Chiemelie Ezeobi writes on how a planned armed robbery operation by a six-man gang in Lagos was foiled by some gallant policemen, leading to the arrest of some of the suspects
It was about at about 9.30am, one recent Thursday, a businesswoman, identified as a bureau de change operator, had completed a transaction at the Amukoko axis and was heading into the Odun-Ade Market when the worst happened. Out of the blues, six men on six motorbikes, who unknown to her had been trailing her, zoomed up to her and carted away the money.
To fast track their escape, the gang shot into the air sporadically to deter any heroic act by passersby.
The Foiled Attempt
Their attempt was however foiled minutes later by some policemen attached to a bank in the area, who took cover and returned their fire. In the process, the robbers had to dump the money and escape, although three persons suspected to be members of the gang were later arrested.
One of the gang members was also hit in the gunfire and with that, it was easier for the Ajegunle Police Division, who were deployed by the state Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, to trail them. The police were able to arrest three members of the gang, just as they are still on the trail of the remaining members of the gang.
According to eyewitness account, some the mobile policemen around immediately engaged the robbers in a gun duel, and injured one of the robbers. However, the gang resisted arrest and shot their way through in a bid to create an escape getaway. In the melee, a policeman was also shot.
Having created the escape route they sought, the gang carried their injured colleague, mounted their bikes and zoomed off while shooting sporadically. It was gathered that as soon as the state Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, got wind of the attack, he put all Area Commanders of Area B, C and Area E and their respective divisional police officers on the alert
His explicit directives were that they should all team up and look out for the fleeing gunmen. Upon receipt of the orders, the Ajegunle Divisional Police Officer, CSP Aminu Gusau and his anti- robbery policemen laid ambush at all the escape routes within his division.
Minutes later, they were able to sight the fleeing gunmen along Oregie area, carrying their wounded colleague on one of their motorcycles. On sighting the policemen, the robbers shot dead their injured colleague and dumped him on the way, although the gunshot also hit a mechanic identified as Idris Taiwo.
Notwithstanding, the police were able to nab three of the robbers, who have since been transferred to the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Lagos Command for investigation as was confirmed then by the Police Public Relations Officer, Dolapo Badmos, a Superintendent of Police.
However, the death of the mechanic at Ajeromi General Hospital, Orile, caused serious protests by the youths who accused the hospital of delay in treating the injured victim. The situation was saved by the quick intervention of policemen from the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) and Ajegunle police division. Also at the scene were soldiers attached to the Operation Mesa.
The Access Connection
Contrary to earlier reports that the Access Bank branch at the area, was the target of the six-man daredevil armed robbery gang that terrorised the areaon Thursday, THISDAY gathered that the reverse was the case.
The only connection with the robbery incident, which happened miles away from the bank, was that the robber’s attempt to escape would have been smooth save for the gallantry of the policemen deployed by the Police Mobile Force (PMF) 22 to the bank, who intercepted the armed gang.
It was in attempt to flee that they passed in front of Access Bank and on sighting the policemen on duty who were already at alert, they opened fire on them.
The policemen were said to have retaliated, and this ensued in a gun duel, that ended with an inspector, simply identified as Gabriel, being shot on the right hand and leg.
Notwithstanding, THISDAY checks at the hospital revealed that the bank has taken over the welfare of the inspector who was shot in the exchange of gunfire, promising to clear all medical expenses.
A Noteworthy Gallantry
In all these, credit must be given to the gallant efforts of the policemen who not only foiled the robbery attempt, but also gave chase and arrested three of the gang members, even though an inspector was injured by bullets.
Giving details on how the attack occurred, the police inspector Gabriel (last name withheld) who spoke to THISDAY on his hospital bed in one of the hospitals on Lagos Island said, “It was about 9.30am on Thursday and we were inside the bank premises at the Coker branch doing our job. Suddenly, we heard people shouting that armed robbers were coming and we came out with our rifles and took cover, waiting for the armed robbers.
“As they were running away, they opened fire when they got to the front of the bank. They opened fire and we retaliated. They opened fire again and we retaliated. It was then I took cover under the vehicle. It was there that the bullet hit my right leg and hand. Immediately the bullet hit me, I felt weak as I was bleeding. I called my colleagues to help me and I was taken to the hospital.
“At the hospital, the chief security officer of Access bank came to see me. The bank has promised to take care of the hospital bills from my medical treatment. They have been very helpful and I appreciate their efforts in ensuring that I recover and heal completely.”
Despite the gunshot wounds, Gabriel who said he had been shot at before by armed robbers, commended the police for still arresting three of the six-man gang. The wounded officer said he is not deterred. “I am not deterred. I have signed for this police work. I will still face robbers again if the opportunity arises. Afterall, this is not the first time I have been shot at by armed robbers.
The Lagos Police Reacts
The next day, the state Commissioner of Police, Owoseni, in the company of DCP Olafimihan Adeoye, the Deputy Commissioner of Police Operations and the state Police Public Relations Officer, Dolapo Badmos, a Superintendent of Police, visited the injured inspector at the hospital where he is presently undergoing treatment.
After speaking to the inspector, Owoseni took out time to speak with the medical personnel on duty to ensure that quality medical care is dispensed to the policeman. Afterwards at the command headquarters in Ikeja, Owoseni who briefed reporters explained how the operation went down.
He said, “On Thursday, June 16, 2016, the vigilance of a police inspector led to the foiling of an armed robbery operation at Amukoko. The armed robbers operating on a bike had trailed a female bank customer of a new generation bank. The inspector responded to the attack and foiled the robbery.
“The robbers while trying to escape and the same time rescue one of their members (who was shot by the policeman), shot at the police inspector. The bullet hit a mechanic who died at the hospital. The policeman was shot on the hand and leg.
“However, he succeeded in making sure that the armed robber that was shot was not taken away by the gang. When the response team arrived the scene, it was through the arrested suspect that they were able to track and arrest the other two.”
The Suspect’s Confession
While two of the three suspects arrested maintained their innocence, the third wasn’t coherent on the part he played in the armed robbery operation. For Emmanuel Sunday, a Calabar indigene, who virtually wept throughout the questioning session, his arrest was just a cruel twist of fate.
While stressing his innocence he said, “I don’t know anything about this robbery incident. I am just a bus conductor. Our bus that we use in making a living had issues and the driver took it for some repairs. I was on my way to meet my driver when the worst happened. I saw a bike man (pointing at the other suspect). I flagged him down and told him I was going to Mile 2. He told me to pay N300 but I insisted on N200 as the fare.
“He then carried me. On our way, I just heard some policemen shouting that we should stop. I then told the bikeman to stop. When the police got close, they accused us of trying to run away. They took us to the station and the next thing they roped me in with some bullets. I don’t know anything about this operation. You can call my bus driver and confirm. I have never met any of these two in my life.”
The other suspect, Sunjor Sunday, a Benue indigene and a commercial motorcyclist, practically re-echoed what the former said. He said his only crime was that he did not stop when he was told to stop by the police and that was because he didn’t know they were calling him.
For the third suspect, Monday Nwogbo, a Benninois, he alleged it was the fleeing armed robbers that stopped him, robbed him of all the money he had on him and then shot him in the leg. The suspect whose wound has been treated even though he is still at SARS, Ikeja, said he is into marketing cars at Cotonou, adding that he also sells provisions by the side.
Exonerating the other two suspects he said he had never met them before save for their encounter at SARS cell. He said, “I swear on my life. I don’t know this two. It was even the robbers that shot me. In Cotonou where I come from, I help people buy cars.
“On Thursday, I came to Lagos from Seme to buy some provisions that I also sell. I was with 120, 000 CFA (Benin Republic currency) and N200, 000. There was traffic and so I decided to take a bike. I was on that bike when another bike carrying two people stopped us. They were armed robbers. They shot me and took the money I had.” Asked how the live bullets found on him came about, he said it was the robbers that planted it in his pockets after robbing.
However, Owoseni who reiterated the command’s determination to rid the state of all criminality, said they would all be charged to court soon for due prosecution, adding that efforts are in place to mop up the remaining gang members who are still at awol.