Nigerian 'pastor' says he robbed to build church

(Photo: REUTERS / Joe Penney)A church is seen guarded by soldiers behind sandbags, in Maiduguri, Nigeria May 23, 2014. Christian houses of worship are guarded by military soldiers at all times in Maiduguri.

Nigerian police have arrested a man who says he is a pastor from Lagos and two other men in a gang for hijacking a 25-foot (8 meter) container carrying 25 units of heavy duty outdoor split type air conditioners worth over $152,000.

The air conditioners belong to a company based in Apapa, Lagos

Operatives of the Federal Anti-robbery Squad, FEDSARS arrested Peter Iyasele and two others in the four-man gang after reports that a group of robbers hijacked a container van, The Vanguard newspaper reported.

The group specializes in hijacking and diverting trucks containing electronic appliances and other household items within Lagos and Ogun states.

The police squad recovered 20 air conditioners in the hijackers' warehouse in Ibadan, Oyo State while one is damaged, and two sold, Nigerian Watch reported.

The 56-year-old Iyasele claims he is a pastor and has a church in Badagry Expressway in Lagos. He said he has engaged in this type of robbery for years but stopped and invested in his own business.

He said he didn't participate in the operations for nine years because he was doing well in his transportation business.

But he said he got a call from God to serve him and did not have the money to pursue it.

"For about nine years, I didn't participate in any of these operations because I had made enough from the operations until I received a call from God to serve him. I was doing well in my transportation business before I was duped by a woman.

"The reason I went back into robbing was to get money to expand the church of God where I pastor. If I had succeeded, I would have used the proceeds to build a house for God," police quoted Iyasele as saying.

Three of the gang have been charged in court while police are searching for the fourth suspect.

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