While thousands of Nigerians were singing and praising God at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos State, during the House on the Rock’s sponsored gospel concert, ‘The Experience,’ a man, Lateef Nurudeen, had a different plan.
According to the police, Nurudeen, who pretended to be a worshipper, was arrested with seven mobile phones belonging to some participants at the event.
The 19-year-old, who was said to be in company with six other persons, was arrested by men of the Rapid Response Squad of the Lagos State Police Command with a bag where the stolen phones were found.
He was also said to be in possession of charms.
The police on Tuesday said the suspect, who lived on Obadina Street, Lagos Island, was arrested around 12.45am at the venue of the concert.
“The suspect, on interception by the officers posted to the venue of the concert, said he was a barber. After further scrutiny, he claimed that he saw the bag underneath a flower bed.
“Found inside the bag were seven different mobile phones, charms and a purse. The purse contained an identity card and an ATM card belonging to one Chris Chinedu.
“The suspect also confessed to be the owner of the charms in the bag,” a source in the RRS said.
The police said four of the phone owners had shown up at the RRS headquarters in Alausa, Ikeja.
The owners, identified as Ukwajiba Felix, Ekhorelen Ruth, Kpanou Estelle and Kemi Ahmed, were said to have been alerted after operatives of the RRS called some of the contacts on the phones.
“The owners, who had been looking for their mobile phones before leaving the venue of the programme, said they didn’t know when their phones were removed from their bags and pockets.
“One of them, Ukwajiuba (Felix), said immediately he realised that his phone had been stolen, he reported the theft at the Zone 2 Police Command, Onikan, Lagos,” the police said.
Nurudeen, whom the police alleged was an ex-convict, reportedly said in his statement that the charms in the bag were for his protection.
He said he was at the concert to pray and found the bag on a flower bed.
His statement read in part, “I pray a lot. The charms are for my personal protection. They have been with me for ages. They were specially prepared for my protection against evil. I went to the crusade to pray.
“My friends who took to their heels when police started questioning me are troublemakers. They were at the programme to cause commotion. That is what they do and how they make a living.
“I am a troublemaker too, but I went to that programme to pray and not to steal. My friends ran because they knew I would be arrested. I pray a lot and that was why I was at the programme.”
The police said efforts were ongoing to track the suspect’s accomplices, adding that they had abandoned their hideouts.
The state Commissioner of Police, Edgal Imohimi, was said to have directed that the case be transferred to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, while efforts should be intensified to arrest the accomplices.
He also ordered that the stolen phones should be released to their owners after providing evidence of ownership.