The introduction of cashless policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has led to a boom in Point Of Sale (POS) businesses, especially in remote areas, however, these POS agents are becoming easy targets for miscreants, who rob and sometimes kill them. PAUL OKAH reports.
Standing in queues in banking halls or at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) is something the average Nigerian can do without if they can help it. This is why many find it more convenient to patronise Point Of Sale (POS) agents who handle cash withdrawal, deposit, payment of utility bills, among other services for a fee but with relative ease and to the satisfaction of clients.
The services of these POS agents are more appreciated in remote villages and areas where banks are not close to settlements. Most bank customers in such places naturally prefer to pay a token of N200 to deposit or withdraw money from their accounts within few minutes, instead of spending more money and time going to banks for the same purpose.
However, despite the financial services the agents render they are often targets of attack by armed robbers and fraudsters, who rob and sometimes even kill them.
On January 30, one week after four armed men on a tricycle robbed and shot dead a POS operator along Market Road, by Kent Street, Aba, Abia state, Dr. Godwin Chimaobi Victor Igbokwe, a native of Isuikwuato LGA and a former staff of a commercial bank; another operator, 23-year-old Ezinne Grace Iroh, from Ohafia local government area, was killed at Ukaegbu Road, in Ogbor Hill area of the city.
According to online reports, the gunmen numbering three stormed Ezinne’s shop in a tricycle and shot her on the chest as she struggled to protect a bag believed to be containing cash from the day’s business.
The gunmen were said to have overpowered her and collected the bag as well as her POS machine.
The situation caused panic in the area as people scampered to safety, leaving Ezinne in a pool of her own blood.
She was reportedly taken to the hospital by sympathisers after the robbers left; however, the POS agent gave up the ghost the next day.
Six suspected armed robbers arrested by the Inspector General of Police Rapid Response Team (IRT), including a student of Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, on March 14, gave graphic details of how they robbed and killed the two POS agents in Aba.
The suspects, who gave their name as Uzoma Samuel, 25, from Umuomi Village in Obingwa LGA of the state; Raphael Godwin Apeh, 32, from Olamaboro LGA, Kogi state; Sunday Chibuike, 22, from Ezinifite Mbaise LGA of Imo state; Godswill Kalu, 23, from Ohafia LGA of Abia state; Chibuzor Gabriel, 21, from Oshiri LGA of Ebonyi state; and Abraham Thompson, 27, an Indigene of Oron LGA in Akwa Ibom state.
Thompson was the operator of the commercial tricycle with registration number Abia EZA 326 WZ and served as the driver for the gang during their various operations.
While confessing Samuel, who is said to be the leader of the gang, claimed to be the number two man of the Vikings Confraternity in Aba, said whenever they were ready for any operation he would request their number one man to give them guns and he always obliged him.
He further claimed their aim was just to rob the victims, but that circumstances which he didn’t disclose, led to the operations to turning bloody.
…More meet waterloo
While some robbers had been succeeding, on Tuesday, April 27, five suspected POS robbers met their waterloo as they were lynched by an angry mob at Apo Mechanic Village in Abuja.
An eye witness, Ifeanyi Ebube, told reporters the incident happened when one of the suspects was identified to be among the armed robbery gang that robbed traders and POS operators around Apo mechanic village the previous day as one of the robbery victims immediately raised the alarm after one of the gang robbers was identified, which attracted the attention of traders and some mobs who lynched two of the suspected robbers.
“It was after two of the robbers were lynched, the traders and some residents again mobilised in their numbers to the house of the robbers and killed three other gang members around Kabusa and Waru Area,” he said.
On August 19, operatives of Ogun State Police Command also arrested four members of a syndicate: Kehinde Saliu Jelili aka Oluomo; Abiodun Akinola; Johnson Fakeye; and Jamiu Akinola; who specialised in robbing and killing POS and UBER operators.
The syndicate’s last operation was robbery of a POS operator Abiodun Odebunmi, and were said to have carted away N4 million, after which they killed and burnt his corpse.
They were all arrested following a complaint lodged at Onipanu Police Division headquarters on April 18, by Odebunmi’s assistant, Aanu Salaudeen, who revealed that her boss left his office at Aparadija the previous day to meet a customer with N4 million cash to be used for POS transaction, but didn’t return home and calls to his line were not been going through.
According to Aanu, they had earlier done a N1.5 million transaction with the person who invited his boss the day before, however, the same person who called his boss to meet him at Ojuore for another POS transaction.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for the Ogun state Police Command, Abimbola Oyeyemi, in a press statement on August 19, said the Onipanu Division, following the report by Aanu commenced investigation into the disappearance of the POS operator.
She said the investigation paid off when the body of the victim was discovered in an uncompleted building at the Arobieye Area of Ota and further investigation led police operatives to Otun Ekiti in Ekiti state where the suspect was arrested.
The statement read in part, “On getting to Ekiti, the suspect got wind of the presence of the detectives and quickly escaped to Offa in Kwara state. With determination to apprehend him, the team continued trailing him and they later got information that he was in Benin Republic, where he had gone to attend the court session of Chief Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho, and that he will soon be coming to Nigeria.
“Having gotten the information about the day he will be returning to Nigeria, the team laid ambush for him and got him arrested at the boundary between Ogun and Lagos state.
“On interrogation, Kehinde Salihu Jeili, who claimed to be a native of Apomu in Osun State, confessed killing the victim.
“He confessed further that he deliberately lured the victim to Ota where he and his gang members were waiting for him with the money he was asked to bring, having transacted a N1.5 million business with him the previous day, and that they macheted him to death after collecting the money from him.
“He stated further that they burnt the victim’s body in order to cover their tracks. He confessed further that their targeted victims are always Uber and POS Operators.
“According to him, one of them will pretend as a passenger to the Uber driver, and will lure such driver to where his members were waiting, and as soon as he got to the place, the driver will be hacked to death and the car will be taken away to their receiver.”
The Spokesperson further stated that, “Also, the suspect stated further that he and his gang attacked another victim, one Idowu Ademiluyi, at the Itori area and snatched his Toyota Corolla, having cut him with machetes to the point of death.
“The arrest of Kehinde Salihu led detectives to their receiver, Abiodun Akinola, who is a standby buyer of proceeds of their crimes.
“The confessional statements of the duo led to the arrest of the other two suspects, Johnson Fakeye and Akinola Jamiu, at Atan-Ota and Owode-Yewa, respectively. Investigation, which led to the arrest of the suspects, lasted for three months.”