•Dedicates two cars after robbery attack
•Church deserted by members, sealed
•Wife absconds with children
On Tuesday, Lagos State Police Command, paraded seven suspects of a robbery gang that attacked the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Lagos, last month, killed two policemen and injured several others.
Among the suspects, was the General Overseer of The way of Joy church located in Egbe, a Lagos suburb. The clergy , identified as Pastor Ibikunle Olarewaju John, confessed to Crime Guard during the parade, that he administered an oath of secrecy on the gang members, on the day they attacked the Muritala Mohammed Airport.
Members of the gang discovered to have come all the way from Kwara, Osun, Ibadan and Ogun states, during interrogation, confessed to have attacked same airport last year,where they carted away N600 Million. They also stormed the airport on again on March 13, 2013 at about 7.30 pm.
But this time around, they were reportedly engaged in a gun battle by two policemen attached to Apapa division said to be on official assignment at the airport. Unfortunately for the policemen, they were gunned down in the process. But before they breathed their last, they managed to kill a member of the gang.
The robbers said to have succeeded in carting away over N10 Million from a Bureau-De -change operators, went straight to their hideout inside a bush in Ijebu-Ode, where they shared their loot.
Dedicates cars with members from loot
In this interview with Pastor Ibikunle, he disclosed that his share of the loot was N500,000. But investigation carried out by Crime Guard, showed that he might have got more than that. A suspected member of the gang confirmed Crime Guard’s claim. A further attestation to this claim, was the discovery that Pastor Ibikunle bought two cars apparently from his share of the loot, two weekes later.
During Crime Guard’s visit to The Way of Joy Church, located on Alliu Street, Egbe, Thursday, it was discovered that the church was built with planks. And locating the church was a difficult task, as there was no sign board. It took Crime Guard about an hour search to locate it .
On closer look , it was discovered that the church had been sealed. Although, no one agreed to talk about Pastor Ibikunle and the church when approached, apparently for fear of being arrested .
Finally, a man who pleaded anonymity opened up and asked :“Are you a member of the church”? The reporters shook their heads.
He further said, “ if you know what is good for you, better leave there before you will get yourself into trouble. The white garment church was sealed last week after the arrest of the Pastor.. Some policemen came last week and arrested him and before we knew it, we started hearing he was a member of a robbery gang. Even , the whole newspapers in Nigeria carried the news two days ago”
Before his arrest, Pastor Ibikunle was said to have dedicated two vehicles ,during which he hosted members of his church and friends to a buffet.
“Although he is an easy- going fellow who by every dint of appearance never exhibited any character of a robber. We usually saw people coming in and out of the church on daily. And on Sundays, there were usually church services.
Towards the end of the month, he treated his members and friends who came in posh cars to a party, in celebration of his newly purchased cars. It was not long that we heard he bought them with the proceeds from the robbery operation at the airport. It was after his arrest that I believed the popular saying that facial appearance is indeed deceptive”, another resident who earlier declined to speak on the issue said.
Wife absconded with children
From Crime Guard’s findings, it was discovered also that when operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad stormed the clergy’s one-room apartment located on the same building with the church, to effect his arrest, his wife was not at home.
On arrival, she was said to have visited Ikotun, Ejigbo and Idimu police stations in search for her husband. She was said to have also raised alarm that he could have been abducted by men in police uniform.
But when news of her husband’s alleged indulgence in criminal activities reached her, she was said to have been spelled bound.
A family friend to the Ibikunles told Crime Guard that, “ she came crying to us that some men in plain clothes came to pick her husband. But when she discovered the truth at SARSs where we eventually found him, she broke down. At first she did not believe the claim, as she thought it could have been cooked up. But when her husband confessed to her, she said that was the height she could take from him.
“More painful according to her, is the fact that she said she asked her husband where he got the money with which he bought the cars , only for him to tell her it was given to him by someone who got healed of a terminal disease after a deliverance section with him.”
As at the time Crime Guard visited, Mrs Ibikunle was nowhere around the church’s premises. But a neigbour later revealed that she was seen packing her belongings out of the house, with her children. The resident could however, not say her whereabouts. Since the arrest, no church member had reportedly come to worship there.
I spent 14 hours in the bush waiting for the gang members—Pastor Ibikunle
Speaking with Crime Guard, Pastor Ibikunle revealed that he spent 14 hours in the gang’s hideout, inside a bush in Ijebu-Ode area of Ogun State, on the day of the robbery attack at the international airport.
Hear him, “ Before that day, one of them, Asiwaju, said I should come and administer an oat of secrecy on members of his gang. I invited them to come to my church but they said they would not want to arouse suspicion. At the end, I went to Ijebu-Ode. I waited at a designated point before a member of the gang came and took me to their hideout inside the bush.
I administered the oath on them about 1pm. You will not understand if I start explaining because it is a spiritual thing. I said some incantation into a horn and added some other things.
I waited there until they came back around 11.30pm.,before leaving next day, with N500,000. I was instructed not to tell any one about what transpired.I swore,that is all my involvement. I never followed them to rob”, he said.
Asked if he informed his wife about his mission, he replied, “ No, I did not. I only told her when leaving that I was going to pray over night for a ‘big man’ who would not like to come to our area. And when I came back, I told her the money was given to me by the ‘big man’”.
I regret my involvement
In an emotional laden voice, Pastor Ibikunle looked at Crime Guard , battling hard not to betray his emotion, “ Am I going to die? He asked with a tear filled eyes. Ah! he exclaimed. I would have remained in my cubicle as a poor man than heeding the advice of the gang. Now, I am left without nothing! My condition is even worse.
“I’m appealing to every member of my church to forgive me for embarrassing them. This is the devil’s handiwork. I can not even face members of my family now…”, the 37 year-old father of two paused and bent his head, refusing to speak any further.