How to find or track down a stolen vehicle in Nigeria

For most automobile manufactures the most important features of a car lies in the alley between fuel economy, picturesque finishing, efficient systems, and crazy speeds. Car buyers encourage this trend, quite a lot would rather pay premium prices for features they want than those they really need.

Cars don’t come free, neither are cheap, that’s why it easily is forgiven when utility features like GPS systems are omitted during production planning. But what happens when that colorful $41,000 Chrysler 300 gets stolen? How do you handle tracking and recovery?

With low appreciation of tracking devices in the country, tracking a car in a developing nation like Nigeria could be a herculean task. Perhaps the single most important tool in tracking a car is undoubtedly the Global Positioning System - GPS. However, GPS is usually an add-on device in automobiles; you would have to order a GPS device either alongside or after buying your car. Nonetheless, some high-end cars usually ship with infotainment systems which come packed with GPS devices.

The downside, however, is that any smart thief can easily locate and effectively disable these tracking devices. Considering this, the manufacturers do not necessarily factor in GPS systems when coupling their automobiles; most automobiles are simple not factory equipped for track and recovery tourneys.

We can easily argue that the location of factory fitted tracking devices may be public knowledge and such easily decommissioned by car thieves. So how then do we preempt the permanent loss of our cars after theft? Hop on as we review two ways we can track and recover our cars when stolen.

Using a Hidden Smartphone to track a stolen vehicle

A simple and smart way of tracking a lost vehicle is using a hidden cell phone in the car. It is an easy Do-It-Yourself solution to tracking lost vehicles. It is a tried and tested method that works.

To get this done, you would have to get a cell phone specifically for this purpose; most cheap Smartphones with GPS technology will do just fine. Rather than disposing of your old or malfunctioning cell phone, you could use it for this as long as the GPS and Android OS are functional. The aim here is to use Android's ‘Find My Device’ feature to find your car by locating your phone. The first thing to do is to install a GPS tracking software on the Smartphone.

Since most Nigerians use android phones, it’s highly likely the phone has been preloaded with Google maps and your Google account signed in.

The trick in this amateurish method is that most of the groundwork has already been done by the smartphone manufacturer. There is other commercially available GPS software for those that are using an operating system other than Android. Carefully hide the smartphone in a hidden compartment in your car.

Placing it in hidden spots like your trunk, under the seat or in the back of the glove compartment will ensure that the driver doesn’t know you are tracking him. Tracking the hidden cell phone over a long time may be an issue if the battery on the cell phone drains before recovery. A quick way to fix this is to hard-wire the phone to your car’s inbuilt cell phone charger since your data has to be turned on always for this feature to work.

An automobile or electrical engineer can help you with this.  A cell phone with at least three days standby time is recommended, but not necessary. In the unfortunate case of theft, the first line of action is to initiate the tracking process. All you need is a smartphone or PC and the login ID and password of the google account on the phone you want to locate.

Follow the following the steps;

  1. Visit on your PC or smartphone
  2. Login with the google account of the smartphone in your car
  3. Tap on the three horizontal bar icon on the top right corner of your screen
  4. On the displayed option, select “your timeline”
  5. Enter the day, month and year for which you want to see the location of the phone.
  6. Google maps will then display the location of the device during this period and a live feed of the current location.
Your device’s (and car’s) current location will be indicated by a green marker, inform the police and recover the car at the indicated location.

Using purpose-built GPS trackers to track a stolen vehicle

If you are definitely not cut out for the intricacies involved in using a hidden phone to track your car, there remains only one viable alternative; getting a professional service. However, getting professional services from local car tracking companies can get a little pricey. For an average price of NGN 65,000, car owners can get live feedback on the location of cars and it's current state. We are easily convinced that the risk of not employing professional services in dealing with such a task clearly outweighs the aftermath of inaction.

Using professional services could increase the chances of locating and recovering stolen vehicles to as high as 90%. Though mostly operational in only major cities like PH, Kano, Lagos, and Abuja, there are quite a handful of companies offering car tracking services in the country. These car tracking companies offer a wide range of tracking options alongside other complimentary services. Popular among them is C-Track, a tracking service by Telecom giant MTN. With C-TRACK you should be able to;
  • Receive SMS report of your car's current location
  • Receive SMS alerts when your car is involved in a crash
  • Remotely Listen to ongoing conversations in your car
  • See your car's exact location on Google Maps
  • Ascertain the current speed of your car
C-Track's tamper alert will also alert you on any movement of your vehicle after being parked. This early warning feature ensures you are informed of any possible theft right at the moment it is happening.  

C-Track users can also set up safe zones; an area which the vehicle can operate, out of which is considered a theft incidence. After setting up this option, once your vehicle leaves the area within which it can operate, an alert is sent out to the subscriber. C-track's tracking device comes with a SIM slot, any action to be taken is usually sent as an SMS to the sim card number. After receiving an alert on a possible theft, a simple SMS is enough to neutralize the threat. You can send an SMS to immobilize the car by stopping the engine or sound an alarm to notify people in the area.

To register for MTN's car tracking service, call 216 or 286 (for MTN subscribers) or 08039770011 for other networks for instructions. The tracking device currently goes for about NGN 40,000, more information on setting up can be accessed via Adata C-track's website; Setting up the service is usually hassle-free as MTN will assign an installation agent to retrofit your car with the device.

After installation, everything is pretty much settled; to get real-time information about your car's location, all you need do is send an SMS to your device's SIM. You will need a mobile phone or a computer to get real-time info on your tracked asset or to utilize available web-based tracking. Using MTN C-track does not necessarily require DATA on the tracked SIM. Other tracking companies offering similar services include;

Items needed for tracking a lost vehicle

  1. License plate Number
  2. Color
  3. Model
  4. Car receipt
  5. Vehicle clearance details (if imported)
  6. Other details of the car
  7. Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  8. The brand

Point summary to track a stolen vehicle

  1. Report to the nearest police station
  2. Create awareness about the theft
  3. Track it yourself
  4. Report to a radio station
  5. Other incentives to people
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