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One Man Squad: The story of Benue’s notorious criminal

One Man Squad

It may not yet be uhuru for residents of Gboko town in Benue State despite the killing of a notorious criminal known as One Man Squad, about nine days ago. Certain issues about the gangster are still unresolved.

The city of Gboko was thrown into jubilation on the night of Friday, May 10, 2019, when news filtered that the man who had been troubling them was killed by an irate mob.

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The identity of the gangster, whose operations created fears in the area, such that most businesses were on the verge of total collapse, was still unknown at the time of filing this report. While some people believe that the person killed might not be the one who operates as One Man Squad, according to the description of some of his victims, others insist that the deceased was the real criminal.

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The spokesperson of the Benue State police command, DSP Sewuese Catherine Anene, confirmed that One Man Squad was lynched in Gboko when he ran into a crowd while being chased by the police.

Our correspondent gathered that the gangster, popularly referred to as the masked criminal, terrorised residents of Gboko at night and during the day, carting away traders’ money and innocent people’s valuables at gunpoint.

Residents alleged that the masked criminal operated alone, even in broad daylight. He would seize motorbikes at will, accost traders boldly and cart away their goods. He was also said to have intimidated restaurant owners and taken food without paying.

A resident who did not want his name mentioned, said the gangster was a nightmare to everyone in Gboko, regardless of their status. He said the criminal treated hawkers the same way he did big businessmen in the town. The source added that within the short time he terrorised the area, people saw him as indestructible.

Although his identity could not be exactly ascertained, residents said the one who operated under the name, One Man Squad, was tall and huge.

A youth leader in Gboko, Tondo Kumbur, said it was difficult to get the identity of the gangster as his victims consistently posited that he disguised with a mask.

“I learnt that the gangster snatched the gun he went about with from a policeman on duty. On the day he was killed, he went to a particular filling station and its environ, and robbed people.

“While he was doing that, a phone call was placed to some people in other parts of the town; that was how the mob laid siege for him. By the time he finished and was about to take to his heels, the crowd chased him. He fired two gunshots to disperse them, but when he tried to fire the third one, there was no bullet, so the people stoned him to death,’’ he narrated.

He added that some people who trooped to catch a glimpse of the gangster’s lifeless body after he was lynched, claimed to know where he lived. They said that before then, he was a mystery to residents of the town.

But another resident of the area, who did not want his name mentioned, said the mob may have killed the wrong person. He argued that One Man Squad was unmistakably huge in size while the person lynched appeared to be smaller.

“Although a suspected criminal, the guy who was killed may not actually be the One Man Squad. The person killed was identified by those who know him as Sesugh. He had snatched a gun and phone from a police officer and later sold the phone. The person who bought the phone was arrested.

“In another operation, Sesugh was said to have snatched a car and a phone. When the owner called his line, Sesugh told the man that he was the One Man Squad and that he (the car owner) should go to the DPO, B Division, Gboko to release the guy who was nabbed with a stolen phone as ransom for the rifle he had in his possession, the car and phone,’’ he narrated.

He said the police agreed to the terms as a strategy to apprehend him, adding that the plan worked and the young man was caught by the angry mob.

An auto electrician at the petrol filling station along Captain Dawn Road, where the lynched robber allegedly operated, said he believed he was the actual criminal, otherwise there wouldn’t have been a relative calm in the town witnessed since his demise.

Also speaking, the chairman of Gboko Local Government, Var Tersoo, told newsmen that, “We had a lot of challenges in terms of security. But as God would have it, One Man Squad was apprehended by an angry youth and he is now gone. However, we are yet to know if he was someone within.’’

Saalu Akpera, a personal assistant to Dr. Iorcher Atuna, the medical director of Atuna Clinic and Maternity in Gboko, where One Man Squad also terrorised, narrated what happened at the facility on April 28, 2019.

“One man visited us on April 28, about 3:00am. I was not at the clinic then, but the nurses on duty said he scaled the fence and ordered them to bring offering for him as he announced that he was One Man Squad and did not come for crisis.

“He was dressed in police shirt and military trousers and had a big gun. He went from ward to ward and collected money and phones. One nurse was bold enough to run out and call the medical director, telling him that thieves had invaded the hospital. The medical director called the police. The criminal left by 4:00am, and 30 minutes after, the police came.

“One of the patients attacked that night told me that he (One Man Squad) was tall and huge and he did not mask himself. He first pulled down our CCT camera, an indication that he was familiar with this place. His action showed that he was a Gboko ‘boy’ or he had people who gave him information,’’ Akpera said.

Furthermore, Terfa Aha, secretary, Disciplinary Committee of the Benue State Motorcycle Operators Association (BEMOA), said that before the activities of the gangster, many people engaged in night trading, but  they were forced to change their time of operation.

“But last week, we heard that guys seized him and ended his game. So we think there will be peace,’’ he said.

On his part, the PDP youth leader in Gboko, Shawa Moses, said people were happy that One Man Squad was killed because he forced many businesses to close early.

“When he was killed, people were happy because they would now do their businesses without fear. However, I have never seen him, but people said he was tall, unlike this guy that was killed,’’ Moses said.

In the same vein, another person said, “This guy that was killed was carrying a weapon that had no ammunition. He ran towards Gboko Modern Market where some people were holding a meeting. Some boys were informed and they followed him. He was picked in an uncompleted building by youths who stoned him to death. I think the deceased guy only wanted to shine on One Man Squad’s identity; he isn’t the real person. One Man Squad is a huge, black person. He has a big scar on his head as if he was macheted. He has another scar around his eyebrow. He won’t be mistaken if you see him.’’

Confirming the incident, the police spokesperson, Anene, said the suspected criminal took to his heels when he heard that the police were after him. Anene said the gangster abandoned his rifle and ran into a crowd where he was lynched before the police could rescue him.

“The real name of the suspected criminal is not yet known. However, we have not heard of any other operation by One Man Squad since then. Nobody came up to claim ownership of the corpse yet,’’ Anene said.

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