By Kukogho Iruesiri Samson
The average Nigerian is subjected to a tragic double tragedy: they are pursued by criminals and exploited by the police when they seek justice. It has gotten to the point where a Nigerian victim of crime would rather bear the loss and move on than approach the police. On January 2nd, 2022, I had an encounter with armed robbers that perfectly illustrates this.
I immediately activated my stolen phone’s remote lock (with a passcode) and location tracking after the robbery, which occurred at almost midnight on that day. I also wrote a message on the phone’s screen. The message read, “PHONE STOLEN AT KNIFEPOINT. DO NOT BUY. CALL 08060XXXX”. I did all these on my laptop.
By performing these actions, I was able to activate three security features:
(1) the message would be visible whenever the phone was turned on;
(2) the passcode lock would prevent any attempt to format the phone; and
(3) the location tracking would provide me with periodic updates on the phone’s general location.
I was waiting for the thieves to put a sim card in the phone so I could get precise tracking or for someone to call. It didn’t happen right away.
The day after the robbery, my police ordeal began. The phone was found in the Wuse Market, according to my tracking. So I went to the Wuse Police Station Division, which is located on Conakry St. They weren’t even willing to help. They simply told me to go to the Wuse Market’s outpost. That is exactly what I did.
The outpost officers listened attentively and assigned a female officer to accompany me on my investigation. We discovered that the monitored location was the mobile phone section of the market, but we were unable to determine who had my phone. I even tried purchasing the same model of my phone to see if I could find my phone. Nothing.
Coming there was a pointless exercise. To make matters worse, the officers wanted me to reward them for their efforts. I had only 1000 naira left in my wallet. They reluctantly accepted it. I promised them that I would return the next day with more money. But I never came back.
Rather, I went to the Dawaki police station, which was close to the robbery scene. The first officer I met demanded money to “write the report and open a file. I was later referred to a more senior police officer who was extremely aggressive, unsympathetic, and dismissive. I ended up fighting him. He was seemed more concerned about the fact that I was reporting two days after the incident than helping me.
After all of the police hassles, I decided to just keep tracking the phone until I could pinpoint its exact location. I tracked the phone to several states: Niger state, Kaduna state, Katsina state, and several parts of Abuja.
My perseverance paid off in the end. On the 16th day after the robbery, I received a text message from a stranger asking me to hurry because my phone had been delivered to his shop in Sabon Gayan, about 16 kilometres from Abuja Junction, on the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway, for unlocking.
When I called later, he said the phone was no longer with him but he offered information about the thief, the ‘new owner’. He provided me with the thief’s phone number, photo, and offered to take officers to his house.
I rushed to the police station near my house and informed them of the situation. I instructed them to contact the nearest police station and arrange for the thief’s arrest. They told me right away that I needed to bring money for phone calls. I gave them N1000 worth of airtime.
They then told me to tell the informant to go to the police station and make a contact with a police officer. The informant agreed, but the officers he spoke with insisted that:
(1) they would handle the case without consulting the officer in Abuja, and
(2) I would have to send N5,000 to fuel their vehicle.
I declined to pay anything and instead offered to reward them if they were successful in retrieving the phone. They turned down the offer. The police did nothing that day despite having the thief’s address, phone number, and photo.
The phone’s location had changed to Southern Kaduna by the next morning, Friday. My phone was back in Abuja by Saturday morning, and that’s when I decided to make my move.
I made contact with the thief’s and began working his brain. I manipulated him with the phone location information I had gathered (exaggerated and embellished) and scared him so much that he started negotiating on how to return the phone without being arrested.
To cut a long story short, the phone was delivered to my appointed proxy around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night.
According to my proxy, who knew the area well, the thieves turned him around and around the Dei Dei axis for over an hour, trying to make sure there were no police involved, before delivering the phone on a bike that didn’t stop for a second.
That was how I was able to recover my phone, which was still locked and unscratched.
The thief called me this morning and begged me not to call the police.
IMPORTANT PHONE SECURITY TIPS:
(1). Always register for a user account with your phone’s manufacturer, which in my case is Samsung.
(2). Connect your phone to your Google account. Google has an excellent tracking feature.
(3). Activate your phone’s “Find My Phone” feature. Before the phone is stolen, it must be activated. (Settings > Security >)
(4). Doing 1, 2 and 3 above enables you to remotely erase, track, or lock your phone, or put a message on the screen.
(5). Even if you can’t recover your phone, you can wipe it clean to prevent thieves from accessing sensitive data.
(6). It is important to create a backup of your phone with your manufacturer or Google (Settings > Google > Back-up). I do both. This enables you to have your apps, phone settings, messages, calls, etc. when you sign in to a replacement device.
(7). If your phone is stolen, immediately go to https://www.findmymobile.samsung.com (for Samsung, works even if the phone is off) or https://www.google.com/android/find for all other Android phones, PROVIDED YOU HAVE DONE 1-3 ABOVE. There, you can decide to lock, erase, or track your phone.
Always have your lock screen security activated.