Saturday 1 September 2018

From The Archive(s): How We Recovered N62m From Lagos Aso-Ebi Bank Robbers - Armed Robbers Get Information From Their Pointers

Every officer knows that an early morning call from the Commissioner of Police is not in exchange of pleasantries but serious business.
Bolaji Odesanya, who was Commander at Area ‘G’, knew this much. But he didn’t know how big his assignment was going to be when he received a call from his boss, Mohammed Abubakar, early on March 13, 2008.
Commander Golf, there’s a bank robbery going on at Dopemu,” the voice on the other end alerted Odesanya, setting up a chain reaction that would lead his team into a historic heroic feat.
Odesanya had just arrived in his office at Ogba, and the radio message came in as he was settling down on his seat.

Initially, he was told that it was at Zenith Bank, Dopemu, but it turned out to be WEMA Bank on the opposite side along the Dopemu end of Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
Recalling the incident, Odesanya said: “They were robbing the bank. Some of them were outside firing. They packed three vehicles outside the bank: A blue Golf car, one Mazda 626, and Hiace Bus.
As we were about to link the Expressway towards the crime scene, a girl rushed to tell us something. She must have been heaven sent. She advised us to take one way. So, we made a detour and took the one-way. As the bandits were firing, motorists coming from Iyana-Ipaja were forced to park and traffic was in a tangle. If we had passed the right way, we would have met hold up, and would not be able to get there, and all those boys would have disappeared.
We kept moving; as we got close, I saw them firing. I saw people everywhere on the road, on the bridge, watching.
As soon as the crowd noticed us, people started shouting: Police! Police! We then came down and started using the barrier in the median, crawling along. I was surprised the people followed us.
I told them to go back; they continued to follow us up to 500 people followed us.”
The police engaged the bandits for about two hours in gun battle.
The onslaught of bank robbers had been frequent in the Dopemu/Alimosho axis. And there was something strange about a gang that residents have been talking about. The gang had male and female members, who, as the police also learnt, are dressed in rich, highly styled Aso-Ebi when they set out for their operation.
Aso-Ebi is a stylish uniform dress worn by family members or friends during social events in Nigeria, so it was easy to think that these robbers loaded in a commercial bus were off to a party.
After each operation, they were known to have been very violent always leaving a trail of blood, which ironically would mark their end.
Ishola Kamaldeen, a resident of Alimosho who got in their way in 2007, spoke about his evil encounter for the first time, when he was interviewed by Chief Detective.
He said: “It was by 1pm on April 21, 2007. The gang had robbed a Micro Finance Bank in Alimosho area and was escaping through our community, when they ran into my Toyota Primera car as I was leaving the house.
Armed with AK47 rifles marked with police colours, the bandits were conveyed in a yellow Volkswagen Commercial Bus, red Golf car, and on a motorbike. They were in green and blue Wax Print Aso-Ebi. They had a woman among them.
They stopped, ordered me out of the car, and asked me to lie down.
I thought they were policemen. One of them saw a gold chain on my neck and said ‘oh you have gold’. Then he snatched it. He also snatched my wristwatch and pulled off my ring. I was then ordered to roll into the gutter, and he sent a volley of bullets after me as I landed in the gutter’s stagnant murky water with a splash. I screamed, Yeeeh…! The bullets were later found to have scraped the edges of the gutter.
They moved on thinking I was dead. The car they snatched from me had security devices that would demobilize it within five minutes, so the car stopped three streets from where they left me.
I later learnt that they shot a man dead as they passed under the Dopemu Bridge, and then drove pass Onilekere police post, along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway spraying the station with bullets.”
According to policemen who went after them, the bandits disappeared towards either the Airport or Oshodi on that day. It was another lucky day.
But, like the proverbial bucket that frequently goes into the well, one day the bottom had to fall out.
And so it was on the day they raided WEMA Bank. The police said enough was enough.
We went with six Hilux Jeeps, with at least 30 to 35 policemen,” Odesanya said. “Everybody armed; everybody carrying 60 rounds. When the robbers saw the multitude and the police, they ran back into the bank; that’s why we had no casualties.
When we were coming, I saw those who were busy bringing bags of money outside into the getaway car. As they saw us, the three shooters ran into the bank. And everywhere was quiet. We then approached the bank cautiously. Some of the policemen were equipped with smoke. So, people came out. They told us that the robbers had jumped over the fence. The fence had American barbed wire netting, and they were badly cut as they hurriedly tried to escape.
So, we came out and traced them with the blood, up to Agege. That was how we caught them. The blood was dripping all the way. One of them hid in a water tank; the blood trail led us to him. He was a very hefty man. They had dropped their weapons. The one who hid inside the tank later disclosed to SARS men towards the evening where he had kept his gun.”
Before the battle, some of the policemen had suggested that they lay an ambush for the robbers, but Odesanya disagreed. He ordered his men to take the fight to the robbers inside the bank’s premises. The bandits fled after three of them were cut down by police bullets outside the bank. A man, who was also shot as he was allegedly seen opening the Golf car, later caused a dispute between the police and the military, who set up a panel to investigate claims that he was at the bank to withdraw his salary.
He died while efforts were being made to take him to the hospital.
It was a rear show of gallantry. Five members of the 15-man gang were killed and five arrested.
Nine assault rifles, a locally made revolver, two gas cylinders, hammers, chisel and over 12, 000 rounds of ammunition were recovered from the gang. The police also recovered one AK 47 rifle taken from Orile-Iganmu police station, few days before the bank robbery attempt.
Odesanya said: “Members of the gang told the police that they worshipped Ogun seven days before the robbery. They had wanted to carry out the operation a week before then, but they went to their Babalawo to consult Ifa oracle. Ifa allegedly said they should not embark on the robbery; that it would boomerang. They then went to another person, who said they should make sacrifice to Ogun. So, they killed the dog, ram etc. And the Babalawo said they should go ahead because Ogun was no longer angry with them.
When we caught him, he was lamenting that they told them ‘not to do this job o…’ But they were desperate for money. We recovered N14million. Then, there were some dollars and pound sterling. The money was already in their getaway cars.
When we took the money to the headquarters, the CP asked us to go and call the bank officials. We invited the authorities and sat down to count the money together, and we handed it over to the bank, that same day. The CP said it must not stay a day with the police.”
Asked if investigations later showed that there were insider connections, the officer said: “Bank robberies always involve the security guards and drivers. It’s once in a blue moon that bankers are involved. They don’t really need much information. One of them will just come to the bank, look at the position of the policemen.”
The police, however, found that two gangs were involved in the WEMA Bank robbery. And detectives were on the lookout for those who had escaped.
They didn’t wait for long.
You know they still went back to this bank before I left,” Odesanya said. “They went back this time at night and broke the vault. They entered the vault and looted the cash.
As God would have it; a week later, as I got to the office, the Divisional Police Officer at Idimu called me that they caught a suspect. When the vehicle was searched, the police found AK47 magazine with 30 rounds of ammunition in the boot of his Golf. So, they started working on him. Four members of the gang were eventually arrested. I then discovered that this useless gang was going to another operation. So, their ‘Pointer’ didn’t come and they sat waiting for him all day. The Pointer is a person who is familiar with where the robbery would take place, and he would be on hand to guide the bandits when they set out.
I later discovered that most of these pointers were people who fix CCTV camera, air conditioners and those workmen engaged to do finishing, when you’re just completing house building. They’re the ones who give secret information about the building to the robbers. So, when the Pointer didn’t come; out of annoyance, they went back. Already, they had placed all their guns in the boot of the car. They had a false save under the Golf car. They made extra petrol tank, like smugglers do. They would open it; load the gun and use carpet or boot mat to cover it. Nobody will know.
So, when the boy didn’t show up, out of annoyance as they were returning the rifles to the false tank, they left a magazine in the boot. The armourer alone drives the car. That’s why the police will not suspect them, because you’ll see only one person in the car. And once they finished their operation, everybody would drop his gun in the car. And the driver would move a bit forward, keep all the guns, and he would then be driving alone.
While driving, he said he would offer to give a woman lift, so that it would look as if he was going out with the girlfriend, and that’s how he would return home with the gun.
The money would also be with him. All the other members of the gang would go, only to regroup and share the loot. So, he was moving home when the police intercepted him. By the time we went to his house for a search in the morning, I just saw a WEMA Bank cash rapper. It was the gang that looted the vault. We got the leader of the gang, but we didn’t catch him. He got information. He was having N48million in his bank account at Oshodi.
He couldn’t take the money. His boys confessed. We went to his house and found his bank slip. So, we went to the bank and frozen the account. We got bankers order with which we were able to get the total amount that he kept in the bank. We eventually transferred the case to Federal SARS. They took the suspects from us.
We were able to do all that because we were well equipped. Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola gave us seven Hilux jeeps at the Area Command. And almost all the divisions had an average of two. And I was having 20 Divisions under me at Area ‘G’. The governor bought guns. He bought helmets; he bought bulletproof vests; so, there’s relative encouragement for us to work. You have everything needed. It was different from a time when policemen would be looking for bullets, looking for vehicles to drive to crime scenes. It’s left for you to seek for little things like fuel, and to encourage the boys to do the job.”
The arrested suspects were identified as Anu Adeyemi (29), Lanre Ade (25), Sunday Ayoade (26), Odemudia Osaze (28) and Isaiah Alobi (27).
Adeyemi mentioned one Tosin as the leader of his gang. Tosin escaped. The police, however, recovered on SMG rifle when his house at Agbara Estate was searched.
Ayoade, who belonged to the second gang, identified himself as the driver of the Golf car in which they kept their loot. He mentioned one Oluwaseyi as the leader of his gang and owner of the car.

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