Police detectives are now on the trail of a 26 year old airport cleaner, Chibuzor Onuegbe who allegedly smuggled N242 million out of the baggage store of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) undetected.
Saturday Sun learnt from the police that the stolen money was packed in a bag in US dollar denomination totalling $1.5million which belongs to a middle aged woman (names withheld). She was said to have deposited the sum at the MMIA baggage room on October 30, 2013 for safe keeping. She discovered that the money was missing when she wanted to pick it.
It was in the course of investigation that three suspects were indicted for complicity - the cleaner’s accomplice Ifeanyi Francis, his girl friend Chioma Obinabor and his elder brother Kalu Faith Onuegbe. But then, the prime suspect, Chibuzor had relocated to the UK.
Face to face with his interrogators, Francis who claims to be an Engineering student at Government Technical College, Owerri, Imo State confessed that he never knew the content of the bag until he left the airport. In his words:
“I met Chibuzor early last year when I travelled to Enugu and we became friends. I am aware that he works as a cleaner at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos. Sometime in October, he called me that there is a job that he wants to execute and I will earn so much money. I travelled down to Lagos with the excuse that I wanted to visit my sister who lives in Lagos.
He told me that he wanted to smuggle out some abandoned luggage from the baggage store at the international airport. He gave me a bag containing old laptops and clothes. He also gave me a tag ticket which was attached to the bag.
The deal was that I would get to the airport as early as 6am and move to the baggage store and drop the bag. I will tell the store keeper that I want to register the bag and will be back in evening to pick it up.
As agreed on October 30, 2013, I went to the baggage store with the bag that already had a tag. The store keeper asked me to pay N300 for a day and N600, if I am to pick it the next day. I paid N300 and dropped the bag. Later in the evening as agreed, I came to the airport and picked the bag. When I saw Chibuzor, he told me that the deal did not work out, and that I will be repeating the same process.
The next day as agreed, Francis went through the same process and dropped the bag. In the evening at about 7pm, he went back and picked the bag.
“I discovered that the bag was unusually heavy. Since I knew what was on ground, I pretended that it was the same weight. It was easy to pick the bag because I had a tag and a ticket.
I quickly moved and joined Chibuzor who was already with a taxi. I asked him what was in the bag and he told me to calm down that I will get to know. We arrived his street and stopped in an area where cars were parked. He opened the bag; it was then that I realised that it contained bundles of dollar notes.
I was speechless because the amount was much. He told me that as a cleaner, he had access to the baggage room. All he did was to unlock my bag to which he had the key and transfer the bag of money into my own bag. He told me to calm down that there is a lot to gain and that he needs to contact his friends at the airport before the money will be shared. Those friends, he explained were the ones who gave him information that such amount of money was in the baggage room and the colour of the bag. He tried to close the bag and it was difficult, so he had to remove some bundles into another bag. We heard the voice of some boys coming towards us, so Chibuzor hurriedly left the spot and moved into their house. He forgot that he kept some money in the bag that I was holding. He rushed out and promised to call me for my share, ” Francis further said.
According to him, as soon as he got home Chibuzor realised that I was carrying the naira equivalent of N60 million.
“I decided to keep that money since Chibuzor did not remember that it was in my bag. He called me later in the night demanding the money. I denied and he told me that I have taken my share. He switched off his phone and till date, I have not seen or heard from him.”
Armed with his windfall, Francis travelled back to Owerri and invested his money into acquiring properties.
“I bought two plots of land, and built 6 blocks of flat. I also rented a nice apartment and furnished it to taste. I also acquired a pathfinder jeep. I do not know the whereabouts of Chibuzor, it was when they arrested me that I was told that he is in UK.”
As soon as Chibuzor realised that he was a rich man overnight, one of the things he did was to date beautiful women. One of such was Chioma Obinabor, who he met while he was travelling down to Owerri. She was also arrested by the police, when investigations showed that she assisted Chibuzor to acquire properties in Onitsha.
Chioma told Saturday Sun that since she was still single, it was not abnormal for a man to approach her for relationship.
“Sometime in November, I sat by his side on board an ITC bus heading for Owerri. We got talking and exchanged phone numbers. He also paid my transport fare to Owerri. The next day he called me and invited me to his hotel room, it was then that he told me that he is a business man and that his office is at MMIA, Lagos. We chatted and ended up having sex and when I was leaving he gave me N20, 000 and promised to keep in touch.
Few days later, he called me again and gave me N50, 000 and our next meeting another N100, 000. We were so much in love and he told me that I am the kind of wife that he dreamt that God should bring his way. I was happy, because at 27, I should be married.
Also during Christmas period, he gave me N230, 000 for my shopping. This year, he asked me to help him acquire a land in Onitsha. I was able to acquire 10 plots of land for N19 million at an area called ‘33’ in Onitsha.
He told me that he was travelling to UK and would go through Ghana. His explanation was that DANA airline goes to UK through Ghana. I never knew that he was running away. I thought he was real, till the police arrested me. It was at the police that I was told that he is a cleaner at the airport and most importantly that he is 26 years old,” Chioma narrated.
Also in the course of investigation, operatives of SARS invited Chibuzor’s elder brother, Kalu who is based in Port Harcourt. He was told that the police was looking for Chibuzor and pleaded with him to assist them over the theft.
Unfortunately, as soon as Chibuzor visited him with a bag full of dollars, Kalu decided to shield his brother from the police.
“After my visit to SARS, Lagos, I was determined to hand over my brother to the police. I even confided in my family members who told me that it is an abomination to be the one to expose my family member. I was told that if SARS should catch him, that he might be killed.
Days after that visit, Chibuzor came and handed me the bag and asked me to keep it safe. I was terrified but happy that God had remembered our family. I was so confused.
Three days later he came back and collected the bag and gave me N10 million. I also assisted him to acquire landed properties in Port Harcourt. He told me that he was travelling to UK to further his education and will be back very soon. I knew that he was travelling to UK, because he showed me his Visa.
I am terribly sorry and willing to return everything that I got from him. If you were in my shoes, I’m sure that you will protect your family,” Kalu stated.