The Lebanese killer The victim being rolled into the theatre after the incident
Culled from Vanguard
35-year-old Ali Sani, a bureau de change operator in Apapa area of Lagos, least envisaged the tragedy that loomed ahead, penultimate Monday, as he set for his office. Like every other bureau de change operator, Ali called on passers-by to patronise him, in his hard currency changing business.
Later that day, a telephone call, which signaled the beginning of the end of Ali, came in with the caller requesting for fifty thousand dollars. The call, according to his colleagues, came as an answered prayer for the Kano State born operator who, reportedly, rallied round to make up the amount. But, unknown to him, the caller had a sinister motive.
This was confirmed as report was received later by Ali’s colleagues that he was lying in a pool of his own blood inside a hotel on Marine Road, Apapa. Sadly, as you read this piece, the remains of the bureau de change operator, who hailed from Rimi town in Sumalia local government area of Kano State, are lying six feet beneath the earth.
How he met his death
The caller, a 25-year-old Lebanese, identified as Bilal, as gathered, invited Ali to the hotel. Immediately he stepped inside the hotel room , the Lebanese allegedly requested for the dollars which the deceased gave to him. But instead of giving the bureau de change operator the naira equivalent, four men were said to have emerged from the toilet.
Before he could fathom what was wrong, one of the men landed a stick on his head, causing him to fall.
In that state, the kingpin, Bilal, reportedly brought out a knife from his pocket and stabbed Ali in the neck, head, eyes and shoulder. Apprehension set in after Bilal rushed out of the hotel room with blood stained shirt, attempting to leave the hotel. But he was prevented by security guards. A mild drama unfolded as the Lebanese reportedly brought out a knife threatening to stab whoever tried to block his way.
But for the timely arrival of policemen from Apapa Division, led by the Divisional Police Officer, Mr Mohammed Mu’azu, the Lebanese would have made good his threat or escaped. He was arrested alongside two Nigerians simply identified as Segun and Benjamin.
During investigation, Bilal told policemen that his other two partners in crime had escaped. It was discovered that the fleeing suspects, both Lebanese , are father and son. A friend to the deceased bureau de change operator, one Muhammed Lawal, revealed to Sunday Vanguard that he disecretly followed Ali to the hotel that fateful day.
He narrated, “ When the Lebanese informed him that he would send his driver to come and pick him to the hotel where he lodged, he told me to follow him secretly behind. They drove in a Toyota Camry car. When they arrived the hotel, I hid outside.
“I waited for my friend to come outside but he did not and that made me suspicious. I dialed his number but there was no response. Not long thereafter, I saw one white man with blood stain all over his body. He wanted to escape but the security guards started shouting for help. The shouts alerted other people in the hotel. And that was what made me call our chairman and my other colleagues that they should help call the police.
“Then, I approached the hotel gate and started hauling stones at the white man and shouting at the same time. In the process, I managed to grab him. When we followed him to the room he lodged in, I saw my friend in a pool of his own blood . And when the policemen conducted a search of the hotel room, they found two other persons.”
The chairman of the bureau-de-change operators association, Mallam Garba Kano, who also spoke with Sunday Vanguard, revealed that Ali was rushed to three hospitals where he was rejected. According to him, “ when I got wind of the report, I alerted the DPO Apapa who immediately rushed there with his men. But for him, the suspects would have escaped. We first rushed Ali to an hospital where he was rejected.
“We later took him to Apapa health centre where again he was rejected. We took him to one other hospital where the same thing happened. By then Ali was no longer talking. He was in coma. We then rushed him to Lagoon Hospital where he was accepted and we were asked to pay N2.5 million as deposit. But we were able to deposit N750,000 before treatment commenced. Unfortunately he died hours later.”
It was not as if Ali went to meet the Lebanese just like that. His telephone number was given to the Lebanese by someone the deceased bureau de change knew very well at a supermarket. Garba lamented that members of his association had been under incessant attacks from criminals who hide under different guise.
In the past, he said gun wielding men would storm the area, shooting his members and making away with their monies in naira and foreign currencies. Sometimes, according to him, robbers would pose as bank customers, asking his members to meet them at the bank. But on reaching the bank, the operator would be attacked and dispossessed of his money. Some of his members, he said, ended up losing their lives . So far, he said four of his members had lost their lives.
Where is the money?
There is, however, a twist in the whole matter as the fifty thousand dollars Ali reportedly took to the hotel was, at press time, yet to be recovered. Out of the amount, only ten thousand dollars was recovered.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that when the prime suspect was arrested, a briefcase in which the hard currency was recovered was taken from him and handed over to a police man. It could, however, not be ascertained if the briefcase contained the whole amount. But when asked, Bilal allegedly claimed he kept the money inside the briefcase. This development led to the arrest of the policeman.
Ali’s widow and three children left for Kano, on Wednesday,with the police still investigating the matter with a view to arresting fleeing suspects.
Written by Evelyn Usman of Vanguard