spoke through the command’s image maker, Olabisi Okuwobi-Ilobanafor, told journalists that the gang went to a man’s house at Ashi area in June, 2013 and dispossessed him of an unregistered Toyota Camry valued at N1.2million.
The police commissioner revealed that detailed investigation by SARS operatives led to the arrest of one of the suspects, Olabimtan, at Iyana Offa area of Ibadan. A red Volkswagen car with registration number LSR 63 BG was also recovered from him. The suspect reportedly confessed that he and four others, led by George, were responsible for the car robbery at Ashi, and that their leader took the vehicle to one Raphael Amuta at Bodija Oju-irin area.
“The arrest of Amuta led to the recovery of three other vehicles, including a Mercedes Benz 4matic with registration number KSF 936 BH. Kazeem and Awoniyi were arrested at Iyana Offa and Ile-Ife respectively and they also confirmed George as their leader. Through the efforts of the SARS operatives, one Chikodi Anyanwu Henry of Kirikiri, Lagos, who specialised in the forgery of Customs duty papers for robbed vehicles and Anthony Ugbedi, a receiver of stolen goods, were also arrested. Two more robbed vehicles were recovered from Ugbedi,” he stated.
The police commissioner said that the vehicles were recovered in Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Lagos and Abakaliki. Other recovered vehicles are: Mazda bus with registration number APP 943 XD; Toyota Camry with registration number CH 500 JJJ; unregistered Toyota Camry; Toyota Dyna truck with registration number MNY 252 XA and Lexus Sport Utility Vehicle with registration number AA 722 AKD.
It was gathered that the 4matic Benz had two bullet holes on it which were cleverly covered with a plaster by Amuta who bought it from Tosin.
Saturday Tribune held an interview with the suspects. Below are their confessions:
Saheed Awoniyi, Ibadan, (27)
I am a driver. I joined Tosin Olorunwa George in March 2013. We lived in the same area at Iyana Offa. He said he would give me a bus to drive along Ibadan-Abuja route. When I had an accident with the bus, he gave me a Toyota Dyna truck he was using to supply bricks to his customers because he had a block-making firm. He also told me he was into importation of Tokunbo vehicles and we used to see him with many vehicles.
One day, Tosin called us to follow him to the junction of our area. We saw an unregistered Mazda where it was parked at Olodo area. He told us it belonged to his friend and we took it.
The day we went to take the Camry, he told me he was going to his girlfriend’s house at Ashi axis. We went in one of his buses and arrived in a place at about 9.30p.m. We parked and he and Kazeem got down. After quite some time, at about 12midnight, we saw him come out of a compound with the Toyota Camry. Unfortunately, my phone which he seized from me fell down in the house and we were traced through it. He took the Camry to his house that night and took it away very early the next day before we woke up.
The day we went to snatch a 4matic Mercedes Benz, one of our gang members called Morning Star held a gun under the flowing Agbada he was putting on. One Lanre brought guns to Tosin and he kept them under the stairs. There was a day Tosin saw an unregistered Mazda bus whose driver was making a u-turn. Tosin and Morning Star got down while I went to make a u-turn. Before I got back to them, they had already taken the bus along with the driver. They later dropped the driver somewhere.
We also picked an unregistered black Golf car parked somewhere. We met Lanre beside the car and it was later brought to the house. He was not giving us anything except that we were living with him. He was also giving me N20,000 salary for working in his block firm. The hope we had was his promise that he would give us concrete blocks to build our own houses.
Olakunle Olabimtan(24) from Ikirun, Osun State
I knew Tosin in the neighbourhood where I lived. When my mother died, Tosin bought a motorcycle for me. He told me he used to travel to buy Tokunbo vehicles. At a point, I started living with him in his parents’ house. When he was arrested in 2011, I left his father’s house after the man collected the okada Tosin gave me.
When he was released, he gave me another okada. He later collected it and gave me a commercial bus which he put in a motor park at Iwo Road. I was plying Lagos-Ibadan route. He moved into his personal and I was living with him.
One day, Tosin called me to make sure I get to Ibadan unfailingly from Lagos. I didn’t meet him but Saheed was at home. We were sleeping when I received his call that I should pick his Golf car and come with Saheed and meet him in Oyo. What Tosin said was that he wanted to receive a vehicle he brought in from Cotonou. At 11.30p.m., we were almost in Ogbomoso when he called again that I should turn back and come back to Oyo.
We met him, Kazeem and Morning Star, at Ilora trailer park along the expressway. I saw the commercial bus he left home with and a Mercedes 4matic car with him. Saheed got down and came back to tell me that he saw Tosin cleaning blood from his nose and when he asked why, Tosin replied him that he had an encounter with Customs men and they shot at him.
Saheed and I came back to Ibadan around 3.30a.m., and shortly after, Tosin also came in with others. The Benz car was with him.
At another time, he told me to meet at Iwo road and I took him Mokola hill in front of Cultural Centre where there is a drink joint. A friend of his, Raphael, joined us and they started discussing after he asked me to excuse him. After the discussion, he joined me in the bus and told me that it was Raphael he sold the car to and he was owing him some money.
Also, one day, Tosin asked me to take him, Saheed and Kazeem to Ashi area to Amuta’s house. Before we got there, he asked me to park and he got down with Kazeem while I remained in the vehicle with Saheed. He went into a building while I remained behind the steering. After about five minutes, he came out with an unregistered Camry car and beckoned at me to move. That was almost 11p.m. As we moved, I heard shouts of ole! Ole!! (thief! thief!!). He later came home with the car but took it to Amuta at day break.
I knew Amuta and Biggie with Tosin. There was a time Tosin invited me to Ogere toll gate in Ogun State and I met Raphael and Biggie with him. The Toyota Camry was with them that day.
I knew he was into robbery when he went to take that Camry but no one was bold enough to ask him questions. When I asked him about the Camry, he got angry and withdrew his bus from me. I don’t know how he got the red Golf car removed from park at Mokola area, I only got home to see it. I was arrested while trying to help Tosin repair the red Golf car which broke down somewhere.
Ifeanyi Ugbedi (Port-Harcourt)
Biggie, whose real name is Ifeanyi Ugbedi and based in Port Harcourt, told Saturday Tribune that he was into car business.
“About five months ago, I met a ‘crosser’ who usually brought in my cars from Cotonou. He was the one who introduced Tosin to me and gave me his number. I called Tosin and he said he had a Toyota Camry 2000 model and Ipsum. I asked for his car stand but he said he did not have. He took me to Raphael’s house where I saw the Camry but there were no customs papers. He told me he had misplaced the documents. We agreed on N700,000. I sold the car to a pastor in Port Harcourt for N1.080million. I did not know he was an armed robber, I would not have bought it. I bought the Toyota Ipsum from him for N650,000.
Raphael Amuta (44), Anambra State (Trader in electrical materials at Salvation Army road, Ibadan.)
Tosin told me that he brought a Tokunbo vehicle, Toyota Ipsum, from Cotonou and did not have a good place to keep it. He brought it to my house for safekeeping, saying that someone was coming to pick it. Biggie came and because we were both Igbo, we spoke and he later took the car away after arranging documents.
Tosin also told me that he got a 4matic Benz and I told him I would like to buy it. He sold it to me for N1.4million. I have paid him N700,000 and Biggie helped me to get some documents for it.
I saw the holes on the car but he told me that they came with the vehicle. He used labels to cover them. I removed the labels and replaced with plaster that matched the colour of the car. I didn’t know they were bullet perforations.
Biggie also came for the Camry car. Tosin delivered it to him at Ogere, Ogun State. I was the one who took Biggie to Tosin at Ogere. I was given N10,000 by Biggie.
Adewale Kazeem, generator repairer
I knew Tosin when he used to come and repair generator in my shop. I knew him as someone who deals in importation of Tokunbo vehicles. When I had nothing to do after my shop was demolished by Yes-O officials in Ibadan, he told me to come and be working with him at his block firm at Lalupon. I was also living in his house.
I met all the vehicles recovered by the police with him, except the Toyota Camry and Benz 4matic. Though I was with him the day he got the 4matic benz, he only told me he was going to receive his vehicle being brought into Nigeria through Saki. We got to Oyo at about 8.30p.m. and went to a drink joint. In the process, I got drunk and could not remember anything that happened afterwards. I only saw the Benz after he woke me up. Morning Star drove the bus we went with. I saw a gun with Morning Star under the Agbada he put on.
On the day we went for the Camry, we were asleep when Tosin came to wake us up. One thing about him was that he wielded so much power that no one dared refuse him anytime he gave an order. There were four of us – Tosin, Saheed, Kunle and I. We parked and Tosin went into a house. He came out with the Camry car and asked me to join him. It was when we got back home that Tosin discovered that Saheed’s phone dropped from him in the house where he took the Camry from. He sold the 4matic to Amuta. I asked him what he was going to give us from the 4matic car, he replied that he was going to build each of us a house after he must have completed his own.
We also picked an unregistered Mazda bus by the roadside at Olodo. He just came to wake up one night and told us to follow him. When we got to where the vehicle was, he went into it, kick-started it and drove it back home.
A police source told Saturday Tribune that the structure being built by Tosin would be a big one at completion. He was said to have designed the house in a way that he could see anyone coming from afar. Though the father claimed that he bought the land for his son and his sister, he did not know how he was able to raise the structure to that level.
The director also said that he was the one who handed the block firm, which Tosin was using as a cover-up, to him. The man was reported to have told the police that he thought his son bought the Mazda bus he registered in his (father’s) name with proceeds from the block industry.
From all indications, Tosin came from a responsible family but decided to be a deviant despite efforts of his parents at preventing this. In an interview with 25-year-old Tosin in 2011 when he was first detained at SARS, he had revealed to Saturday Tribune that “I was a student of The Polytechnic, Ibadan, Saki campus, but dropped out in 2006 while still in ND1. I was advised to withdraw because I didn’t do some exams. Instead of going back home, I decided to join a friend of mine at Iwo Road motor park and I became a driver on Lagos-Ibadan route.
“I stopped living at home and went to rent a room at Oje area of Ibadan. When my parents got to know about my whereabouts, they came to the park to warn the union leaders against giving me vehicles to drive because it was education they wanted me to pursue. At a time, I had an accident. My parents took care of me and I returned home after treatment in UCH. After some months, I went back to the park to see some friends and that was how I was given a vehicle to drive again. I was also a member of a faction of the NURTW.
“I joined a robbery gang in April 2001 through one Baba Ibeji who was living at Popoyeosa area. I knew Baba Ibeji through one Tunde, a fellow okada rider who was living at Olodo area. It was Baba Ibeji who introduced me to car battery theft. We started stealing from abandoned/broken-down vehicles. Our other gang members were John Bolaji and Jamiu but John did not follow us during our last operation. We had operated before at Alakia, Academy, Moniya in Ibadan and Oyo areas before our last operation at Moniya which eventually led to my arrest.”
Police sources informed Saturday Tribune then that Tosin was traced through his phone. He was reported to have gone with his gang members to Moniya area at about 12.30 a.m. on October 30, 2011 to vandalise a broken-down Mercedes Benz car. They however fled when they sighted policemen who were on patrol of the area. Unfortunately for the gang, one of their handsets fell and this helped to trace Tosin. Initially, Tosin had reportedly denied being a robber but claimed that he lost the handset in another area of the city. He opened up when his case was transferred to SARS and mentioned other gang members, who he said were petty thieves. He was charged to court and released on bail.. That was in 2011.
In the current case, The police commissioner said that Tosin’s gang members would soon be charged to court while there is a serious manhunt for the fleeing suspect.