Armed robbers seem to have a found a new place to rob victims and that's the Church. Just recently 6 armed robbers invaded the Vine Branch Church in Ibadan in an attempt to steal the Sunday service offering.
Now a similar attack has occurred in Lagos State as no fewer than 15 armed robbers invaded the Christ Apostolic Church in Alagbado, Lagos State, carting away with about 40 phones and money estimated at N2m.
The robbers, who operated for about 20 minutes, were said to have also attempted raping some of the church members before they left the church premises.
It was learnt that the men came around 2am penultimate Friday while the over 450 congregation was engrossed in a prayer session.
A member of the church, who craved anonymity, said some of the members had observed a strange man making phone calls while the vigil was on.
He said, “The vigil actually started around 12 midnight. Some of us observed a man who came in around 1.30am. He was seated in the women’s section. About four persons tried persuading him to change seat, including the pastor, but he refused. So they left him.
“I observed him going out several times to make phone calls. At about 2am, I overheard him saying, ‘start coming, they are praying’. Few minutes later, I heard a gunshot.”
The head usher of the church was said to have been shot at close range, when he tried closing the door against the robbers, who he originally thought were arriving late for the programme.
When the gun men got in, the church members were said to have been ordered to lie face down, while they started ransacking them.
One of the church leaders said, “They positioned themselves at the church’s major entrances. They collected money, phones and recharge cards. They started shouting, ‘where is your pastor?’ They took the church offering and wanted to rape some of our women. In the 20 years of my being in the ministry, I have never seen such effrontery before.”
The pastor was said to have sneaked out through the exit and dodged behind a window, where he viewed everything going on was reported to have alerted the police.
It was learnt that the gang leader, who wore a mask( according to investigation is the son of a traditional ruler), suddenly became angry and started arguing with a member of the gang over a phone that was snatched from one of the church members.
The source said, “It must have been God working at that point. During the argument, this young man suddenly pulled off his mask and started fighting the other robber. They had a heated argument over a phone they had just snatched without knowing that the pastor was looking at them.”
Meanwhile the robbers’ suspected informant has been arrested and handed over to the Ojokoro Police Division for interrogation. He was said to have aided the police in apprehending the other robbers while the gang leader, identified simply as Ade, has also been arrested, but there had been high-powered influences seeking his release from police custody.
The pastor of the church, who identified him, was said to be under pressure to withdraw his incriminating statement from the police.
The residents said they were apprehensive as the state command’s authorities had withdrawn the matter from the police team originally handling it at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Ngozi Braide, said the matter was being investigated at SARS. “The incident took place around 2am and some people were arrested around 4am. The matter is currently under investigation and the suspects, including the son of the traditional ruler, are in police custody.
“It will, however, be unreasonable for anyone to be apprehensive and insinuate things against the the command’s authorities in a case in which they have no interest. Justice is what we stand for and justice is what we are going to do in this matter.”