The last has not been heard about the 14th December coordinated bank robbery in Yagba West Local Government Area of Kogi State.
The incidence which did not enjoy much media reportage is one the entire Local Government Areas in Kogi West Senatorial District may not forget in a hurry.
Three banks and two police stations were attacked simultaneously, three innocent persons were killed and millions of Naira was lost, though some recoveries were made. This is not a small loss in two sleepy, agrarian towns but a little respite came via community efforts as the people mobilised themselves.
An eye witness report relayed the pathetic situation which the entire area may not forget in a hurry, of course members of the communities are still mourning their dead.
Olumide Olayinka is a resident of Egbe, one of the towns attacked on the sad Tuesday. The former staffer of National Mirror newspaper relayed the ordeal, praying that God would never allow Yagba West experience such again.
According to Olayinka, it was another successful day in the agrarian town. Farmers were returning from their farms, businesses were trying to close for the day because it was already about 4pm and suddenly there was pandemonium.
“Tuesday was a bad day in the history of Egbe land. I know we won’t forget in a short while,” he said.
Continuing, Olayinka narrated that, “It was like a joke, I was in my reservation area opposite the police station at Egbe, we were joking and suddenly we saw two men running. Before you know it, I heard a bang. Everybody ran for safety and that was the beginning of the travail.”
He added that, “Sporadic gunshots were going on, the ballistic were going on, the dynamites were being used against the police station. They were shooting and all these were going on at the same time. At Egbe, the First Bank, Access Bank, the police station were under attack and we learnt same thing was going on at UBA, neighbouring Odo Ere and the police station in the town just like what was happening at Egbe. It went on like that for one and half hours.
“Those manning the police stations were there, those manning the major roads from Egbe were there, they were parading with motorcycles and guns, some were stationed at each of the banks at the same time.
“Not until after one and half hours that the gunshots were going down and we were able to come out of our hiding. We thought they were bandits initially but later learnt they were armed robbers. We ran into the police station to find out what had happened, the place was bombed.
“At the first bank, they bombed the place but unfortunately for them, First Bank has not been operating for about two years, it was only the ATM functioning, there was no much money in the ATM at the time, so it was a miscalculation for them to have attacked the bank.
“Since they couldn’t get much money, they resulted to collecting money from the POS operators within the vicinity. Those operators who could not raise money got the beatings of their lives.
“They raided about four different POS points within the proximity of the First Bank. Moving down to Access Bank, it was fortified with iron and bullet proof materials, so they couldn’t penetrate, the only thing they could do was to bomb the sensitive door to the bank.
“Unfortunately one of the security guys at the bank, Taiye Aremu a very close friend of mine was there and unfortunately he was shot and killed. He was the first victim of the robbery. We also learnt one of them mistakenly shot at the bank and the pellet returned and smashed his leg.
“Then brave enough and confident enough, one of the vigilantes around shot at the robbers though he couldn’t get any of them down, that dissuaded them and confused them, so they couldn’t continue the operation, they quickly rounded off their activities and began to leave,” he narrated.
Continuing, Olayinka, who is the secretary of the Farmers’ Association in the area said, “Something happened at Odo Ere; the man manning the police station snatched a commercial bus going to Ilorin at gun point, offloaded the passengers and they used the vehicle to escape.
“Some courageous residents were peeping from the windows to catch a glimpse as they were escaping, so they were able to know their direction. The vigilantes followed them. The fleeing robbers who obviously do not know the terrain got to a broken down bridge, abandoned the vehicle and fled into the mountains. The man hunt began from there. That was what happened on Tuesday 14th,” he narrated.
Narrating further to National Wire, Olayinka said, “On Wednesday, a day after the robbery, some vigilantes saw them around Igbaruku and Odo Ora, some villages not far from the scene of the robbery. They chased them, the vehicle they were escaping with was parked between the two villages not far from another village called Omi.
“Being little villages, it is easy to identify strangers and with the news of the robberies circulating, everybody became suspicious and seeing a vehicle parked for a long time, people became suspicious. The robbers remained in the bush. That was the situation on Wednesday but thank God for the people the politicians, the security officials. They mobilized forces from the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian police, That was the first time I was seeing that large compartment of military personnel in Yagba West.
“Everywhere was combed, they guided every place, every nooks and corners of Yagba West was critically manned and that became impossible for them to escape.
“By 10am on Wednesday, we began to see inflows, the helicopters coming in, parading the space, everywhere became tensed. They announced everyone should stay indoors, nobody should go to the farms, the situation continued all through Wednesday and Thursday,” he said.
No doubt, the community efforts helped the hunt and the security outfits worked in synergy with the local vigilantes and the youths.
Olayinka stated further that, “On Thursday morning, everyone was exhausted and a female member of the robbery gang came out at Igbaruku village to buy food; she was buying from an old woman. The old woman noticed she was tattered, no slippers on, dirty and looking rough from head to toe.
“The food vendor asked why she was like that. The lady explained that they had been on the mountain because of the robbery. She said they came from Lokoja to secure a landed property in the village. The woman sympathised with her and tried to help her.
“That was when they informed the local Chief, the community leaders and the youths. The youths came out and they responded they knew she could be one of them, that was how they interrogated her. They called the police and she was arrested.
“That was the beginning of the arrests, she agreed to take them to the hill where the rest were hiding in a cave on the mountain in between Oke Ere and a little community called Akata. They were hiding in the mountain and that was where they remained until the lady was arrested.
“The lady was taken to the police station. The people heard and everybody trooped to the station in Odo Ere. One of the policemen whose name I have not confirmed, saw the crowd and tried to disperse them.
“Unfortunately, I don’t know what came over him, he shot at the crowd! Immediately a man fell down and died on the spot, one other woman was hit, I saw her, she was rushed to the hospital before she gave up the ghost. Then a boy of about seven years old sustained a gunshot wound and fortunately the boy survived it. That is the travail in Yagba West for now,” he said in a sad tone.
Meanwhile, a news report monitored on Vanguard newspaper reported that a mob attacked the police station after the ugly incident. Other eye witness reports gave that the crowd pounced on the trigger-happy policeman.
Continuing the narration, Olayinka said, “Two people among the robbers were confirmed to have been arrested at the end of the whole show. Due to the heavy gun battle around where they were found, we all believe they are all dead but because of the incident at the police station, may be the police were careful enough not to bring the corpses of the robbers from the scene of the gun battle in the mountains to the town to prevent a repeat of what happened on Thursday.
“Although, we were reliably told there were casualties among the robbers upon the mountains and that is the situation for now, if there is any other development I will let you know,” he said.
Meanwhile, up till Saturday 18th December, some other arrests were made and the robbers are cooling off with the security operatives.
It is however a victory for the people. This also means if empowered, the people can protect themselves by supplying relevant logistics to the police who are better trained to handle crimes among the civilian population.
*Report by Dayo Emmanuel