Findings by Street Journal have revealed that car thieves in Ibadan and most of the south western part of Nigeria have worked out new strategies for their illicit trade. Gone are those days when car alarms and security systems prevented vehicles from being stolen. Most residents of Ibadan are now aware that every brand and indeed any vehicle could be stolen.
Though cars are still snatched at gunpoint, which many residents of the Oyo State capital find it difficult to divorce from the release of a certain car dealer who was arrested a few years ago on the suspicion of being the kingpin of a carjacking syndicate, other methods have been perfected and for perpetrators, it is “car stealing made easy”.
And contrary to what obtained in years past when cars were stolen only under the cover of darkness, automobiles are stolen in broad daylight, even in the most secured places. A journalist recently lost his Honda Accord in the premises of the Oyo State House of Assembly Complex. He parked it and was in the building trying to follow events for the news for the day only to get downstairs and realise that his car had been stolen. Another victim parked his car just by his farm to feed the fish in his pond around Apata. He went back for an umbrella to shield himself from the rain and could not find his car.
Investigations have revealed that the thieves even when accosted never betray any sense of fear. They are normally well dressed and confident.
Street Journal’s investigations revealed that most car thieves have as much experience as automobile mechanics and they can fix any problems that might arise in the process of stealing a vehicle. The first step is to ensure that the car alarm does not sound in the process of stealing it. They seem to have also devised a method of disconnecting most simple security systems. A number of victims have been disappointed after the security systems did not guarantee the recovery of their cars, no thanks to the innovative thieves who have found ways of disconnecting them.
And where the security system cannot be disabled, the robbers normally choose to damage such vehicles. For instance, after a snatched car was centrally demobilised via a tracking device by a security company, innocent bystanders who saw the robbers trying to start it around Ojaa’ba helped them push and gave all sorts of assistance. The robbers eventually smashed the front and rear windshields out of annoyance.
It is also face becoming clear that car thieves in Ibadan have access to towing vehicles and are also capable of towing vehicles that seem to prove difficult to move. An indication that even a broken down vehicle could appeal to thieves came to the fore when a car broke down on Ring Road in Ibadan and the owner tried all he could to get it back on the road. When all efforts to start the car failed, he left it as it was getting late. He had hoped to get the mechanic to fix it the following morning. He could not believe it when he got there and the car was nowhere to be found.
The only two possible explanations to his loss were that the car was either towed away or it was fixed by someone that had vast experience as an automobile mechanic. The owner had revealed to Street Journal reporters that the car had a major fault and that was why he could not move it and that only a mechanic could have moved that car.
In some places in Ibadan too, a new wave of stealing parked cars at night seems to have started. A visit to a neighbourhood in Ibadan revealed that the thieves around there have gained so much confidence that cars are either stolen or vandalised almost on a weekly basis. Residents of a street in the College Crescent axis disclosed to Street Journal that the thieves knew the specific problems of each vehicle in the neighbourhood. Shedding more light, a resident said “when they wanted to steal a certain Toyota Camry in one of the compounds around, the thieves apparently found out the car did not start and they moved to the next street where they removed the battery of another car, used it to start the Camry and drove it away. We got to know this when someone complained that the new battery he just bought for his car had been stolen overnight. While we were still sympathising with him, someone came from the next street and narrated that a certain vehicle that had battery problem was stolen. We went there and saw that the thieves left the old battery they removed from the Camry behind.”
There have also been reports of a lot of missing car batteries in that neighbourhood while a number of people have reported cases of cars being vandalized. Apart from stealing batteries to start vehicles in other places, some cars that were probably found too hard to steal have been vandalised. In such cases, every part of the car is at risk; from the brain box to headlights, all are removed and taken away.
A new method of stealing new and unmarked cars from dealers has been uncovered by Street Journal. It entails robbers either waiting for car dealers who normally park vehicles put up for sale at a distance from their auto-shops to move vehicles and then hijack them on the way or disguise as potential buyers. The well robed thieves often ask for a test drive or even ask that the vehicle be driven behind theirs to where payment would be made for the vehicle. The thieves also have agents in neighbourhoods close to automobile dealers.
A roadside vulcanizer recently got himself into trouble on the suspicion that he was covertly working for suspected armed robbers. The guy aroused suspicion when he went to a dealership close to his shed where brand new cars are sold. He started asking about the price of cars and eventually settled for a vehicle whose price was put at N 5 million. He went into a nearby bank and he actually had the vehicle driven behind him. By the time he came out of the bank hours later, he told them he could not get money from the bank and that he had to go to another branch. He however told them that he had received calls from the contractor working on his building site, he claimed they also needed money for something on the site and that he would have to check on them urgently. He requested that the car be driven behind him to the next place where he would get money. The management of the company however called in the police and the vulcanizer allegedly confessed that he was consulted by a group of men who promised him a lot of money if he could get them to bring the car to a certain location. When the police however took him to the place, the group of men were nowhere to be found.