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Phone Snatchers On The Prowl In Kano

On Tuesday, November 5, six suspected phone snatchers were arrested by the police in Kano State, Nigeria’s Northern commercial hub and most populous state in the north.

A video circulating on social media showed the suspects confessing their crimes during a parade led by Abdullahi Haruna Kiyawa, a Deputy Superintendent of Police and the state Police Public Relations Officer.

Aged between 16 and 18, the suspects were arrested at the annual Mawlid procession (Takutaha) on November 5, holding knives and ready to stab or attack any potential victim.

Phone snatching has recently skyrocketed in Kano city. The snatchers, at times leave victims with physical and emotional injuries after robbing them of their valuables.

Some people have been stabbed to death in many instances, while others were grievously injured. Many said they lost some important documents and contacts in the snatched phone.

In September, Atiku Shuaibu Ringim, a physiotherapist with the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital was stabbed to death by hoodlums attempting to snatch his phone in Gwale Local Government Area.

During the 2019 general elections campaign, several people reported that thugs moving with politicians were snatching phones and other valuables from passersby.

Sometimes the phone snatchers disguise themselves as commercial tricycle operators who take commuters to isolated places and confiscate their properties. Others operate in traffic jams as hawkers and ask victims to surrender their phones.

Zainab Nasir narrated her experience with phone snatchers in one of the suburbs of Kano city. She told HumAngle that the robbers grabbed her from the back, threatened her with a knife before confiscating her brand new smartphone.

“When they grabbed me from the back I thought they were trying to sexually harass me,” she said.

“It was after I saw the two of them with a knife that I realised they were phone snatchers.”

“I handed the phone over to them. I could see them running when they saw people coming out of a mosque.”

Mubarak Umar had his phone snatched at Gadon Kaya. He told HumAngle that he was with his friend when they snatched the phone and ran away.

Several people told HumAngle that the traffic junctions at Kofar Dan’Agundi, Kofar Nasarawa, Gadon kaya, Katsina Road and many spots around Sabon Gari area were the hotspots of crimes.

Where Do They Take The Phones To?

Picture: Yan Jagwal, Kurmi Market.
Picture: Yan Jagwal, Kurmi Market.

Many people point fingers at “Yan Jagwal”, second hand phone buyers and sellers, as the ones encouraging phone snatching. They accuse them of buying the stolen phones.

Ibrahim Mu’azzam (Gwaska) is the Secretary of Jakara Global Village, an association of second hand phone sellers (Jagwal) at the centuries old Kurmi Market in Kano Municipal Area.

Speaking to HumAngle, Gwaska confirmed that there used to be many cases of “Yan Jagwal” unknowingly buying stolen phones but the association has been trying to control the practice.

“A fully grown and well dressed man would come to you and disguise as if he has been using the phone for a long time. He would sometimes swear to you he bought the phone as new when you become skeptical,” he said.

Although some people don’t fall for it, many get trapped, especially after such a person leaves,” he said.

Gwaska said whenever the association suspects any person of stealing a phone, members interrogate him first before handing him over to the police for further investigation.

He added that sometimes the association asks the seller to bring the phone case to check for its unique IMEI code before buying the phone, especially if the phone is expensive.

The treasurer of the association, Aminu Bala, told HumAngle that all members were prohibited from buying a locked phone or any phone from a young boy.

He said all members of the association try their best not to fall victims of buying stolen or snatched phones but that there are many traders who refuse to join the association and behave differently.

Where Are The Installed CCTVs in Kano?

The Kano State Government recently said it would commission a multi-billion naira security project to curtail the problem of phone snatching and similar crimes in the state.

Salihu Tanko Yakasai, Special Adviser to the Kano State Governor on Media, said that CCTV cameras were already installed to track and arrest the criminals.

“Despite Kano being the most peaceful state in Nigeria for the last five years (Alhamdulillah), H.E @GovUmarGanduje is not relenting in his effort to further secure the state as his admin has installed CCTV around the metropolis with a control centre at police HQ to be commissioned soon,” Yakasai tweeted in September 2020.

However, HumAngle investigations revealed that as phone snatching skyrockets in the state, many people were not aware of the project and none of the perpetrators has been tracked or arrested using the CCTV.

“The project is just a political show but nothing was done,” a source familiar with the activities of the state government told HumAngle.

Media aides to the Kano State Governor, including Yakasai, in September, posted pictures on social media claiming they were phone snatchers shown by the CCTV record in Kano. The pictures, which were shared on Facebook and Twitter were later pulled down after they were called out for sharing fake pictures.

However, a fact-check revealed that the claim was false as the pictures were originally taken from a city in the Niger Republic, not Kano State.

How to Protect Yourself

Security experts have listed some tips on how to protect oneself from phone snatchers.

The best of all is to always be security conscious and know when and where to bring a phone out to make calls or check notifications.

Below are more tips that can help:

Be conscious of your surroundings

  • If you need to call or use your phone on the street, look out for anyone on a motorcycle near you.
  • Don’t be unnecessarily showy by holding your phone in your hands. Put it in a bag or pocket.
  • Make your urgent call so quick in a suspicious place so you don’t become distracted.
  • Don’t text while you’re walking. Some phone snatchers grab the phones and run away while you’re texting.
  • If possible, stand away from the roadside, close to a building or wall, so no one can come up behind you.

Lock your phone

  • You must switch on your phone’s security features to protect your phone.
  • Use the keypad lock so that thieves cannot immediately access your phone, or use the biometric authentication if your phone has it (fingerprint or facial recognition).
  • Consider installing an anti-theft app if you are not using Locate My iPhone. These can help security officers trace your phone and identify the thief.

Your IMEI is your Security

  • Every phone has an IMEI code which helps security officers to identify it if it’s stolen and stop its operation. The IMEI code is also on the phone case.
  • Find your IMEI number by dialling *#06# from your phone and keep a written note of it; if the phone is stolen, report the number to your mobile provider or security officers to stop it being used.

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Aliyu Dahiru

Aliyu Dahiru Aliyu is a senior reporter, researcher and a fact-checker. He heads the extremism and radicalisation desk. Tweets: @Aliyussufiy

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