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My problem is spiritual, says serial phone thief who slept off in church while attempting to steal

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A suspected burglar, Saheed Abioye a.k.a Anini, who had been convicted once and remanded in prison for eight months the second time, has narrated how he was arrested after he slept off in a church in Osogbo, Osun State, where he had gone to steal phones.

He was among suspects shown to journalists during a press briefing last Thursday at the Osun State police command headquarters in Osogbo.

The Police Public Relations Officer, SP Yemisi Opalola, who addressed journalists on behalf of the Commissioner of Police, Kehinde Longe, made it known that Abioye was arrested at Alekuwodo area of Osogbo by the patrol team of anti-cultism unit on Saturday, May 27, at about 3:30am in the vicinity of a crime scene.

Two other members of the gang, Ayo and Lukman, escaped and are still at large, the PPRO stated.

Abioye and his gang members’ area of specialisation was said to be house burglary, where they would also pick victims’ phones and other valuables.

The police spokeswoman disclosed that the suspect is an ex-convict who was once imprisoned in Ilesa Correctional Centre in 2018 over the same crime, but decided to continue his activities before nemesis caught up with him.

“The suspect further confessed that they normally operated at Owode-Igbona, Akindeko, Atelewo, Ido-Osun areas of Osogbo and in Ibadan, Oyo State,” SP Opalola added.

She said that efforts were being made to apprehend the fleeing gang members, while the arrested suspect would be arraigned in court after the conclusion of investigations.

In an interview with the Nigerian Tribune, Abioye, aged 42, who hailed from Osogbo but lives in Ibadan at Abayomi area, Iwo Road in Oyo State, confessed to the crime but believed that his predicament is spiritual.

He said: “I’m a driver. I used to go regularly to Osogbo to check on my young daughter whom I got from a woman, but separated from her. It is true that I was arrested by police patrol teams invited by residents in whose houses my gang members, Ayo and Lukman, operated while I was in a church to steal phones that were being charged.”

While narrating how he met his gang member, Ayo said, “We met in Ilesa Prison. We exchanged our phone numbers, and I left prison before him in 2019. On my return to Ibadan, I joined road transport union at Iwo Road motor park. When he also regained freedom, he called me. I told him to meet me at Iwo Road.

“He came thereafter to see me in Ibadan and on his arrival, he told me that we should be going on operation together to steal phones in Osogbo. He was living in Ile Ife. I told him to hold on for a while. I didn’t take him to my residence; I just fed him and took care of him for about four days at the motor park where we were sleeping. I was only going home to take my bath because I didn’t want neighbours to suspect me as an ex-convict. I rented the place after leaving prison.

“After the days, we left for Osogbo to carry out our operation. We got there at about 10pm and went to Alekuwodo area at almost midnight to start the operation.”

“We used to go into houses in the middle of the night. We usually looked out for houses where there was power supply and illumination, with phones plugged by the bedside and the owners fast asleep. We would remove burglar proofs, pull the phone cables and steal them. We had operated three times before my latest arrest.

“I have been a serial phone thief for a long time. The first time I was charged to court after arrest, I was sentenced to two years imprisonment in 2018.”

On how he was arrested he said, “Ayo and I went to Osogbo from Ibadan for operation in 2020. I was picked with Ayo on our way back to Ibadan after the operation. We were stopped by policemen at a checkpoint. They saw five phones with us and asked how we got them. We told a number of lies but we could not convince the officers. We were taken back to Osogbo and the neighbourhood from where we stole the phones. They were returned to the owners after their identification. We were charged to court and remanded in prison while on trial.

“At the trial, the judge said that since the exhibits could not be tendered and the owners were not coming to court, we would be released. We spent eight months in prison before we regained freedom. We left prison in 2021.”

Abioye said that before his latest arrest, he did not join the two other gang members in planning the operation that landed him in trouble, saying that he only stumbled on them and was asked to join them.

“I stumbled on Ayo and Lukman in Osogbo. They had already planned their operation without me. I got to where we usually gathered at Olaiya area at about 8pm. I actually came to check on my daughter staying with my paternal grandmother at our family house.

“At about 9:30pm, I saw Ayo and Lukman. I was surprised because we still saw one another in Ibadan in the morning of the same day and I was not informed of their coming to Osogbo.

“We decided to go for operation together, with the intention of us all returning to Ibadan the following day.”

He continued: “I asked of where we were to operate, and they told me that we should go to Akindeko area. They went to houses there while I decided to go to a church to steal phones being charged by members.

“However, as I got to church, I slept off. I couldn’t do any stealing as I intended to. In the early hours, I woke up and noticed that the prayers had ended and people were leaving for home. I decided to follow them but unknown to me, residents of the area had called patrol teams to inform them of robbery which took place.

“When I got to the patrol team, I was confident that they would not get me as I had no incriminating item with me. I cooperated with the police when I was stopped. They checked my purse which contained my national identity card and 1,000. They asked me to enter the patrol vehicle to go to the church I was coming from. When we got there, the pastor said that he did not notice me as there were many people. That was how I was taken to the police unit handling the case.”

How I knew Lukman

“We met at Sabo area of Mokola in Ibadan where we used to sell stolen phones to buyers. Initially, I did not know he was also an ex-convict. He exchanged pleasantries with me. I told him that I used to operate solely and he said same of himself. That was how we became friends. He usually came to Iwo Road motor park to be with me and would ask me whether I had anywhere to go. That was how we became close and used to stay with him sometimes at his residence.

“I stopped the act when I returned from prison. It was these friends who pushed me into it again. My problem is spiritual and my parents tried their best to get me out of it. We are three as siblings. One us is deaf and dumb, and the second one cannot talk coherently. My father is alive and lives in Ede. He has remarried. My mother is dead and I’m the first born. I lived with my paternal grandmother when I was younger and had no one to train me. I never stepped into a school. I was not seeing my mother. She remarried and I didn’t see her till she died about six years ago.”

He said that he was given the nickname ‘Anini’ by those he used to work with to disrupt building construction process whenever the owners refused to give them money.


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