In their bad days, they laid siege on highways and streets in Aba, Abia State and dispossessed their victims of cars, cash, handsets and other valuables. The seven-man gang terrorized highways and areas in the eastern part of the country.
With easy cash and fat pockets, the young men in their early flush of manhood seemed to be having a jolly ride. Life went on fine for them until the day they dispossessed a pastor of his car and handset. The man of God, Sunday Sun learnt called his phone and warned the gangsters to repent or meet untimely death.
Soon after, the car stalled for no discernable reason. The bandits checked it – the car had enough fuel and no mechanical fault. Convinced that the car was cursed, they abandoned it. But one of them, a die-hard, went the next day to take the car. He wasn’t that lucky. He was nabbed by the police and Pastor as he was fiddling with the car.
The arrest of one of them was a major blow. On the heels of that, their members were steadily being depleted at different bungled operations.
Johnson, the gang leader, decided to call it quits. An old disease which almost robbed him of his life in the ’90s resurfaced. He began fretting and searching for help. At last, he returned to Pastor T.B. Joshua – the man he claimed to have healed him in the past. This time, he returned with three of his surviving members.
On Sunday, February 10, 2008, 32-year-old Johnson led his boys to The Synagogue Church of All Nations, Ikotun, Lagos. As the Church service progressed, Sunday Sun learnt that Pastor T.B. Joshua walked up to Johnson and told him he is under the curse of someone he had wronged in the past and that he had used dangerous weapons to harm innocent people. Johnson owned up and declared that he and three of his boys were in the church to seek forgiveness and salvation.
Johnson beckoned on them and they came out and confessed of their evil past. Prayers were offered for them.
Last Sunday, Johnson and his boys who now claim to have repented and forsaken their evil, violent ways and past, were called out to the podium. The video clip of their first encounter with the pastor was played back. The pastor later asked them what they wanted to do with their lives.
They said they were now musicians formed a band and that they needed money to settle down and focus on their hip-hop career.
The pastor prayed for them and gave them N100,000 each, bags of rice and garri and told them “Go and tell others like you to come here. We shall help you start a new life.”
Turning to the congregation, the pastor said: “If we abandon them, they will remain bad, torment the society, and die young. Let’s save them.”
Sunday Sun readily spoke with the former bandits who are now band boys and born again. Excerpts:
Johnson (Gang leader)
I came to Lagos because of my music career. That’s about seven months ago. Since then, I’ve decided to give my life to Christ.
Around 1991 to ’92, I was healed of convulsion by Prophet T.B. Joshua. That’s the main reason I came to Lagos. I know I will get my salvation from God through him. I’m from Ekpoma, Edo State.
How we met
Music brought us together. We were living on the same street then. We lived together in Agbala Ukwu Street, Aba, Abia State.
When I decided to give my life to Christ, I decided to bring my friends with me.
I’m from Ekpoma, Edo State. We met in Aba, Abia State. All of us were living in Aba together at Agbala Ukwu Street.
When I decided to repent, I decided to come to Synagogue. So I brought my friends with me. We were into highway robbery. We were not really engaged in big time armed robbery. I was just a little boy following them. I used to be the smallest in the group. We were seven in the group when we started.
There was one particular robbery. We snatched a car from one man of God. Immediately after, the car broke down. We also took the man’s phone. When we checked the car, everything was okay – the engine, fuel – every thing was okay. The man of God called one of us that had the phone and said that if we didn’t repent, we would all perish.
The man’s words touched me and I told my friends I wasn’t going to be to be in the business with them any more.
I told other boys that we should abandon the car. We left it. But the next day, one of us went to take the car. The man of God and the police arrested him. I really can’t say how they were able to catch him. This thing happened about five years ago and every one of us went our own way. We have never killed anyone, we specialized in snatching cars.
I’m from Nde Ezike Village, Ihiala in Anambra State. I’m 29 years old. I stopped school at JSS 3. I used to attend Abbot Boys Secondary School, Ihiala. I was expelled as one of the notorious boys in the school. I used to disobey the school regulations. I came to Lagos to produce my job I’m an artiste. I play music – hip-hop. I have my album titled “When it’s on is on.”
I got into armed robbery out of frustration. And that was two years ago. I didn’t really go robbing with the boys. I used to market what they brought. They normally bring handsets and V-boot Mercedes cars. But I stopped since last year. When we were operating, we didn’t kill anyone, it was only street runs we did in Aba.
As sponsor, all I did was to provide money for others to buy drinks, smoke drugs and be agile in operations. I didn’t buy guns for them. They had their own guns. I also used cocaine that time. Now I am a changed man.
I’m from Anambra State, Agulu to be precise. I’m now 27. I was born in Aba. I left school in SS1. The urge to make money made one to leave school. I tried going into business without luck. I even thought I could be an apprentice.
I attended Agulu High School, but left in 1995 and came to Lagos the following year – 1996 to be an apprentice. I was at Idumota.
I used to indulge in snatching handsets from people at Aba.
We were using locally made guns. The ones made in Awka by blacksmiths. We got the guns through some bad friends.
I’m now a new person. If I see my old friends now, I’ll tell them to come over to Synagogue. The three of us here are artistes. We shall use the money to release our new album. The group’s name is Moonclan.