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I watched in hiding how robbers split into groups, shot dead two men before attacking Osun bank –Eyewitness

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An indigene of Ikire, Osun State, Oladimeji Alowonle, recruited for community policing returned home to a heroic welcome after he successfully completed training at the Police Training College, Eleyele, Ibadan, Oyo State, in May this year.

One of those who welcomed Alowonle after the training was his childhood friend, Ahmed Ayangbade. He and other colleagues of the new community cop were particularly elated because Alowonle eventually escaped the torment of unemployment after months of joblessness.

The resumption of Alowonle to Ayedaade Divisional Headquarters in Ikire on Monday, May 10, was greeted with carnival-like celebration by his friends who trooped out in a large number to honour him on his first day at work.

But on Wednesday, the joy of the family and friends of the 40-year old cop was shattered as dare-devil robbers bearing sophisticated weapons laid siege to Apomu and Ikire communities and also attacked the divisional police headquarters. There, they callously shot Alowonle and three other persons dead.

The robbers also killed three other residents of the two communities, bringing the official casualty figure released by the police after the incident to seven. Eyewitnesses however put the casualty figure at 10.

gathered that Alowonle was killed by the robbers a few minutes after he resumed duty.

The robbers were said to have sneaked into Ikire and Apomu communities and attacked two commercial banks in Ikire and Apomu, including the biggest police division in Ikire town.

Apart from lives that were lost, the robbers damaged buildings on the premises of the Ikire bank and the police division but were unable to gain access into the bank’s vaults.

During a visit to Ikire and Apomu towns, some eyewitnesses told our correspondent that the robbers stormed the towns at 5:30pm on Wednesday, June 2.

A resident of Ikoyi town identified only as Tope told that it appeared the robbers avoided entering Ikire town through the popular ‘Naira and Kobo Junction,’ along Ife/Ibadan expressway to avoid drawing attention, adding that they accessed the towns through Ikoyi Junction road.

Tope said that upon entering the town, the robbers went to Ikoyi Junction where an Armoured Personnel Carrier securing Isokan and Irewole local government areas was stationed.

He added that the robbers used explosives to demobilise the APC and shot dead a policeman manning the vehicle.

Tope said, “While all that was happening, the residents didn’t know that robbers had arrived in the communities because the spot where the APC was parked is not close to the residential area. The robbers later divided themselves into groups of three persons each. They moved on commercial motorcycles to where they would carry out the attacks. It was after they struck that many people got to know that the robbers used Ikoyi as a transit point to their targets. I also believe the robbers hid their weapons as they moved to Apomu and Ikire.”

In his narration, a tyre repairer in Apomu town who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons said he heard shootings some minutes to 6pm on June 2 near the bank premises.

He said the shootings meant to scare residents away drew the attention of members of the Oodua Peoples Congress in the town who mobilised and frustrated the robbers’ attempt to enter the bank premises.  He claimed that four residents of the town were killed by the robbers during the operation which he said lasted for about 45 minutes.

He said, “The robbers, after they got close to the bank, divided themselves into groups. One of the groups with about three men watched the road. The bank is located around Oke Ola, a busy neighbourhood. I saw everything from where I hid. A resident was shot dead as the men moved near the bank. I think the robbers mistook him for one of the cops attached to the bank who usually sat at the spot.

“The policeman usually sat where the deceased was shot dead. Another resident attempted to disarm one of the robbers. He almost succeeded, until a member of the gang spotted him and shot him dead. He died instantly. They could not break into the bank’s vault. The OPC men resisted them. Some of the robbers fled and the OPC men gave them a hot chase.’’

Corroborating the tyre repairer’s claims in a chat with our correspondent, the state Coordinator of the OPC, Prince Deji Aladesawe, said members of the group prevented the robbers from gaining access into the bank.

Aladesawe, who said a member of the group identified as Kazeem Adeleke was injured by the robbers during a shoot-out, said the men later fled the area after two of the vehicles they brought were seized.

It was further learnt that the robbers threw explosives into the palace of the Akire of Ikire, Oba Olatunde Falabi, located a few meters away from the town. No one was injured at the palace.

Sources in the area also said the robbers must have been informed that a bullion van would be delivering money to the bank that day, adding that the timing of the robbery indicated that the van was the target.

It was however gathered that the robbers missed their target as they had fled before the bullion van bringing in money arrived in the town.

A resident near the Ikire branch of an affected commercial bank identified only as Suraj also said the robbers couldn’t gain access to the banks’ vaults before they were confronted.

Suraj also said the bullion van that brought money into the bank arrived in the area after the robbers had fled the scene.

A food vendor in the Ayedaade area of Ikire, Modinat Olagunju, told our correspondent that the robbers hid their guns in a sack in order not to draw attention.

Olagunju further explained that the motorcyclists that conveyed the robbers to the area probably didn’t know their mission because nothing gave them away.

She however said the robbers first opened fire on an inspector at the gate and a community policing officer who was awaiting a motorcycle to take him home after completing his shift. After entering the station, Olagunju said the robbers also shot dead two cops at the station.

She said, “The premises of the station were filled with smoke. All we heard were gunshots. The robbers sneaked into the area without anyone noticing them. I am a food vendor nearby and I could see the main road from my shop. The robbers that attacked the station were three in number. They must have arrived in the station on a commercial motorcycle and hid their guns in a sack.

“They wore black dresses and when they got to the entrance of the station, an inspector at the gate and a community policeman were killed. The inspector saw the robbers when they were about to strike and he made an attempt to attack them, but they were faster than him. He was shot dead. They later entered the station and killed two more policemen. The robbers also freed some suspects in detention. They riddled the building with bullets.’’

The immediate past chairman of Irewole Local Government, Mr Remi Abbas, said combined efforts of youths and local security outfits frustrated the robbery operation on a commercial bank in the town.

He called for a complete overhaul of the security architecture of the area through the strengthening of police capacity and other informal security outfits in the town to forestall a recurrence of the incident and secure lives and property of the residents.

Lamenting the casualty figure recorded by the communities during the robbery attacks, Abbas said some insiders must have monitored sources where help could come during the attack and ensured that they were rendered impotent.

Abbas said that about 60 members of various informal security groups were at the palace of Akire for a security meeting on the day of the robbery, adding that the robbers struck simultaneously at four different points a few minutes after the meeting ended.

He commended youths and other volunteers who confronted the robbers. The ex-council chairman noted that eight people comprising three regular policemen, two community cops and three civilians were confirmed dead after the robbery.

Abbas said, “It was around 6:30pm that we heard gunshots and blasts of dynamite simultaneously at four strategic places; two commercial banks, divisional police headquarters and the APC point at Ikoyi. We initially thought it was a case of minor robbery. But when I called the divisional police officer, he told me that the station was under attack, almost about the same time I was told the palace was also under attack.

“The Akire also called to say that the palace and a commercial bank were under attack. That was when we mobilised hunters, OPC members, Agbekoya and vigilance groups to defend the community. The dare-devil robbers were strategic and it showed they had enough intelligence. About 60 security persons and myself were at a meeting at the palace till around 6:25pm when I was told that robbers had laid siege to the two towns.”

Meanwhile, the state police command said seven people, including two police officers and two community cops, lost their lives to the attacks.

A statement by the command spokesperson, Yemisi Opalola, said some armed robbers numbering 35 at about 6:10pm on Wednesday, June 2, attacked two commercial banks in Ikire and Apomu, alongside a police division also in Ikire.

Opalola said the robbers were however repelled by the combined team of cops and local security outfits and were forced to flee to the bush.

She added that the three residents were killed by the robbers, who she said shot indiscriminately after policemen and local security groups engaged them.

The statement read in parts, “It is unfortunate that ASP Osho Oluranti, Inspector Lekan Olalere, two special constabularies; namely Oladeni Olalekan, and Oyedeji Muyideen were shot dead in the process. On sighting the overwhelming policemen comprising Prompt response Response Unit, CP’s Surveillance team, IRT Operatives, STS, 39 PMF, JTF, along with the local security outfits, who swiftly engaged them in a fierce gun duel, the robbers began to flee. While escaping, they shot and regrettably three civilians were shot namely; Toheeb Oyebola, Temilorun Adebiyi and one other, (whose identity has yet been known), all male.

“They did not succeed in robbing any of the banks. The assailants fled to the bush with gunshot wounds, abandoning two of the operational vehicles they came with.”

Alowonle’s two siblings, friends and wife were in a mournful mood when our correspondent saw them. They were still in shock over the incident.

The late cop’s childhood friend, Ahmed Ayangbade, said he never expected what happened to him because he planned to move on to bigger things upon completion of his master’s at the University of Ilorin.

An orphan, Alowonle was also said to be the one shouldering the responsibilities of his two siblings. Recalling his last encounter with the late cop, Ayangbade said he visited him at his workplace a day before the attack and they had a fruitful discussion about the future.

He stated, “I didn’t know it was going to be our last discussion. There was nothing unusual about his demeanour. He was lively and we talked for a long time. We were in the office and later, when I wanted to take my leave, he saw me off to the gate.

“He was supposed to return to the station, but he still followed me out of the premises and he stood under a tree opposite the station. He had big plans after completing his master’s at the University of Ilorin. My friend was agile. He was a politician and was until his death the Assistant Secretary of the All Progressives Congress in his ward in Ikire. He was optimistic about the future and a focused person.’’

“He lost both parents a long time ago. He was the first born and the family’s breadwinner. He had two younger ones; a male and a female but the female is married. His younger brother lost his wife last year during childbirth and my friend was the one taking care of him.”

Francis, a younger brother to another cop killed by the robbers, Olalekan Olalere, could not hold back tears when he visited the scene of the attack.

Francis said that the news of the death of his brother devastated him and other members of his family, saying he visited the station to see where his brother was killed.

He said, “His death is a tragedy I can’t bear. I was in Lagos when I heard the news that my brother was killed. That is the reason why I came to see where it happened. My brother is gone. This is unbearable. He is gone.”

 

Source: Nigerian Newspapers Online

Naijamerit
Author: Naijamerit

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