The whereabouts of Sergeant Richard Akaeze, a soldier working in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, have been shrouded in mystery since July 2018.
Akaeze left home on July 21, 2018, in a Peugeot 406 saloon car he used as a cab whenever he was off duty.
It was learnt that a case of a missing person was reported to the police and investigation was launched into the incident.
Recently, operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team led by DCP Abba Kyari arrested one Sanusi Balla and recovered Akaeze’s phone from him. Another suspect, Nurudeen Ibrahim, was also apprehended.
The two suspects were said to be members of a gang that specialized in stealing cars from cab drivers in Abuja. Six Peugeot 406 cars were reportedly recovered from them.
City Round gathered that the gang’s mode of operation was to take a cab, lure the driver to a bar and buy drinks and pepper soup for him.
As the merry went on, they would ask him to help them pick an item they left in the cab and laced his drink or pepper soup with a sedative before returning. They would then flee with the car as soon as he slept off.
Although the suspects confessed to have carried out several operations around the FCT, they claimed they had never met Akaeze.
Balla, who owns a car mart in the Kaura Local Government Area of Zamfara State, said he got the phone from Ibrahim. The 37-year-old father of eight explained that their targets were mainly greedy cab drivers fond of drinking.
He stated, “I am a civil servant and I work at the Finance Department of my local government as a clerk. I met Ibrahim when we were in secondary school. One day, he called me and said he wanted to sell a Golf 3 saloon car. I bought it from him for N220,000. Three months later, he called again and asked me to buy a Honda Civic car for the sum of N230,000. Five months after then, he called again and sold a Peugeot 206 to me.
“But last year, he invited me to join him in stealing cars and I agreed. In my first operation with Ibrahim, we stole a Peugeot 406 car. We picked the cab at Nyanya and led the driver to a popular Garden in Garki area of Abuja, where we drugged him and made away with his vehicle. I took the vehicle away and gave Ibrahim N160, 000. I sold the car N320,000. In the next operation, we stole a Golf 2 saloon car in the Dutse Alhaji area and sold it N160,000.”
He said three weeks later, Ibrahim stole another Peugeot 406 in a lone operation and brought it to Zamfara to sell it to him, adding that he did not have money at that time to buy the car.
“Before he left in the car, I searched it and found a small phone there. I told him that I needed the phone and he gave me. I went with it to Kano and gave one of my friends called Lawan. Two weeks later, Lawan called and told me that he was in Zamfara to see me. I didn’t know that he came with policemen. That was how I was arrested,” he added.
But Ibrahim, 42, denied taking the second Peugeot 406 to Balla or giving him Akaeze’s phone. The native of Kebbi State said he went into the crime after quitting his elder brother’s farm as a result of a misunderstanding.
He said, “I was his farm supervisor and he married a wife for me. After I had two children, we started having issues and I left the farm. Since I had no means of feeding my family, I went to a friend, Abdulrasheed, who was into drugging cab drivers and taking away their vehicles.”