The police in Lagos State have arrested three Nigerian Army personnel and eight others for allegedly vandalising solar panels belonging to the Lagos State government and some telecommunication firms.
The three soldiers said to be attached to the 81 Division of the army, have since been whisked away by some officers sent by the army.
The eight other suspects, Samuel Ani, 30; Michael Omoregbe, 30; Emmanuel Efosa, 27; Ifedayo Odufoye, 35 (dismissed Air Force officer); Chibizie Nnamani, 34; Festus Maduka, 26; John Nwokeoma, 31; and Chibuzor Chukwu, 23; were paraded alongside 32 suspects arrested for various offences since last month.
It was gathered that the soldiers, whose identities were not given, were promised N150,000 to escort the stolen solar panels and batteries on September 5, before they were apprehended.
According to the Commissioner of Police, Imohimi Edgal, the suspects specialised in vandalising government and private properties at Epe, Sangotedo, Elerangbe and Badagry areas of the state.
He said 16 solar panels and 33 inverter batteries were recovered from the gang, adding that a total of 18 cultists and 22 armed robbers were apprehended.
He added that seven arms, eight live cartridges, and fake foreign currencies comprising $49,500, €6,000 and £1,500 were also recovered.
Edgal said: “On September 5, around 2:00a.m. seven armed men invaded Okemagba Senior Secondary School, Epe, with three soldiers and a truck marked LND61XQ. They went straight to the solar panel and vandalised 71. They also forced the door of the container, where the inverter batteries and accessories were kept and stole the components.
“The police were alerted and they mobilised a patrol team to the scene, where the suspects and three serving soldiers were arrested. Preliminary investigation led operatives of the command to track other suspects to Delta, Anambra and Imo states, where Festus Maduka was picked up in a hotel and he confessed to having received solar panels and inverter batteries from the gang.
Confessing to the crime, Ani said he had made about N4 million since he started the business in June. Ani, who was a bus driver before taking to vandalism, said he recruited other suspects, including the soldiers into the ‘lucrative business’.
“I used to be a bus driver. It was in June that I started this business. I sell each panel N25,000 to Festus at Arena market. I sell the batteries to him N27,000. I have made like N4 million from it but I used to settle all those involved very well. It was Festus that helped me to get the three soldiers.
They knew that the items were stolen that was why the escort fee was high.
Odufoye, a dismissed Air Officer, denied he was a member of the gang, insisting that he was only contracted for haulage services, which he rendered innocently.