DAILY TIMES ——–Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 was the day evil visited residents of 4th Avenue, Festac Town, Lagos. Like a bad movie, robbers numbering about forty swooped on two second generation banks in the area leaving in their wake terror, tears and blood.
An eyewitness, Jerry Agbezin, whose shop is located inside Oyinlola Plaza, 4th Avenue just a stone throw from the banks, told Daily Times how the robbers blew up the security doors of the banks with dynamite to gain entry.
“As soon as they gained entrance into the bank, they started firing bullets in all directions. At the same time, another group broke into the other bank, while the rest of the robbers took strategic positions in front of the banks shooting indiscriminately to scare away any intruder.”
By the time the gunfire subsided and people came out, a mother, Jane Ndirika and her two-year-old toddler, Mmesoma Ndirika lay stone dead from gunshot wounds they sustained from stray bullets fired by the bandits.
The Festac banks attack is coming on the heels of similar successive attacks on some banks in the ancient town of Ikorodu. The robbers visited their evil trade also on two second generation banks at Ijede, Ikorodu and carted away several millions of naira in a daring attack.
While residents were still recovering from the shock of the first attack, the robbers struck again, this time at the Ipakodo, Ikorodu branch of two first generation banks. Residents told the press that the robbery took place right in front of a police station and lasted well over two hours.
All efforts by the police to repel the attack were rebuffed by the bandits who overran security men with their numerical advantage and far more sophisticated weapons. While the attack lasted, both old and young scurried in different directions in the race for dear life.
In no hurry to leave, the robbers were reported to have stormed the banking halls, stuffed their bags with wads of naira notes and at the end of the ‘successful operation’ made their escape through the sea.
Octogenarian resident of the area, Engr Mathew Adeniran lamented the ineptitude of police to check the rising spate of crime. He told our correspondent that police response to distress calls leaves a whole lot to be desired. “Police response to distress calls in our area leaves much to be desired. Every time we make distress calls to the police, the expected prompt response has remained only a wish,” he said, and wondered:
“The police always blame their inability to respond to emergency calls on what they call logistics. Of what use is police logistics to a family or community under siege for hours? They are expected to have these things in place. Life has no duplicate and we are tired of all these excuses.”
In the case of the Festac attack, there are conflicting reports on the responsiveness of the police to the crime scene. According to Jerry, the police arrived late to the crime scene despite the presence of the Area E Headquarters, Festac Division, on 2nd Avenue, a five minutes’ drive to the crime scene.
But stoutly denying the allegation of late response to that particular distress call, Area Commander, Area ‘E’ Divisional Police Headquarters, Festac and a former Force spokesman, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Frank Mba said,
“On the 13th of October, 2015, at about 8:25 am, the command received information of sporadic shootings going on somewhere around 4th Avenue, Festac town, Lagos. The joint team of policemen at Area E headquarters, Festac Division, promptly responded to the call and on arrival at the scene, the policemen engaged the gang of robbers numbering well over 40 and dressed in military camouflage and armed to the teeth in a gun battle.
“Our men engaged them in a fierce gun battle that lasted several minutes. Notwithstanding the clear numerical disadvantage of the police at the beginning of this operation, the hot exchange of fire between the policemen and the robbers who incidentally, had divided themselves into two and were simultaneously robbing two banks, forced the robbers to immediately end their operations.
“Consequently they were forced to abandoned their operation and also abandoned the sum of N27 million. As they were fleeing, they left a total of 240 AK47 live ammunition; even the money they made away with was later recovered by policemen and taken to another branch of the robbed bank around 2nd Avenue, for deposit,” he said.
Hardly had he finished issuing the statement that he was transferred out of Lagos to Oshogbo, Ondo State and a replacement quickly drafted in from Ibadan, Oyo State.
Ambode seeks help
Coming to terms with the stark reality staring his administration in the face, Lagos State government has promised to purchase three helicopters to tackle crimes and monitor traffic in the City of Excellence.
The Governor who was a guest on SoniIrabor Live (SIL), a programme on Inspiration FM, said he was concerned about the rising spate of robberies in the state.
He also said the government would boost the operations of the marine police and Navy on the waterways to help combat the new method devised by the robbers.
Worrisome is the new modus operandi devised by the robbers. The robbery attacks in Ikorodu and Festac bears a striking resemblance, the robbers came in and made their escape through the sea. This has increased call by stakeholders to call on the Nigerian Navy, to help combat the state of crime.
Speaking during a courtesy visit to the former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Usman Jibrin at the Defence Headquarters, Abuja, Ambode said the call became imperative due to the spate of robbery attacks in Lagos State which started barely a week into his administration.
The governor added that the need for the full involvement of the navy in the fight against crime informed his audience with the former naval chief.
He said, “Lagos State is the commercial hub of the country. The state is therefore strategic and cannot be allowed to become a breeding ground for criminals,” he said at the time.
Residents cry for help
Mr. Babasola Kuti, a frontline politician and a gubernatorial candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) believes the upsurge in crime is quite worrisome and unsettling.
“It is quite worrisome and unsettling, but, I must confess that the rise in crime preceded the elections, the reports of attacks were just largely ignored. I think there is a thug culture that is being promoted by politicians and it needs to be checked as soon as possible. I believe that politicians have armed gang members and now that the elections are over they have abandoned them and left them with the arms and no funds” he said.
He however advised the administration of Ambode to increase policing in hot spots and then look at the changes in policing structures that might have resulted in the upsurge.
“The most important thing is to increase policing in the hot spots and then also look at the potential hotspots and preempt any possibilities. The increase is alarming and must be due to certain changes in policing structures or failure of government to implement particular strategies previously adopted by the past administration,” he said
Olatunji Taiwo, a resident on 23 Road Festac Town expressed sadness at what is happening in the state.
“It is sad that Lagosians can no longer sleep with both eyes closed due to the level of insecurity in the state. There is hardly any day that passes without the news that something has happened somewhere in the state. We are living in fear,” he told Daily Times
“The situation is so bad and for the governor to come out openly to admit it speaks volume. What the governor should do is to borrow a leaf from the template of the past administration and if he doesn’t want to do that, he should as a matter of urgency design a new security template for the state so that residents can sleep well” he concluded
Kingsley Chukwu Nwanze has nothing but harsh words for Ambode. “Crime rate has increased since Ambode came on board and he seems not to have an idea on what to do and proffer solution to it. He is the Chief Security Officer of the state so he should do something about it quickly”
It is hoped that all the moves made by the governor would yield the desired results so Lagos residents can sleep without fear in the acclaimed City of Excellence