It was clear Kate Olowu was very tense when she opened the door of their residence on 39, Unity Street, Egan area of Igando, Lagos after several knocks on Monday evening.
But when the young, fair-complexioned woman peered through the doorway and spoke in a timid voice to inquire the reason for our correspondents’ visit, there was little doubt that she was a young woman.
She later revealed that she was 19 years old.
With a child less than two weeks old, Kate has reasons to be tense. Her life seems to have taken a tumble recently, when her husband, Monday, was taken into custody in connection with a robbery gang that snatched a Toyota Camry 2000 model, belonging to a pastor, Mr. Lawal, on Monday, May 26, 2014.
When our correspondents visited the Olowus’ house, a bungalow which Kate shares with her husband and mother-in-law, 68-year-old Mabel, it was obvious that the young woman was terrified of answering questions in the presence of her mother-in-law.
But when the older woman went inside to attend to some things, Kate broke down in tears and told her version of the story.
It all started a few weeks ago, when one of Monday’s customers and acquaintances, identified as Michael, walked into their house, which doubles as Monday’s shop for his embroidery designing work.
Little did Kate know that her already difficult life was about to take a turn for the worse.
She explained, “That day, I was at home when Michael came in and gave a small bag to my husband to keep for him. Monday did not even open the bag, he just collected it and dropped it somewhere. But later, I overheard Michael speaking on the phone. I heard him saying they had snatched a car and that the owner was a pastor. I didn’t know who he was speaking with over the phone but I heard him say ‘I have kept the document with the boy who does embroidery for me.’
“I was not comfortable because I hate stealing, let alone robbery. When Michael left, I went through the contents of the small bag that Michael had brought and found a name and a phone number.
“I called the number and the man at the other end said he was the agent from whom the vehicle was bought. I told the man about what happened and how Michael was planning to sell the stolen car and brought some goods to my husband. The man said he would inform the pastor. But later, the police came and arrested my husband.”
Saturday PUNCH learnt that Kate blamed herself for reporting the robbery after giving her statement to the police. Kate told our correspondents that she became sad when she realised that she had put her husband in trouble as a result of her openness.
“I thought the man who kept the documents and other things with my husband would take all the blame since my husband knew nothing about the issue. I thought Michael would simply be arrested and that would be the end of it. I love my husband because he does not stay out late and he takes care of me despite the fact that we are poor and we both sometimes go to bed hungry,” she said.
But Kate’s trouble is even bigger now.
Unfortunately for Kate, her mother-in-law has got wind of the fact that she was the one who made the call that put her husband in trouble. She suspected that the police gave the mother-in-law that information.
Kate broke down as she continued, while trying to be discreet so as not to attract the attention of her mother-in-law, who had left the living room.
She said, “Mama has said she would send me packing with my child. I have nowhere to go. I have nothing. I stopped school when my mother died because there was no money to go further. My father is bedridden.
“Mama came to marry me for Monday because we had nothing. I love my husband very much and I did not mean him any harm. The only close relative that I could pack out to live with is my grandma in Benin city (Edo State), but I don’t have a dime to even travel there.”
Kate said that the only thing that could save her from becoming homeless is for Monday to be released from police custody.
Saturday PUNCH knew about the case following Mr. Lawal’s testimony in his church- the Living Faith Church, Sango-Ota.
A pleased Lawal had thanked God for sparing his life during the armed robbery incident. However, Lawal declined to comment on the issue when approached by our correspondent, saying that the case was already being investigated by the police.
A source at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad headquarters, Ikeja, which is handling the case, obliged Saturday PUNCH with the details of the case based on the verbal accounts and written statements of Lawal and the apprehended suspects.
According to the source, the incident occurred on the said date around 8pm as Lawal was returning to his house.
The source said that Lawal’s account showed that he was approached by Monday’s accomplices, Michael and Asunmo– as he was about to drive inside his compound in an estate in Egbeda area of Lagos.
The source said, “Lawal said he was bundled into the back of his car by the assailants. Michael sat in the back with him while the other, Asunmo, who was driving the car, took the Isheri-LASU-Iba Expressway from Egbeda. As a pastor in his church, Lawal started calling to God but Michael, who sat with him tried to shut him up. Lawal deposed that Michael assaulted him by slapping him in an attempt to shut him up, but he continued shouting Jesus, anyway.
“Our investigation showed that the robbers dropped Lawal off at Akesan and gave him N200 to get back home after he pleaded with them that they had robbed him of all the money he had with him. One of them had also threatened to shoot and kill him.”
Some of the things that were stolen along with the vehicle included Automated Teller Machine cards, cheque books, some cash, project documents and a Bible.
But more than four weeks after the incident, the stolen car is yet to be recovered.
The source, however, explained that the stolen car has taken a long route after being traced to Agbara, Ogun State, Ikorodu, Lagos State and finally Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
“First, we traced the car to Asunmo, who lives in Agbara area. He confessed that he had sold the vehicle to a car dealer in Ikorodu area of Lagos for N200,000. When we got to the dealer, he said that the car had been sold to someone from Port Harcourt,” the source told Saturday PUNCH.
Meanwhile, Mabel and Kate have been denying allegations levelled against Monday, saying he had innocently accepted goods from Michael. At some point, Mabel became hysterical in her defence of her son.
But their claims were swiftly debunked by the source, who said that the police had also recovered guns and two complete sets of army uniforms, suspected to have been used in robbery operations, from Monday’s house.
According to the police source, an underground armoury was also discovered in the house, which his family members refused to show our correspondents during the visit.
After much prodding though, Mabel led our correspondents to the backyard of the house where she admitted that a “local gun” was recovered by the police. She also denied that Monday knew about the gun.
“Michael kept it there but my son did not know about it,” she insisted.
Meanwhile, the police suspect that the guns recovered from Monday’s house belonged to his late father, who was a veteran in the Nigerian Army.
The source said, “Some of us feel that the guns and uniforms belonged to Monday’s father and when he died, Monday started renting them out to his accomplices, who rob with them and give him his share of the spoils.
He said, “While in police custody, Monday even sent his brother to quickly go home and hide the guns before the police would find them. The brother did that that but when the police couldn’t find any gun in his house, they questioned him more since the complainant (Lawal) had alleged that he was threatened with a gun. Then, Monday confessed and told the police where to find the guns, including the one used to threaten Lawal.”
Saturday PUNCH spoke with some members of Lawal’s church, who knew about the case and their account slightly differs from Kate’s story.
A church member who has been following the case, said that Lawal went to report the incident in church, where the founder of the church, Bishop David Oyedepo, prayed with him and assured him that the culprits would be apprehended within four days.
According to the source, less than 24 hours after Oyedepo’s prayer, Kate had started calling one of the numbers she found in the stolen goods, belonging to one of the church pastors to report the incident.
The source said, “She said that some people brought some goods to an uncompleted building behind her house and that she overheard them saying the operation was successful. She said there was a big Bible among the goods which made her uncomfortable each time she saw it.
“She said she felt like a pot of fire was on her head and that she would have returned some of the goods but that her husband would kill her if he found out that anything was missing there.”
Kate later met a team from the church at an agreed place, where she described her house and when they could come and recover the goods.
The church member, who did the narration, said he was amazed by Kate’s openness at that point.
Although, Lawal’s car has not yet been found, some of the church members have given the police some credit for their persistence in the investigation.
The Officer-in-Charge, SARS, Ikeja, Abba Kyari, declined to comment on the status of the case, saying he was not authorised to speak to journalists.
An informed senior officer at the command, however, denied that the police were responsible for disclosing Kate’s role in her husband’s arrest to Mabel.
“Police officers are not daft; most of the breakthroughs that the police have credited to informants. We can’t compromise our informants because of armed robbers. The information could have been leaked from another source that knows about it,” the source said.
Efforts to reach the spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command, Ngozi Braide, were unsuccessful as she did not respond to calls and text messages sent to her mobile phone.