About 14 months after the bank robbery that shook Offa, Kwara State to its roots, eye-witnesses and residents of the town have recounted their ordeals.
According to them, the incident has reshaped banking operations in the town located in the southern part of Kwara State, North Central Nigeria.
At about 8:30am Friday morning, customers of the Zenith bank were seen crowding the entrance of the bank now fenced, awaiting the resumption of bank workers.
Elsewhere, bank operations commence 8am to end 4pm daily but after the incident, banks now operate three hours from 9am in Offa in which a Federal Polytechnic is located.
Zenith bank Offa is now tightly fenced and visitors from outside the state may wonder why. The infamous Offa bank robbery of 5th April 2018 is reason for such security measures. The five banks in the town were robbed same day.
Of course the incidence that led to gruesome murder of about 30 people including a pregnant woman, is still very much fresh in the memory of residents.
Local sources gave that banks in Offa now operate three hours Mondays to Fridays under water-tight security.
“Banks here now open 9am and close 12noon,” said Adekanye Jelili Amoo, a resident of Offa. Adekanye added that the incident is still fresh in memory of everybody because it was one evil day in the history of the town.
“Although there have been robberies in this town, I don’t think we have ever witnessed what happened this last time. It was a bad day and we all mourned the desecration of the serenity of this peaceful town by armed robbers,” he recounts.
A customer of the Zenith bank who wished to be anonymous told New Dawn why the crowd gathered before the bank before opening on Friday morning. “There won’t be bank operations on Saturday and Sunday, so people must get there early to prepare for quick transactions when the bank resumes by 9am,” he said, adding that, customers must wait for the arrival of the security men before bank operations start.
“The banks here were shut for some time after the robbery last year and new security arrangements have to be in place before reopening,” he said, appreciating efforts of the security operatives in the area.
Meanwhile, a student of the School of Health Technology also told New Dawn what transpired before the new banking arrangements in the town.
“I am a student of the Health Tech College here and I was around when the incident took place. I mean the Offa robbery,” said Olawepo Semilore Aduke.
According to her, her school had introduced a fee and the students protested. “Our school management introduced a fee, I think it was N1,000 and they asked us to pay at the bank. I use First Bank and we were asked to pay. We protested trough a demonstration because we didn’t want to pay the levy,” she said.
Stating further, she said, “The day after our protest, armed robbers besieged Offa. They cordoned off the main road at two points, shutting off vehicles in-between. They moved into the banks and operated freely for about one hour, we witnessed it live,” she narrated.
“People ran into the bushes, some ran to the rooftops where the bold persons were recording with mobile phones. It was like the wars we see in films,” she added.
However, another student who pleaded anonymity for security reasons argued the robbers did not come for money. “They actually came for blood. We suspected ritual killings,” he said.
According to him, “How much do you think they could possibly get from Offa? This is not Ilorin, the state capital, how much would they have been looking for that warranted shedding so much blood. More than 25 people including policemen were gunned down.
“The innocent people did not resist them, they were unarmed. For me, I suspected they needed blood and robbery is a way they could use to cover-up smoothly, the killing was too much,” he said.
Another eye-witness gave his own account. “You know it is a security issue, I won’t like to give my names. We learnt that those boys were in this town for days before they struck,” an anonymous female eye-witness recalled.
“The report was that they were already in this town before the fateful day. The report also said they were seen living large and that kind of lifestyle is alien to this environment, little did we know they were evil people.
Few days after, they struck and killed several policemen which is the bloodiest in this area,” she said.
33 people were killed in the 5th April 2018 bank robbery during which five banks were raided by armed hoodlums.
Six of the robbery suspects were however apprehended and arraigned in court. They include Ayoade Akinnibosun, Ibikunle Ogunleye, Adeola Abraham Salaudeen Azeez and Niyi Ogundiran.
The principal suspect, Michael Adiukwu, a dismissed Police Constable was later reported dead in Police custody.
Meanwhile, several banks earlier operating in towns in Nigeria’s hinterland have shut down due to bank robberies in recent years. Many villagers now travel to neighbouring towns and cities for bank transactions.