The police have arrested four suspected thieves for allegedly attempting to steal a Range Rover parked on the premises of the Redeemed Christian Church of God at the Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos State.
It was said that the suspects – Akin Ayotunde, 29; Emmanuel Oriye, 23; Happy Masikoro, 22 and 21-year-old Paul Ohiri – had gone for a Sunday service but left the prayer hall while the session was on to steal the Range Rover owned by a church member.
PUNCH Metro gathered that a church worker was patrolling the premises when he saw Ayotunde inside the car and challenged him.
When the suspect could not give a satisfactory response, the worker reportedly alerted the church’s security men to the incident.
Our correspondent learnt that the three other suspects were outside the church compound, waiting for Ayotunde. They reportedly took to their heels having realised that Ayotunde had been caught.
The guards, together with some church members reportedly chased and arrested them; they were handed over to the police at the Maroko division.
A church member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “The church was in session on Sunday, June 26, 2016, when a worker patrolling the church’s premises saw a man inside the sport-utility vehicle. The worker asked him if he was the owner of the car and he said no. He said he wanted to put off the ignition because the car’s headlight was on.
“When he was probed further, he took to his heels. We chased him and his accomplices, who were waiting for him outside the church. They claimed to have come to worship at the church.”
In their statements to the police, the suspects, however, denied the allegation.
Ayotunde, who was reportedly caught inside the car, told the police he was trying to help the owner of the car, adding that the incident happened after the church service.
He said, “I am a painter. After the service on that day, my friends and I decided to take some pictures and we posed with some cars parked on the premises, including the Range Rover. I discovered that its headlight was on and I opened the door to see if I could put off the ignition.
“I was about to alight because I could not find the car key when a man challenged me. It never occurred to me to alert security men before I went in. I only wanted to help the owner, I am not a thief.”
One of Ayotunde’s friends, Oriye, said he had warned him not to enter the car.
He added that he left the church’s premises to avoid being implicated when Ayotunde insisted on putting off the car’s headlight.
“Akin (Ayotunde) invited us to the church. We were taking pictures when he noticed the car’s headlight was on. I told him to leave it the way it was but he did not listen to me. We left to wait for him outside the church. When I didn’t see him on time, I guessed he had run into trouble. I was about leaving the church’s vicinity when some security men held me. They said I wanted to flee,” he said.
The suspects were brought before a Tinubu Magistrate’s Court by a police prosecutor, Inspector Philips Osijale, on two counts of attempted stealing.
The charge read in part, “That you, Akin Ayotunde, Emmanuel Oriye, Happy Masikoro and Paul Ohiri, on June 26, 2016, at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1 in the Eti-Osa Local Government Area, Lagos, within the Lagos Magisterial District, did attempt to commit felony to wit stealing by trying to steal a Range Rover with number plate EKY 77 TY property of one Tayo Adepoju, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 404 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.”
The accused pleaded not guilty to the charge and elected summary trial.
The presiding magistrate, Mrs. M.B. Folami, granted them bail in the sum of N200,000 each with one surety each in like sum.
The case was adjourned till July 22, 2016.