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Bullion van armed robbery mayhem in Ibadan and its conundrums

Sadly what happened on Thursday, February 10, 2022 in Ibadan was an unfortunate repeat of another frightening 2008 experience in the Oyo State capital. Coincidentally, the locus in quo was the same Idi Ape on Iwo Road in Ibadan. Incidentally, just as residents were gripped with fear, palpitation and lamentation for having lost peace, property, loved ones to the fatal armed robbery attack that year, last week also recorded a similar scenario when some dare-devil armed robbers held the area by the jugular leaving a sorry tale of sorrow, tears and blood in their wake after snuffing the life out of some security personnel, as well as, innocent and defenceless civilians.

It was grief, anguish and gnashing of teeth after a coordinated booming of guns had rented the hitherto peaceful atmosphere for about 20 minutes, and the Lucifer agents had carted away an unspecified amount of cash from the bullet-riddled and deflated tyre bullion van. Almost to the day some 14 years ago, armed robbers had stormed the same commercial ‘Bank Road’ area, killing some policemen, riddling some security vehicles parked at the Iwo Road/ Basorun Junction with bullets, sprayed some buildings suspected to have CCTV cameras mounted on them, and in commando- like operation, carted away large sums of money from a commercial bank whose bullet-proof door was shattered with dynamite. The bank building was attacked back in the day, now houses a Samsung office beside the Chicken Republic, Idi Ape.

In the latest assault, apart from some policemen killed as the robbers escaped through Akobo and Olorunda roads, some civilians, including a commercial motorcyclist, was also hit by a bullet and died on the spot on that terrible day. Last Thursday, the Toyota Pick-Up bullion van being escorted by another Toyota Hilux vehicle had left an undisclosed bank and was heading towards Gate from Iwo Road when it was attacked at the Ikolaba Junction close to Mary Hill Convent School where a six-year-old pupil (name withheld) told New Telegraph that: “We had to lie on the floor when the sound of guns were shaking everywhere. Some of us were even crying because we did not want to die.”

The school, curiously, shares a boundary with the Tiger Officers Mess of the Nigerian Army at Ikolaba, adjacent to the Agodi Government House. Some eye witnesses recounted their sad and disturbing experiences. A man said: “We discovered that the robbers were stealthily trailing the bullion van from the Iwo Road axis. When they reached their planned spot, they opened fire on the Hilux vehicle conveying the policemen, killing two of them in it instantly. The bodies of the two policemen lay on the ground behind the Hilux van before they were taken away. Video shots from some individuals showed this.

The robbers deflated the tyres of the bullion van with bullets; rained bullets on the vehicle, shattering its glasses, but the driver was not hurt because the glass and the body of the vehicle are bullet-proof. “The driver of the not-flashy Sienna bus, which was carrying the robbers, made a Uturn and drove up to the bullion van. One of the robbers then shot the lock of the vehicle and forced it open, and then the sacks containing the money were offloaded into the Sienna car before it speeded off.” New Telegraph was told that while the robbery was going on, sporadic gunshots rocked the area as the robbers on ‘guard duty’ released volleys of bullets to frighten people.

Panic-stricken passers-by ran for safety, while many motorists also jumped out of their cars and sought safety anywhere they could. Incidentally while all this was happening, some residents were fearfully recording the event through their shaky and unsteady phone cameras from their hiding places. The timid ones lay on the ground with others under tables.

One person even told New Telegraph that he hid in one of the toilets in order to avoid being hit by ‘stray bullets’,” he said declining to reveal his identity. Another witness, who simply identified himself as Lanre, said: “One of the robbers was shooting sporadically at the traffic-light junction, scaring away all the policemen stationed at the area. I also noticed that the policemen manning the bank-clustered area disappeared. One of the robbers even searched some corners of some buildings around where policemen and traffic officers used to sit, possibly with the aim of killing them.

Not finding anyone, he released some shots again to let the inhabitants and occupiers of the offices around the place that they really meant business. “A driver of a private car, trapped not too far from the bullion van, (Sulayman Mubarak, Personal Assistant to the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Osun State, as investigation later revealed), was shot in the head. His two-year old child being brought from his granny’s at Ikire was in the car with him. Sulayman’s brains spurted out of his forehead that was dangling as the seat belt kept him sitting up.”

An Okada rider, who was conveying a woman, was also shot and died, but the woman luckily jumped down and escaped unhurt. The driver of the bullion van might not have been hurt since the bullets did not penetrate the vehicle, but as he tried to alight from the vehicle as the robbers took off, he was shot on the arm. He was later rushed to the University College Hospital (UCH). Back in 2008, some of the robbers had brazenly strolled along the same Idi Ape Street with two of them dressed in overall jackets, and one of them (according to a trader who was hiding in a tinted-glassed shop beside road then), said: “sebi dem say dey get guns, make dem come out now! Abi make we enter the place sef?” The other robber was said to have objected, advising that they focused on what they came for. The place he was referring to is the Testing Ground, Agodi Area Command and Divisional Headquarters of the Nigerian Police located within the area of the robbery operation. Curiously, the robbers operated unhindered and unchallenged for almost an hour that day.

Last Thursday it was deja vu when the robbers operated in between the axis of Testing Ground, which is the Area Command, the Agodi Police Station, Gate, and the Tiger Officers Mess of the Nigerian Army; with residents of the area unhappy that there was no counter attack from all the security bases around the scene while it lasted.

An aghast and infuriated witness lamented: “The robbers even had enough time to raid the bullion van such that the sacks of the cash were conveniently hauled into their Toyota Sienna car before they sped through the Gate/Bus Stop axis. It is befuddling that the car in which they were shooting sporadically could escape like that without any attempt to confront them. If the policemen at the Agodi Gate station could not block the way and give them a chase or counter-attack, the Ikolaba axis would have been blocked by the soldiers at the Tiger Officers Mess, close to Governor Seyi Makinde’s private residence.

“There is no security anywhere again my brother. This incident has made nonsense of the whooping, unquestionable and ridiculous security votes that Nigerian governors are appropriating to themselves every month.” Returning from a retreat, the convoy of the Oyo State Police Commissioner, Mrs Ngozi Onadeko, met the aftermath of the dastardly act. She described the robbery as a coordinated one, declaring that two of her men were shot in the leg and that one of the robbers was gunned down by one of the policemen providing escort for the bullion van. “One of the police men on escort with the bullion van shot dead one of the robbers and they carried the robber that was shot with them.

“We can’t actually say what went wrong now. All the exits and borders that lead to Oyo state have all been blocked, so we are trying our best to get them to know what actually happened,” Onadeko said at the scene of the robbery. Later in the evening, the Command’s spokesperson, Adewale Osifeso through a statement, gave an account of the robbery incident, saying: “A group of masked armed robbers about10 in numbers trailed, targeted and attacked a bullion van around traffic light area, Idi-Ape Junction Agodi, Ibadan.

“The armed robbers engaged the Police Officers escorting the bullion van and in the process, an undisclosed amount of money was carted away. In swift response, the Police equally neutralized one of the armed robbers while some were believed to have escaped with multiple gunshot injuries. “Consequently, a civilian onlooker was hit by stray bullet and died at the scene while two Police officers later died in the hospital as a result of gunshot injuries sustained. Four others including two Police officers are responding to treatment.” He nevertheless said in the conclusion of the release that: “The citizenry are hereby enjoined not to panic as efforts are in top gear to track down and apprehend the criminal gang.

The Oyo State Police Command seeks the cooperation of the good people of the State in providing necessary information to help maintain the relative peace and tranquillity being enjoyed in the state. As always, if you see something, say something.” In response to the police directive, many residents of the state who commended the state government for providing the stateof- the-art traffic lights at that junction, have, however, asked: “Whether there was or were any CCTV camera(s) around such a popular and strategic area of the metropolis? Why did the policemen at the Testing Ground Area Command within the vicinity of the robbery not put up any counter action against the robbers till they escaped? Why was there no intervention from the military men at the Tiger Officers Mess close by? Why and how the Toyota Sienna bus escaped without being tracked down by the security bases around the community? Why by weekend, the Police have not been able to make something out of their investigations in spite of the exits and borders said to have been alerted on the day of the robbery?” One resident said: “Even though the robbers were masked, and dressed in camouflage uniforms, if there were CCTV cameras mounted by the government along that street and on its trafficlights decorated stands at the junction, the kind of guns the robbers used could be known, and if they had some unique marks on them that could be recognised when the camera is zoomed in.

With such, where such guns emanated from could be known by experts. But if there were no cameras there, how does anyone recognise hooded robbers?” the citizen asked New Telegraph. However, reacting to the Police PPRO’s describing the shot Sulayman Mubarak (a graduate of the University of Ibadan) as “a civilian onlooker”, one of his relatives, Abdulateef Olawepo, described the comment as unwholesome, angrily asking: “How could any reasonable person describe him as an ‘onlooker’? Was the robbery incident a movie or what? “We want it to be on record that he was not an onlooker contrary to how the police described him and it was reported by journalists. He was caught up in the unfortunate incident and the bullet went straight to kill him. He was shot in the head. “We want those who killed him to be brought to justice. But we know that ‘investigation is ongoing’ is the usual reaction of the police to such and that is the end of it until another one happens!”

 

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