An Abuja home of former President Goodluck Jonathan has been burgled, PREMIUM TIMES can confirm.
However, in what appears a curious twist, the house was not burgled by known thieves, but by police officers assigned to guard the house.
The Nigeria Police have thus arrested three of its officers for stealing items valued at several millions of naira from the Abuja residence of the former president.
The items were alleged to have been stolen by the officers from the residence located at No. 89, Fourth Avenue in the Gwarimpa district of Abuja.
They include sets of furniture, dozens of plasma television sets, refrigerators, air-conditioner units and box-loads of clothes such as designer suits imprinted with the former president’s name, male and female Ijaw traditional attires, lace materials and bowler hats.
PREMIUM TIMES exclusively gathered that the three mobile police officers conducted a systematic looting over a period of three months beginning from around March 2016, until they totally stripped the house of all movable items, which they sold piecemeal to dealers at the Panteka second-hand materials market in Tipper Garage, Gwarimpa.
Mr. Jonathan’s spokesperson, Ikechukwu Eze, confirmed the theft to PREMIUM TIMES. He also confirmed that the affected officers have been arrested.
According to a security source involved in the investigation, by the time family members of the former president were made aware of the looting early this month, the house had been stripped bare.
On getting wind of the arrest of the policemen, two dealers who had been the main recipients of the stolen items were said to have closed down their shops at Panteka market and have since remained at large.
Mr. Jonathan had lived in the house for about a year when he was vice president. His mother was said to have assumed residence there after Mr. Jonathan moved to the Aso Rock Villa upon becoming Acting President in 2010.
PREMIUM TIMES could not ascertain when and the reason Mr. Jonathan’s mother vacated the residence, leaving it under security guard of the police.
Our investigations revealed that the looting was discovered when a neighbour noticed “severe damage to the house” and called a member of Mr. Jonathan’s family to ask whether the house was undergoing renovation.
The former president was said to have personally gone to inspect the property after which he reported the vandalization to the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
After a team of officers dispatched to the scene confirmed the crime, Mr. Idris was said to have ordered the arrest of the three police officers who were still on guard duty at the residence.
“They were arrested about two weeks ago,” the police source familiar with the development told this newspaper last Tuesday.
A trader at the Panteka market, who confessed to being close to one of the fleeing buyers of the stolen items, was interviewed by PREMIUM TIMES undercover reporter.
According to the trader who declined to be named, the police officers first brought some items to the market for sale in early 2016.
“It all started sometimes around March 2016 when a mobile police sergeant came to Tipper Garage market and brought some items for sale. He approached one of the wholesalers to buy them, but the trader said he does not buy items from an unconfirmed owner,” he said.
“He identified himself as Sergeant Musa and told the trader that he was one of the security men guarding Mr. Jonathan’s private residence at Gwarimpa. He took the trader to follow him to confirm that he was not a thief who had come to sell off stolen properties in the market.
“The trader followed him to the residence where he met two other policemen, an inspector and a sergeant. They convinced him that the items were part of gifts to them.”
The source told PREMIUM TIMES that it was not long before he noticed that the stream of transaction had no end, as the Sergeant Musa continued to invite the trader to the residence to pick up fresh items.
“At a point, the trader became scared when he suspected foul play and told Sergeant Musa that he was no longer interested in the transaction,” he said.
He said Mr. Musa however got another customer, a wholesaler in the market, who would eventually buy almost 80 per cent of all the properties removed from Mr. Jonathan’s residence.
SELLING JONATHAN’S PROPERTY
When PREMIUM TIMES’ undercover reporter went to the Tipper Garage market, he found out that both the purchase and resale of the items were not hidden, as many of the traders were aware of the racket.
“Whenever particular or specific items of our interest were brought for sale from Mr. Jonathan’s residence, we used to buy from the wholesaler who bought them in large quantity,” a trader said.
Investigation by PREMIUM TIMES confirmed that the traders sold off the stolen items such as suits, women wears, traditional cloth popularly called ‘babban riga,’ Ankara fabrics at about N5,000.00 apiece and bowler hats. It could, however, not be confirmed how much the bowler hats were sold for.
A petty trader at the market said he witnessed the sale of one of the sets of furniture.
“The policeman sold one to the wholesaler who is now on the run at N50, 000.00. The wholesaler sold it at N180,000.00 to a lucky buyer in the market who in turn instantly sold it at N390,000.00.
“I personally bought babban riga, and a suit with Jonathan’s name printed underneath it at the cost of N5,000.00 each.”
The petty trader, who claimed to be an apprentice at Tipper Garage, said they were scared when they heard that the three police officers had been arrested in connection with the theft of the properties from Mr. Jonathan’s residence.
Tipper Garage and Panteka market at Gwarimpa are popular locations for buying and selling of second-hand items in Abuja.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the spokesperson of the Police FCT Command, Mamza Anjuguri, on phone, he refused to confirm the alleged looting or arrest of the three policemen.
“You should give me time to make some inquiries,” he initially pleaded last week.
He subsequently did not pick the reporter’s calls or reply to his text messages.
The divisional police officer for Gwarimpa also declined to speak with our reporter.
“I cannot talk to the press. You can go and talk with our PPRO,” he said.
LIST OF CLOTHES SAID TO HAVE BEEN STOLEN AND SOLD
- Niger Delta traditional attires in about 20 Ghana-must-go sacks.
Suits, each one with “President Jonathan” inscribed in the inner side, in five big Ghana-must-go sacks.
About 10 big Ghana-must-go sacks of women attires made from lace materials sewn in Niger Delta style.
More than 10 bundles of Ankara materials, known as Atamfa.
About 10 sets of babban riga.
One big Ghana-must-go sack containing clothes with PDP logo neatly sewn on each one.
About 20 Niger Delta bowler hats.
ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES AND FURNITURE ITEMS
- 36 Plasma televisions.
About 25 refrigerators.
Five sets of furniture.
Two sets of sitting room chairs.
Several air conditioner units.