The spate of bank robberies accompanied by mindless killings and blood letting in Ekiti, Ondo and Lagos states is alarming and calls for urgent and workable strategy by the Police and other security agencies to curb the menace before the entire South-west is captured by men of the underworld.
For the past one year or so, banks in Ekiti and Ondo states have been besieged by armed robbers who cart away huge sums of money, kill and wound persons in notorious operations. It would appear that the focus of men of the underworld in the South-west is gradually shifting from kidnapping, sale of babies and ritual killings to bank robbery. Last Tuesday, armed robbers numbering over 50 laid siege to all the commercial banks and the Divisional Police Station in Ikare-Akoko, Akoko North-east Local Government Area of Ondo State, killing over 11 persons, including four policemen and a 10-year-old school boy, and snatching about five cars. Reports say the armed robbers did not harm the bankers who, obviously, must have surrendered the vault without a fight to save their lives. The victims were people who constituted a threat to their operations, thus drumming up the lesson that people should lie face down and raise their hands up in surrender when caught up in the web at a robbery scene.
The operation, which reportedly lasted for more than one hour, was well coordinated as the armed robbers divided themselves into groups, attacked the police station and the banks simultaneously and waited for each other before leaving in a convoy.
On October 31 last year, a 30-man armed bandit raided a first generation bank in Ifaki Ekiti, Ekiti State, shooting sporadically into the air and wounding one person. The armed robbers who reportedly came on motorcycles first attacked the Police station in the town where they were resisted by vigilant police officers. No life was lost in the attacks.
A 25-man gang of armed robbers attacked a branch of First Bank Nigeria Plc and a police station near the bank in Ikere-Ekiti on November 24 last year killing five people, including two policemen and a female corps member. The robbers were said to have been repelled by soldiers from a nearby army checkpoint. The same branch of the bank had also been attacked the previous year.
On May 24, 2012, robbers attacked Ilasa-Ekiti Police Station and a bank, killing two policemen attached to the bank, carting away N7, 833, 00 and stealing four AK 47 rifles, one Berreta Pistol, one smoke gun with 10 cartridges, 10 hand grenades, one handcuff and 1, 295 live ammunition.
A former bank manager, Ayokunle Asaba, and four others are currently standing trial in respect of the bank robbery. Four policemen were killed by armed robbers in Okene, in neighbouring Kogi State, on December 25 last year, while preventing armed robbers numbering over twenty from successfully robbing a new generation bank in the town. Reinforcement from policemen from nearby banks prevented the robbers from carrying out their satanic act.
On Monday last week, policemen attached to Area B Command, Apapa foiled a robbery attempt by a five-man armed robber who stormed a bank in Apapa, Lagos. According to reports, one of the robbers had approached a private guard attached to the bank to collaborate with them, promising to give him a share of the loot. The guard who turned to be a police undercover played along and the police laid an ambush for the bandits and arrested four of them.
The ongoing spate of armed robbery in the South-west requires the states in the region who share common boundaries to collaborate to curb the menace by sharing security reports, adequately funding security and prosecuting offenders to serve as a deterrent to others.
The Governor Raji Fashola experiment in Lagos has shown that massive investment in security is an effective method of routing armed robbery. During his first term, Fashola equipped the police and other security agencies with relevant equipment and initiated collaboration with the private sector to fight insecurity. Between 2007 and 2010, crime rate in Lagos was near zero level while armed robbers flee to neighbouring states. All the states of the federation should borrow a leaf from this to chase armed robbers out of the nation.
There is a need for the states and banks to collaborate and the banks to create special security units for their protection, install functional close circuit television for effective monitoring of banks as well as procure Armoured Personnel Carriers for special escorts and patrols.
The parlous state of security in the nation calls for declaration of emergency in the security sector as the citizenry have had to endure all manner of insecurity in the last five years. There is a need for security agencies, especially the police and the army to ensure adequate and equitable deployment of their men during state functions to ensure that no portion of the polity suffers as a result of taking care of the other. For instance, investigation reveals that a significant number of soldiers attached to Ikare-Akoko were drafted to Ado-Ekiti to beef up security for President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign on the day the village was besieged by armed robbers, thus exposing the town to needless torture and killings. It is not impossible that the armed robbers were privy to this information and had cashed in on it to strike that day.
This trend has persisted for long as soldiers were always drafted from their regular duties to provide security during elections. These senseless robberies and killings call for the strengthening of intelligence gathering by the police and the other security agencies. Policing is more effective when bandits are apprehended at the point of planning their satanic acts. Where intelligence gathering is effective, there are a few cases of robbery and such can easily be curbed.
The Ilasa Ekiti robbery where a bank manager was linked to the act, and the Lagos attack where armed robbers sought the help of a private guard attached to the bank to carry out their acts, confirm the popular position that most bank robberies involve insiders. While the police should apprehend armed robbers and prosecute them, Management of banks should publish their disclaimers after they have been jailed by the courts to serve as a deterrent. A situation where bank insiders are hardly prosecuted or when they do, they serve their jail terms secretly and continue their private lives can only embolden others.
The police have the capacity to apprehend robbery suspects if the political will is there. The ongoing killing of their officers and men should nudge them to fish out armed robbers and prosecute them. The nation’s judicial system should be revamped to ensure that justice is dispensed expeditiously and appropriately for deterrence purposes.
The Federal and state governments should take the issue of unemployment seriously as the raging unemployment rate is a breeder of crime. This calls for the diversification of the economy and the revamping of the manufacturing sector to create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths.
It is time government took security of life and property, the primary purpose of government as enshrined in the Constitution, seriously to ensure a peaceful and prosperous nation.