By Eniola Jolaoso
Breaking into people’s houses without notice to rob them of their valuables and money has now turned out to be an old trend or strategy of stealing. The trend has moved from surprising people at the ATM galleries and quietly robbing them at gun point, collecting all the money they withdrew, to the use of children to dispossess unsuspecting victims of their valuables.
One may wonder how this is done. They tell the children to pretentiously cry that they are lost and don’t know they way home then the unfortunate ‘good’ Samaritan will ask for the child’s address and attempt to follow him to take him home. In return, the child leads the ‘good Samaritan’ to a location, most times, an uncompleted building where the real gang members are waiting, and the rest, as they say, is history.
However, the newest, better known as smart and very unsuspecting way of stealing is representing in a situation where someone acts out a part where he is supposedly a long time good friend of yours and make you get into a cordial conversation with him, and the victim knows nothing until the thief has gone, having successfully performed his operation, and made away with his victim’s valuables. All these happen in a twinkle of an eye.
A victim, who simply identified himself as Elijah, narrated his encounter with one of these newest set of criminals.
“It happened within a twinkle of an eye, in fact, so suddenly, that one wouldn’t have sensed anything going on. I was about to enter the gate of my office that day, when a guy dropped down from a bike, not far from where I was standing and came towards me, expressing a very loud and cordial salutation that both surprised and made me feel like this guy actually knows me. In his very jovial manner, he said ‘it has been a long time’ adding that he is very happy to see me again. He made attempts to identify himself but though it made no sense to me because I didn’t remember him, I just nodded foolishly to save him from excess explanation,” he said.
He continued: “We talked, asking about each other’s welfare and other little details that failed to make sense to me. At the end of the boring conversation, he initiated a hug, which I did not reject, and then his way back to the bike, which against all odds waited for him. As soon as the bike rode away, reality dawned on me as my Infinix phone worth #38,000 black Friday sales just about three days earlier was gone. I was confused, and could neither scream nor shout. It was then I realized I had had an encounter with a professional thief. He outsmarted me and successfully carried out his plans,” Elijah concluded painfully.
Reacting to this trend, Joana Owolabi, a social commentator, stated that the trend has gone viral, and is succeeding because Nigerians being who they are, love expressing friendliness. She however, urged the public to be very smart and avoid unnecessary conversation bothering on pleasantries from people, especially those that one is not convinced he knows even if they seriously claim so.
“We need to wake up in this country. All I will just say is that we should be very wise, especially when interacting with people who we are sure we don’t know. One should not be lost in conversation with anyone, and must avoid unnecessary hugs or body contact of any kind when discussing with a stranger because this is a new strategy that these set of criminals use to carry out their notorious activities,” she said.
John Oburo explained how he witnessed a similar incident in the hall of an first generation bank. He said the incident involved a woman who attempted to rob an old man on the queue.
“An aged man was on a queue trying to deposit money in one of the banks when a woman came to him, wearing a bright smile. She started a friendly discussion with the man, narrating when and how they know each other. Though the stories were not making sense to the old man, but he acknowledged him thinking to himself that old age may have robbed him of fresh thoughts. They chatted for a while before she succeeded in giving the old man a warm hug, and disappeared.
“After a few minute, the man began to look for his Smart phones, checking himself over and over again. Very confused, he started asking people in the bank if they saw his phones, describing how what they looked like. It then dawn on him that the pretty friendly woman was the thief. He went in search of her within the bank and environs, but all his efforts were to no avail,” Mr. Oburo narrated.
Daniel Dada, a Psychologist, explained that the action is a mind thing, noting that criminals have capitalized on the fact that when someone is engrossed in a discussion with someone he knows, he tends to let loose his guard, adding that there is nothing supernatural about it. He however, advised members of the public to be very sensitive, especially when dealing with people who are not well known to them.
“The only thing I will say is that, we should be very sensitive to any event especially when we are in a conversation with people we are not convinced of their relationship to us because this is a way of dispossessing people of their property. But very few Nigerians know this, and get into avoidable mess all in the name of being polite. If someone walks up to you and says he knows you but you don’t know him, politely shut him off, don’t give him any chance to start explaining himself because most of them are very good in manipulating the minds,” Dada said.
In another development, a civil Servant, who works with the Ojo Local Government Area, but prefers anonymity narrated how he fell victim to this new crime strategy while patronizing a suya merchant.
“One night, while returning from work, I had stopped over at a suya joint at
Okokomaiko bus stop to make some buys when this roughly dressed tout smiled towards me. He began cracking inaudible jokes, meaningful to only himself, and laughed at the same time while running his hands around me. Though he was irritating, I pitifully did not chase him away, but tolerated his annoying presence while waiting for my suya. It was however, the intervention of the suya seller that brought me back to my senses when he screamed at him to ‘vamoose’, and then asked me if I just came to Lagos ‘today’. The tout reluctantly left, and I realized to my shame what happened when I wanted to pay for my suya. My money was no longer in my pocket! I had been robbed! Luckily, the money to pay for the suya was already in my hands. I was so shamefaced to complain to anybody around about what had happened.”
However, another social commentator, Oboh David, said that the new trend of stealing, in its worst form, is far better than the gun or knife point robberies where victims are subjected to harrowing experiences before being robbed.
“Robbery is bad no matter how you look at it, but I think this trend of stealing is better than the ones which involve bursting into people’s homes, and robbing them at gun or knife point, giving them emotional trauma even to the extent of losing their lives. But in this one, they just act as friends and take your property without your knowing, and you are still breathing and okay,” he said.
“The trend being better doesn’t mean that people should not be conscious of their environment, we need to be carefully of the people we meet and not stupidly get deep into a chat that we wouldn’t even know when the other person is touching us; we must be very alert and observant,” he added.
A cross section of Lagosians, who spoke to the Boss, admitted that this new style of stealing is a clear testimony that the Police are sensitive to their jobs, and have to a great extent decimated criminals and criminal activities to the point dare devil robberies are taking a back seat.
They also agreed that the Police must also match the criminals ideas for ideas and ability to ability, and in some cases preempt their activities.
While it is obvious that criminals will always find a new strategy to perpetrate evil, the Police should not rest on their oars as the ordinary citizens depend on their intelligence to go about their lawful duties.