Special Report

BULLETS, BLOOD AND LOADS OF CASH (II): Tales of killings of on-duty law enforcement officers at Ondo, Ekiti banks

On-the-job felonious killings of law enforcement officers were spiralling in Southwest Nigeria in 2021, owing to bank robberies. Investigative journalist Ridwan Yusuf spent 18 days digging into this fresh threat in southwestern Nigeria.

In the second of this three-part series, he examines how on-duty police officers were clearly targeted by commercial bank robbers over the course of the year, and how all the attacks that happened in Ondo and Ekiti states in 2021 resulted in the death of police officers.

On 15 July 2021, a policeman and two others were viciously killed by a gang of armed robbers, numbering 15, at Ilara Mokin town in Ifedore Local Government Area of Ondo State, Southwest Nigeria.

The robbers broke the bullet-proof door of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) branch with dynamite before gaining entrance into the hall.

Armed robbers on 15 July, 2021, used dynamite to destroy the entrance of a UBA branch at Ilara Mokin town in Ifedore LGA of Ondo State.

After snuffing life out of people and injuring several others, they made off with N2 million (4,831 US Dollars, going by the foreign exchange rate on 21 December 2021).

This reporter obtained a picture of a body, but it is too gory to share.

Bank robbers have turned Nigeria’s police personnel and infrastructure into targets of violence. In some instances — like the Iree bank attack in Osun State in August 2021 — policemen take off their uniform and flee ‘for safety’.

Timothy Avele, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Agent-X Security Limited stated that although it is unprofessional to remove uniform while on duty and bolt when confronted with robbery incidents, the officers cannot be entirely faulted. “After all they are humans too,” Avele told NewsWireNGR.

Security expert, Timothy Avele

When authorities do not care about their welfare: there is no provision of protective gears like bulletproof helmet, vest etc, how do you expect them to confront these murderous robbers? The old saying applies: ‘he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day’. So until their welfare is adequately cared for by those concerned, we have to hold back our sword against their timid conduct when faced with deadly criminals.”

Ekiti like Ondo

Ekiti was carved out of old Ondo State; the states are homogeneous. On 29 November 2021, there was palpable tension in Ekiti state, precisely at Aramoko-Ekiti, Ekiti West Local Government Area, as a policeman and a Special Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), were shot dead when armed robbers attacked a branch of Wema bank located in the community after office hours.

Simultaneously, the attackers who had split themselves into groups, set upon the Divisional Police Headquarters in the town. It was the second time the bank would be robbed (it experienced a similar attack in 2010).

The affected Wema Bank branch in Aramoko-Ekiti
The policeman who was killed

Before the gun-wielding invaders stormed the bank, they opened fire on the police officer on guard while the unlucky Special Marshall, who was in his private vehicle, ran into the barricade they mounted. The robbers then escaped with their loot.

How easy is it for these bandits to acquire arms?

The proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) is recognised as an obstacle to law and order. Avele, the security expert, pointed out how arms proliferation is facilitating criminal and armed violence, saying it is the cause of the recent upsurge in armed robbery attacks on banks in the Southwest region.

“The major cause of bank robbery upsurge is the ease of anyone with little money to procure sophisticated illegal weapons. There are too many illegal arms flowing in and around the country right now. Sadly, law-enforcement and Intelligence agencies do not yet seem to know where to start from.

“Starting from seaports, airports, anything can come in if you have the money and a little contact with our men (security operatives) there, especially the customs. Let’s not talk about our porous borders. It’s so bad that a governor could be kidnapped and transported across the borders.

“Another reason for the incessant bank robberies in Southwest states is lack of meaningful employment, coupled with the COVID-19 negative impact on industries worldwide.”

Earlier, on 1 July, 2021, Ekiti state had been shaken by a bank robbery. A policeman was killed by the robbers during a shootout, and many persons wounded in Otun-Ekiti, the headquarters of Moba Local Government Area of Ekiti State.

Aftermath of armed robbers’ attack on Unity Bank, Otun-Ekiti, in July 2021

NewsWireNGR gathered that the robbers besieged Unity Bank Plc around 5:30 p.m. and shot into the air to scare those within the vicinity. Bank staff and customers who came for transactions at the bank scampered to safety.

The robbers used dynamite to blow open the entrance and eventually went away with a large sum of money.

Afiz Mosope, an indigene of the town, was not impressed with the response of the security operatives. “The bank is just a two-minute drive from a checkpoint of the Nigerian Army, yet the soldiers did not move an inch. Some members of the community rushed down to the checkpoint to beg them to come to their aid, but they refused to come to confront the robbers,” he said.

It was not the first time Otun-Ekiti would witness such a terrifying attack. Five years ago (in 2016), a bloody raid on Heritage Bank left a tell-tale of woes, anguish and flood of tears. Four persons — a bank manager, a soon-to-wed young security guard and two other persons — were brutally shot dead by the rampaging hoodlums.

Lagos has been free for a few years — this is why

Lagos has a low level of risk. Since 2015, the state has not experienced any successful bank robbery. Although there are pockets of incidences of foiled bank robberies and bullion van theft, the dare-devil armed robbers have cold feet about raiding commercial banks.

Things used to be nasty though: between September and December 2006, Lagos alone witnessed no less than 26 bank robberies.

The other two Southwest states, Oyo and Ogun, were also untouched in 2021. The Special Tactical Squad (STS) had been deployed to keep surveillance around all financial institutions in the states.

“Lagos is a bit different — not that it can’t be a hotbed of robbery and kidnapping, it is just that in criminality business, the thinking is that one must strike and escape. The hectic traffic is both an inconvenience and a blessing to Lagos. It makes bank robbery a more difficult task when escape is factored into the robbery plans,” Avele explained.

“Also, most police Commissioners posted to Lagos seem to apply a lot of intelligence-based policing compared to other states.

“Additionally, the Lagos state government does invest heavily in security compared to other states. Still, there is room for serious improvement as that may change soon with the level of cheap illegal weapons and influx of jobless youths from across the country.”

How can this scourge being witnessed by bank staffers, security operatives and residents of most Southwest states be effectively tackled? 

Combating insecurity in whatever form is never easy, but it is also not insurmountable. Avele says more intelligence-based policing should be developed and implemented, “and all security, intelligence agencies and the military need to set aside their pride and cooperate more.”

He also advised the Nigeria Police Force, the Department of State Services (DSS), the Nigerian Armed Forces, and others, to shift from “their current reactive operations” methods to being proactive.

Furthermore, Avele counselled against dishonest dealings, declaring that “nothing will work with the level of corruption everywhere, especially in the airports and seaports.” 

“There’s no gainsaying that without Nigerian authorities adequately taking care of security personnel’s wellbeing, then we are yet to begin,” he added.

This is the second of a three-part series. You may read Part I here.

NewsWireNGR Latest News in Nigeria

Leave a Reply