Auchi, a town in Edo State had been known for its polytechnic, until the daredevil armed robbers invaded the town penultimate Monday. Adibe Emenyonu writes that the robbery attacks will remain indelible in the memories of the residents
Auchi, the headquarters of Etsako Local Government Area of Edo State was literarily on fire on the night of Monday, November 26. The inferno was ignited by the gunmen who stormed the town for a robbery operation. At the end they succeeded, but not without being repelled.
The daredevil armed robbers had invaded Auchi to rob the banks located in the city and their operation turned the otherwise quiet and peaceful town into a theatre of war as they used dynamites to blow up four banks in the area and carted away money from one of the banks. In a pre-determined and well planned operation, the robbers arrived in Auchi in a convoy of eight vehicles shooting sporadically to scare off the residents. It was 7.30pm.
In an operation that lasted for over three hours unhindered and left about 15 people dead according to reports, the attempts to draft in the military detachment in the area failed initially as the military men were alleged to have said that the only condition for them to be drafted in would be a directive from the Edo State Governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole who incidentally was out of town.
But apparently seeing the bravado displayed by the robbers, the fighting spirit of the soldiers was reawakened and they decided to battle the hoodlums headlong. This rather came too late as the invaders were said to have gained a lot of grounds to ward off any intruder having demobilised all the police formations in the area as well as blocking the access road leading to the military barracks in Auchi.
According to an eye witness account, apart from the banks that were blown up, the daredevil robbers also used dynamites to destroy the Police Area Command and the Auchi Divisional Police Headquarters. “All these happened almost at the same time,” the witness said.
He disclosed that the robbers started their operation at about past 7.30 pm, attacked four banks in the area, and riddled some residential buildings with bullets. Several vehicles, including the Police patrol vehicles, Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) within the area command and Auchi divisional police headquarters were also touched.
The situation best described as warfare was carried out simultaneous making it look like a terrorism kind of attacks with a high level of causality figures.
A resident of the area who works at the Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi, said that the day after the robbery attacks, residents of the area refused to open their doors for the fear of further invasion. He said, “the whole town of Auchi and environment had become like a ghost town as all the banks and other commercial outfits shut their doors against customers and people walking on the streets were in fear.”
In his reaction, the police area commander, Auchi, Mr. David Jimwan said though the police buildings were destroyed, the robbers did not succeed in breaking into the police armoury. Jimwan who spoke with journalists noted that his men succeeded in repelling the firing power of the robbers during the attacks.
Following the invasion which claimed the lives of innocent people and destruction of property, Edo State Deputy Governor, Dr. Pius Odubu accompanied by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, Majority Leader of Edo State House of Assembly, Philip Shaibu and the Acting Commissioner of Police, Muhammed Hurdi, representative of the Brigade Commander, 4 Mechanised Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Director State Security Services (SSS)Tukur Bakori visited Auchi the following day.
At the palace of the Otaru of Auhci, Alhaji Haliru Momoh Ikelebe III, Dr. Odubu called on the Inspector General of Police to reinforce the police personnel and equipment in the area, saying “We have seen things with our eyes; we have seen the damage done to the police divisional headquarters and the Area Commander’s office and the four banks. It is clear that these people came with the intention to wreak maximum havoc; they were daredevil armed robbers who were very blood thirsty, and sadistic in approach.”
He also gave his words of assurance, “We want to assure you that this government will spare no efforts in ensuring that these people are traced, arrested and charged to the court. On our part we will do everything humanly possible to assist the security agencies to do a good job at that.”
But, he has words for the police too. He said: “I want to charge the Inspector General of Police to deploy enough men and more sophisticated modern equipment to ensure that everything is done to track down the armed robbers. We want to assure you that Edo
state can never and will never be a safe haven for the criminals. We will ensure that these people are gotten and that they are prosecuted. Our people in Auchi should not be afraid because by the special grace of God it is a passing phase as the security agencies; the SSS, Police and Army have assured us that they will track these people down.”
On his part, the Acting Commissioner of Police in Edo State, Muhammed Hurdi told journalists that he does not suspect terrorists attack in the robbery. “They simply came for the money,” he said.
According to him, “I have visited all the places and the extent of the damage is what matters. The most destructive part of this robbery is the destruction of the police station, the Area Command and the banks. These places were destroyed by the dynamite they threw but in terms of loss, it was only one bank they were able to gain access to and that is where we have some loss of amount which is yet to be ascertained. There were lives that were lost too.”
“As far as we are concerned for now it is robbery and nothing more than that because they were after the money and not even after arms. Even when they attacked the police station and the Area Command, nothing happened to the armoury, it was intact, so they wanted to demobilise the police so that they can have access to the vault of the bank money.”
He said further that, “the police were not caught unawares, because if you looked at the time they got there, that was the time when the police were changing over duty and some of them were praying, others were taking over duty to go on night patrol and that was the time they attacked.”
Although the police chief would like to keep keep his words as they are, residents of Auchi and some national security experts who spoke to THISDAY on a condition of anonymity believed there was a close link between robbery and terrorist attack in the incident.
A national security expert argued that a close look at the modus operandi of terrorists convinced him that it was one. According to him, those who invaded Auchi needed money desperately to finance a project hence the attack on banks in Auchi.
Not too long ago, similar robbery attacks took place in Auchi where robbers attempted using explosives to blow up bank vaults without success.
Against this background therefore, one resident of Auchi believe that the security men are not doing enough to protect the lives of the residents. He said, “there is need for intelligence that is proactive enough to forestall such invasion in the future.”