Giving account of the coordinated attack by armed robbers on four commercial banks in Uromi, headquarters of Esan North East Local Government Area of Edo State Adibe Emenyonu, reports on efforts by the local vigilante that led to the abandonment of operational vehicles by the fleeing robbers and the subsequent recovery of the stolen cash, thus exposing the security lacuna created by the police command
At about 5:45pm last week Thursday, a red colour Camry car with Reg.No. EZA 105 KJA, drove into the premises of Unity Bank; another ash colour Camry Car with Reg. No. KWL 19 DU, made its way into Zenith Bank. Similarly, a dark ash colour corolla car with Reg. No. UBJ 734 SZ, slowly parked close to the precinct of United Bank of Africa (UBA); while one Lexus 330 car with Reg. No. AAA 973 FL, got close to Union Bank.
At the same time, two motorcycles: a red Q. Link M/CYCLE With Reg. No. EZA 105 QN, and another Red Day Long M/Cycle With Reg. NO. ENU 204 QL rode very close to the police command in Uromi, headquarters of Esan North East Local Government Area of Edo State.
The mission of occupants of these vehicles and motorbikes remained unknown. Since they pretended to be customers waiting to use the Automated Machines (ATM) to withdraw money, nobody paid serious attention to them.
But in a simultaneous and coordinated manner they struck like a rattlesnake, wrecking havoc on the entire semi-urban town of Uromi, and people began to run helter skelter for dear lives.
By the time the dust raised by the unwanted intruders settled, seven persons including two policemen and five civilians lay dead while several others were hospitalised as a result of the injuries they sustained while millions of naira could not be accounted for. The stampede was worse because the four banks were located close to each other along the famous Market road, Uromi.
Besides, the banks were badly damaged due to the kind of arsenal the attackers deployed to make their way into the banking halls before carting away millions of naira notes.
A resident of Uromi who witnessed the attacks on the banks, described it as too coordinated like a commando operation
According to him, the attack on the banks was coordinated because it was launched at the same time, adding that just as some of the robbers were busy attacking the banks, and stuffing money into their sacks, the ones who came on motorcycles attacked the police station just to prevent them from responding to the distress calls from bank staff and members of the public.
The source who pleaded anonymity also said: “The robbers came prepared. People were just running helter-skelter. Residents were making contract with security agencies to come to the rescue of the banks not knowing that those being called to come for their rescue were also under heavy fire.”
At first when contacted, the Edo State Police Command Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Kontongs Bello, confirmed the attacks, saying, ” that’s true sir”, but did not provide further details when our correspondent probed further.
Besides, it was gathered that the Uromi bank robbery attack became possible because the attackers took advantage of police commanders meeting with the state Commissioner of Police, a security source disclosed.
The security source, who did not want his name mentioned, said the armed robbers decided to strike on Thursday, having studied that the police commanders in the Uromi axis usually joined their counterparts across the state in a critical weekly briefing with the state Commissioner of Police.
The source disclosed that as it had been the practice, the Thursday Commanders parley with the CP required the physical presence of all the police Area Commanders and the Divisional Police Officers in the state.
“The armed robbers numbering about 30, who came in a convoy of vehicles, carried out the well coordinated heist simultaneously at the four banks at the Uromi city centre.
“The robbers decision to carry out the commando-like attacks when the crucial security meeting was ongoing in Benin had thrown up serious questions among the top echelon of the Edo Police Command, with posers being raised as to the proprietary or otherwise of the physical meeting in the age of technology, where virtual communication strategy could have been employed”, the source noted.
He further posited that absence of the Divisional Police Officers and the Area Commanders, who are the operational commanders, must have affected what could have been an immediate coordinated police response against the criminals, arguing further that the armed robbers, who carried out the attacks, during which seven persons (two police and five civilians) were killed, as confirmed by Kontongs, and huge sums of money stolen, must have monitored the area and the possible security reaction and threat before embarking on the action.
Another twist of the Thursday attack on the four banks emerged in a viral video next day evening that the armed robbers took the advantage of the absence of police chain of command in Uromi to strike.
The viral video which recorded human casualties, also showed the armed robbers loading unspecified amount of money in sacks into their getaway vehicles but for a late evening feelers from the neighbouring town of Ubiaja, headquarters of Esan South East Local Government Area.
The feelers indicated that the youths of Ubiaja community, on hearing about the robbery incidents, mobilised and blocked all the road to prevent the fleeing robbers from using the town as their exit thoroughfare.
It was later confirmed that the armed robbers abandoned one of the cars, red Toyota Camry car with registration number, MK 23 KJA, carrying the stolen cash from the banks and one of them arrested during a “breaking news”, as posted on the Edo Police Command Press Interactive WhatsApp platform.
Officially, the Edo Police Command confirmed that the sum of N34, 510,000 was recovered but in its official statement, endorsed by its spokesman, while stating that the money was recovered from the abandoned operational vehicles used by the armed robbers at a bush in Ubiaja, Esan South-East LGA, a neighboring council to Uromi, he refused to acknowledge the role played by the vigilante group in Ubiaja who blocked the roads forcing the robbers to abandoned their vehicles and loot.
The statement added that “the Commissioner of Police Edo State police Command, CP Philip Aliyu Ogbadu, while sympathising with the families of those who lost their lives in the unfortunate incident, promised not to relent until all those behind the attack are bought to face the full wrath of the law”.
In the aftermath of the shocking armed robbery attack, a prominent PDP Chieftain and son of the late party BOT chairman, Chief Tony Anenih, Mr. Ose Anenih called for State Police.
Anenih who consoled with families of those that lost their lives in the incident, also condemned in the strongest terms the deadly assault on the Uromi community.
“It is heart-wrenching that the state, and Nigeria at large, have been crippled by rising insecurity. I believe that this is a result of not just an absence of morality and conscience in these criminals; but also a failure of our current security architecture to curtail the excesses of these criminals.
“My position on the need to decentralise police operations in Nigeria with the creation of State Police is well documented. The only way we can successfully fight crime locally is to adopt the most effective strategy of local policing with local and community members in charge of securing their community through State Police.
“Nigeria today needs to restructure our security framework. State governors need to be able to control their own local state police forces. Regional security networks like Amotekun need to be given legislative teeth to combat armed bandits successfully.
“As a matter of urgency, Nigerians must realise that we cannot continue to use ineffective tactics to address the rising crimes in our country. So while we mourn the innocent victims who lost their lives, I want to plead with the President and the National Assembly to accede to our demands for the creation of state police,” he said.
Also, the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has advocated increased surveillance by security operatives.
Obaseki stated this during an on-the-spot assessment of the scene of robbery attack.
Represented by his deputy, Mr. Philip Shaibu, who was accompanied by heads of security agencies in the state, he appealed to the people of Uromi to go about their normal businesses as the state government has beefed up security and surveillance to ensure peace is restored in the area.
According to him, “This attack is a well-organised crime. We have increased surveillance in the area. We are here on behalf of the governor to find out what happened and know the extent of the damage. We are here on a fact-finding mission and have interacted with bank officials, eye witnesses, traders and people living in the area and seen the level of destruction and damage done.
“I am here with all the security chiefs and have seen the damage and beefed up security in the area. I urge all living in the area to go about their normal businesses. We reassure our people of improved security in the area and guarantee their safety. In the next week, people of this area will see government action on the matter.”
The governor’s entourage also visited the palace of the Ojuromi of Uromi, HRH Anslem Odaloighe Eidenojie Il, who described the situation like a war zone as it lasted for more than two hours as the robbers took control of the area, killing his people.
The governor’s entourage also visited the Nigeria Police Force, Uromi Command, which was also attacked by the robbers to demobilise the officers before the robbery. Also visited was the hospital where the injured victims were being treated.
“The armed robbers decided to strike on Thursday, having studied that the police commanders in the Uromi axis usually joined their counterparts across the state in a critical weekly briefing with the state commissioner of police”