Sports betting, viewing centres under siege

The space was so serene at a point they seemed to be on holiday. But the ‘bad boys’ are back, tearing into betting centres where controversial fortunes are also being made. SHOLA ADEKOLA, CHUKWUMA OKPARAOCHA, LEKAN OLABULO and KEHINDE AKINSEINDE-JAIYEOBA wave the red flag to stakeholders.

FOR some time now, the various communities in Lagos City have enjoyed relative peace owing to low crime rate. But going by recent happenings, the economic situation and worsening unemployment among young graduates and youth generally may have seen to a return of criminals.

Given the manner of their operation, as recorded in the past weeks, however, burglars seem to have taken a fancy to game centres and similar businesses, many of whom are now operating with fear.

Findings by Saturday Tribune around the Bammeke/Orisumbare axis of Shasha showed that four of such centres have been attacked in the last two weeks.

 

Sad tales from Alimosho

One Rilwan, who runs one of the mega game centres at Bammeke in Alimosho Local Government Area, told of how he woke up about two weeks ago but had his hope of making more money from the booming business dashed. According to him, on getting to his shop the fateful morning, he met a crowd in front of his workplace. He soon discovered that the locked door to the game centre had been forced open with all equipment therein carted away.

Rilwan told Saturday Tribune that he lost over N200,000 to the theft of two flat-screen television sets, four laptops and other items at the centre. Although Rilwan said he reported the case at the nearest police station, no suspect has yet been arrested.

The operator of another game centre behind Bamisile market, still at Bammeke, was, however, lucky as burglars found an empty stall. The operator was said to have the habit of taking home all the electronic gadgets.

Orisumbare, a stone’s throw from Bammeke, is not immune to the experience. Burglars have reportedly succeeded in attacking two centres of a popular gaming company there and stealing all the electronic gadgets.

The sudden shift towards game centres by burglars has become a cause for concern to the owners.

Rilwan said after his centre was burgled, he decided not to replace the stolen items for fear of losing them to robbers again. He is only getting by with what is left of his equipment. He also now closes at 6.00 p.m. or 7.00 p.m., unlike in the past when his closing period was around 10.00 p.m.

 

Harassment in Agbado

In a chat with Saturday Tribune, the owner of a well known betting centre in the Abule Taylor area of Lagos, Mr Akuntunde Buraimo, pointed out that he had never suffered a burglary. He, however, said that he had been having a running battle with security men who, he said, had been extorting him.

“They come here (his business centre) from time to time to demand money from me. I was advised against fighting them, otherwise they could make life difficult for me. So, anytime they come here, I give them between N2,000 and N5,000. Once this is done, they leave me alone for a few weeks. I am seriously at a loss on what to do”, Buraimo said.

His claim was supported by another operator of a games/viewing centre in Area One Estate, in the Adura area of Agbado. The man, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, revealed to Saturday Tribune that sensing that his business was at the risk of closing down due to a couple of invasions of uniformed men under the pretext of looking for suspected criminals, he decided to be ‘settling’ them, so that they wouldn’t bother him anymore.

The youthful business operator said: “My shop has been raided by uniformed men twice. They harassed my customers on each occasion. Soon after the second raid, I started recording a continuous drop in the number of those who patronised me. It was then someone advised me to be settling the officers so that they would leave me alone, and this is what I have been doing. Since I started settling them, they have not been coming to harass my customers again. But I had to go through hell to win many of my customers back.”

 

Uneasy calm in Ifako-Ijaiye

Burglary at game centres may have a lot to do with environment where they are located, according to Saturday Tribune’s findings. For those around Ijaiye Local Council Development Area, about two centres have, in the past, been attacked by burglars. But in recent times, no attack has been recorded.

Kassim Bamidele, an agent at a sport betting centre, who spoke with Saturday Tribune, explained that his shop had never been attacked. He said although he was aware that some centres were attacked in the past, the area had been peaceful.

“This place is safe. Even houses around this place have enjoyed good security. There are several sport betting centres here, as well as football viewing centres. Most times, we open shop late into the night and at times some of us sleep in our shops. If there had been robbery incidents, we would not have the gut to do that”, Bamidele said.

For Victor Osahon, the reason for a secure game centre is not far-fetched. He explained that where his centre was situated was streets away from a police station. He noted that some months back, there was a failed attempt to break into his shop.

“I did not even know about the failed attempt until I got to the centre the next day. After cleaning up and setting up the place, I dashed to the back to fetch something and then I noticed that the anti-burglary device wasn’t looking right. At a closer look, I realised that a side of the device had been damaged.

“I inquired from houses near my shop about the reasons the burglars got cold feet but couldn’t get any information. My guess was that the criminals were just low-lives in the neighbourhood and were inexperienced at burglary. Maybe they got jittery after starting the operation or maybe they got spooked. I just can’t explain it”, Osahon explained.

When contacted on the issue, the image maker of the state police command, Olarinde Famous Cole, denied any increase in attacks on games and betting centres.

Responding to inquiries made by our correspondent via SMS, the police spokesperson said: “We don’t have such a report. Lagos State remains calm”.