At 27, Raji Saheed has really seen it all. From being a dumpsite scavenger to an apprentice vulcaniser, Saheed has always lived from hand to mouth.
And when in 2011, his friends introduced to him a ‘trade’ which was so simple (according to him), and which would easily put food on his table effortlessly, he jumped at it! That was his doom.
The ‘trade’, he told Saturday PUNCH was for him to steal motorcycles, popularly known as Okada, locate willing buyers and make cool money. He did it the first time, it was easy and he continued in the business for three years.
Looking so dejected at Eleweran Police Station, Abeokuta Ogun State where the police detained him for allegedly stealing motorcycles, Saheed told our correspondent how he ended up being a criminal.
“I started stealing okadas since 2011, and it was as a result of mixing up with bad friends that I got into the business. It was not my intention to steal. I was an apprentice vulcaniser, but when my master died, I was confused and I didn’t know what else to do. That was when I met this friend who taught me how to steal okada. I do not know where my friend is right now, but in 2012, I heard he had been arrested and was remanded in Kirikiri prison.”
Saheed claimed it was not his intention to leave his former trade to go into stealing but blamed it on bad friendship.
“It was not my delight that I became a motorcycle thief. It was as a result of bad friendship. I was also a scavenger prior to that time. I would go from Ojota to Oshodi scavenging, but I did not make enough money to live well. I was only barely able to feed myself. Even despite the number of years I have engaged in the trade, I am not married and I have not built my house. I was arrested on June 26, 2014.”
But lack of what to eat and trying to make ends meet weren’t the only reasons Saheed became a thief. He also claimed his upbringing had a negative influence on him. Saheed disclosed that he comes from a broken home.
The only son of his mother (he told our correspondent his father has three wives), Saheed said his parents’ separation also contributed to his poor upbringing.
He lamented, “My father has three wives, and I am the only son of my mother. I read up to Primary Five, but I could not further my education due to lack of finance. That was when I dropped out of school. My parents separated at a time, and you know when parents are separated, it would have a negative influence on the children. That was what happened to me,” he said.
He added, “Due to that, I made friends with people I should never have. If my parents had not separated and had trained and disciplined me, this is not where I would be. I had no training whatsoever and it has affected me. Even if I had not gone to school, I would still have been able to make a meaning out of life. I erred because there was no cooperation between my parents in disciplining me.”
Saheed would also remember that his father rented an apartment for him even when he didn’t have a job.
“That was when the temptation came to me. I was in an apartment without a job.”
Accepting his fate, he said, “Once a thief, I am a thief forever. I used to steal from Ifo in Ogun State and sell to my customers in Mushin, Lagos State. Depending on the grade of the okada, it could be sold between N30,000 and N40,000. I cannot count the number of okadas I have stolen and sold like that.
“I am not an armed robber. I only steal parked motorcycles especially at night. I used a tool called sibi to unlock them, particularly the Bajaj motorcycle brand.”
An indigene of Saki in Oyo State, Saheed said he has shamed himself and his family. Meanwhile, the Ogun State Police PRO, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the suspect would be charged to court as soon as possible.