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Monday, 20 July 2015
The Legendary Nigeria Armed Robber - LAWRENCE ANINI
THE FACE OF TERROR: LAWRENCE ANINI, Nigeria’s most notorious armed robber on the hospital bed after he was badly injured following his capture in December, 1986. PICTURE CREDITS: NATIONAL MIRROR
On the 23rd of August 1986, something bizarre happened in Bendel State, Nigeria. A prince of the Benin royal family, Kingsley Eweka, was bundled to the Asoro firing range. A Bini prince and an aristocrat by birth and virtue of belonging to one of Africa’s oldest and most revered monarchies, Kingsley was however not accorded any honour that fateful day. As a matter of fact, he had just been condemned and sentenced to death by a court of law for armed robbery and he was manacled like a petty criminal that he was. At a time when the law was really blind, the prince was lined up and in a matter of minutes, he was fired and joined his ancestors. But something very interesting happened shortly before he was killed.
Prince Eweka took a good look at his executioners, struggling to turn his neck as his body was firmly tied to the stake. They also looked back at the condemned criminal and cast furtive and somewhat puzzled glances at themselves. Then they asked him if he had anything to say. An embittered Eweka was overtaken with rage and he thundered:
‘My friend and his boys will avenge my death!’
But the executioners, who did not know those Eweka was ranting about, thought it was just the paranoid prattle of a man facing a sure death. They thought Prince Eweka was just delusional and were not even interested in any friend of his, if indeed he had any. Theirs was to escort him to the border between this world and the next. The executioners let out warm smiles that slipped out of their vengeful cheeks and in a matter of minutes, Kingsley Eweka was history, to explain himself before the gods. But the prince was not blabbing. The whole of Nigeria would soon hear of his ‘friend and his boys’. And it was indeed a very bloody revenge.
Prince Eweka and other suspects were arraigned before the Armed Robbery and Firearms Tribunal. With his fellow partners in crime, they paid the ultimate price.
The year 1986. October was the month. The iron-fisted military junta of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida was rattled by a 26-year-old man who could not even speak a single sentence in English, not to talk of write a line of grammar. The gap-toothed Nigerian military president was furious and he summoned his highest-ranking police chiefs.
Some hundreds of kilometers away from the cosy and secured chambers of IBB’s Armed Forces Revolutionary Council where the high-powered meeting was going on, in the ancient city of Benin, everyone was bathed in fear and it was very palpable Bendel State lived under the dark blanket of sheer terror spread by this young man who spoke only Pidgin English and his local dialect . Everything was tried to capture this elusive figure but nothing worked and he continued to unleash unspeakable horror upon the defenceless citizens.
The people of Benin felt they had had enough. One fateful day, women leaders of various markets all over Benin trooped to the Oba of Benin’s palace and pleaded with him to use his powers to consult with the spirits and stop the dark rains of Anini. At a point, the monarch had to go on radio to appeal to the gangsters to let peace reign in Benin. Anini respected the crown and went underground with his gang for a while only to resurface with renewed vigour.
The Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Erediauwa I, was visibly disturbed as his people were mercilessly slaughtered, killed, raped, robbed and maimed by a young desperado that everyone, including the government, feared. Being a monarch who would never fold his arms and leave his people to be terrorized, the highly-revered Oba called a meeting with his council of traditional chiefs. The Oba then ordered all his Bini subjects to make supplications to the gods for the reign this young man to end. The Oba also called on the security agencies to try their best to fish out the brains behind the dastardly acts threatening to turn pristine Benin into something else.
Benin Kingdom is one of the most legendary in Africa and not even in its thousands of years of existence was it so menacingly disturbed by a single bandit. A curfew from 10pm till dawn was imposed on the whole state because of one man. He was an armed robber but they called him ‘The Governor’. When people mentioned the Governor of Bendel State, they would ask you:
Anini or Inienger?
Inienger, a colonel in the Nigerian Army was the governor of the state. But wait a minute, who was Lawrence Nomayangbon (also spelt as Nomayanukpon) Anini, aka Anini the Law and why was he feared to the extent that IBB had to personally demand for his capture during a meeting of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), the nation’s highest decision making body in October 1986? IBB faced his Inspector-General of Police, Etim Inyang and the Commander-in-Chief blurted out:
‘My friend, where is Anini?’
A challenged Inyang replied:
‘We shall find him soon.’
But Inyang never did. His retirement from service came in November 1986 (his retirement notice was previously announced in October 1986 and it is still not clear whether his retirement was mandatory or voluntary) and the lot fell of the next IGP, Mohammed Gambo Jimeta who told journalists upon becoming the new police top boss on the 1st November, 1986:
‘I would catch Anini very soon.’
The nation would later get the answer in the most dramatic fashion. Dearest Reader, Abiyamo welcomes you to the underworld, the den of the smoking guns, of the racing bullets, the world of the legendary and almost mythical Anini alias The Law, alias The Governor, alias Ovbiudu (the Lion-Hearted), alias Robin Hood of Africa, alias The Unbeatable, alias The Robber’s Robber, the man who would later etch his name in ugly and scrawly black ink in history as Nigeria’s most notorious armed robber. But who was this thief whom many believed could vanish into the thin air using the dark forces of magic?
Babangida had been thorougly embarrassed by the Anini saga and he was even taunted by the BBC that as the military president, he held sway over all the 17 out of the 19 states of the Federation with the exception of two strategic ones: Lagos and Bendel which were ruled by criminals. In one year in the 1980s, from January to July, Lagos alone witnessed 208 violent crimes. IBB’s clenched fist was understandable. Anini was the latest target. The Daily Times (8th December, 1986) fired back at the BBC following Anini’s capture:
‘President Babangida controlled 17 states while while Anini Suzerainty held sway in the remaining two states, Bendel and Lagos. The grievous implication of BBC’s scathing news items was that Nigeria was a country where security of life and property could not be assured and that the atmosphere was not fertile for foreign investment. No thanks to the dastardly acts of a mean criminal called Anini. The BBC should swallow its words.’
BIRTH AND EARLY DAYS
Born around 1962 (some records indicate 1960), Nigeria’s most legendary armed robber hailed from the town of Orogho, one of the seven communities in the oil-rich Orogho Dukedom in Orhionmwon Local Government Area of Edo State (then, it was called Bendel State which was later split into Edo and Delta States on the 27th of August 1991 by the Ibrahim Babangida regime). Orhionmwon is about 20 miles from Benin City and is headed by the Enogie (Duke) a blood relation of the Oba of Benin. Anini was born into the Owuo family quarters. An only son of his Evbueisi-born mother, he had two sisters.
Tiny Anini was brought to Benin where he was admitted at the Oza Primary School but from a young age, he started manifesting the signs of truancy. He struggled to finish his primary school then entered the Igiedumu Secondary School. He did not spend more than three years when he dropped out of school, preferring to be an apprentice at a local mechanic workshop. That was around 1976. But after about three months, his master, David Isiokherhe, booted him out of the workshop. Anini had started stealing.
On that fateful day, a sum of N7 (seven naira) belonging to one of the other apprentices at the workshop suddenly vanished like a Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. The frantic owner raised an alarm upon discovering that his money was missing.
But the criminal lad called Anini would not confess. He lied that the money was given to him by his mother to procure some medications for her. Isiokherhe then threatened to bring out some ‘voodoo‘ to identify and nail the culprit. At that juncture, Anini owned up and confessed to the theft. A search was conducted and N5 was found on Anini. He had ‘jeunsoked’ the remaining N2. His master fired him as an apprentice.
Omorogieve Obayowana was the head of Anini’s village and according to his accounts, Anini’s father died when he was still a young boy. Anini would later be raised by an uncle he came to regard as his father. Later on, he would leave the village for the city of Benin in search of greener pasture. He started work as a lorry driver (some say taxi driver) after his master fired him and slowly transformed into a leader of the local motor parks, controlling and commanding touts. When politics came back to the arena in 1979, the politicians found good use of Anini as a political thug and his hooliganism paid off with him learning the mastery of firearms use in the process.
Later, following the sudden overthrow of the politicians in the early 1980s and banning of politics in 1984 by the Buhariregime the highly-skilled driver (now of of criminal gangs and godfathers) discovered that armed robbery was far more lucrative and decided to form his own deadly gang. He sealed a pact with corrupt police officers and ruled with reckless abandon. He would then swear allegiance to a bloody profession that would bring him wealth, fame and doom. Highway robberies, car jackings, bank raids, Anini was a specialist in all aspects of pilfering with the gun.
THE DAYS OF ARMED ROBBERY
Anini did not give much information about his early days in the underworld but he confessed that he was introduced to the ‘trade’ by one Friday Agbonifo (dead as at the time Anini was captured). He is thought have become friends with Kingsley Eweka in the period between 1984-1986. By July 1986, Anini was powerful enough to launch a full frontal assault against the entire police force of Nigeria’s Mid-West region.
By August 1986, Anini had metamorphosed into a full-time snitching monster. That month, one of the bloodiest bank robberies in Nigeria’s history would be commandeered by Anini and his ruthless fellows. In the heist, a policeman was gunned down while others, including two children, were also killed. That same bloody month, Anini and his ‘guys’ were cruising down and as they vehicle was flagged down at a police checkpoint, they opened fire. Two police officers lost their lives in that incident. Within 90 days, a total of nine policemen lost their lives in Anini’s hands. 16 civilians had been killed and a total of 12 banks robbed, according to Prince Amen Oyakhire, the former military governor of Taraba and Oyo States, who was mandated by IBB to travel to Benin on the Anini case.
But August 1986 would not end without another Anini’s displaying his insatiable appetite for taking what does not belong to him. This time around it was the turn of First Bank Plc and the specific target was their branch at Sabongida-Ora. Monday 11th was the appointed date and 3.30pm was the time. Amazingly, they left with a relatively little amount of money (N2,000) but they wasted numerous lives at the scene of the robbery. They killed three people on the spot upon reaching the venue, one of whom was a policeman. Stray bullets from the maniacal Anini and his possessed gang flew off and killed two children who had been locked up in a building near the bank. They were madly firing at the house when a policeman ran in for safety.
The prince executed for armed robbery was indeed Anini’s jolly friend and they moved together. However, when he was executed, Anini vowed to not only make the police repay him his money which he paid so the evidence against Eweka could be destroyed but he would also avenge the death of his friend in a most gripping manner, one that the Nigeria Police would never forget in a hurry. Over time, Anini had various bloody confrontations with the Nigeria Police. At a point, the Nigeria Police unleashed so much terror and destruction on his network that his bubbling business in Ibadan, Oyo State was liquidated and brought to a sudden halt.
Following the execution of his friend, Prince Eweka, and coupled with the way the police had dealt with him and his nefarious businesses, Anini vowed to deal ruthlessly with the Nigeria Police. Henceforth, he would be far more ruthless than he had been in the past as he believed that the Ibadan attack on him by the cops was just unjustified. What even enraged him more was the fact that the police (George Sam Iyamu to be specific) had collected the sum of N50,000 from him and agreed that Eweka would be freed as it was to him, a ‘taboo’ for a Bini prince to be executed, only for the police to turn around and nail Eweka’s coffin. Anini would never forget this act of ‘betrayal’ and from then on, him and his killing spree partner, Monday Osunbor would specifically target policemen. Oba of Benin then stressed the fact that Anini has no link whatsoever with the royal family. The monarch would later tell the police authorities to search their cupboards very well.
Then the bloodbath began, Anini and his gang turned Benin City to a stage of gory robberies and treated the people to horrendous spectacles of blood-curdling crimes. For maximum dramatic impact, Anini, would spray naira notes from their getaway car as he engaged in frantic shootouts with the police shouting:
‘I rob for the people!’
-It was on the 14th of August, 1986. Anini was driving a stolen Peugeot 504 and when he was flagged down by policemen at the Jeromi-Edebiri junction, he fired at the officers without thinking. By the time the policemen were taken to the Central Hospital, two of them were already dead.
Before long, he was known not only within Benin but all over Nigeria. Newspapers and media outlets all went into a frenzy with editorials and major features discussing nothing but Anini and whether he would ever meet his nemesis. Anini never hid his disdain for the police and when he was eventually nabbed, he would confess:
‘Dem kill my father and brother at Ibadan, and my friend Kingsley Eweka.’
But like a man possessed by the very evil of the Devil himself, Anini was also believed to carry out another car snatching near the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO)office in Benin (another Peugeot 504) the next day after AIG of police Omeben’s driver had been abducted (see below), in the first week of September. Omeben was in Benin to work on the Anini case. Anini was suspected to have used a Passat TS vehicle for this particular operation (of course, the Passat too was believed to have been pilfered).
But that was not all. 48 hours after the Passat incident, Anini stormed his own local government area (Orhionmwon) and by the time the hapless people knew what had hit them, Anini and his death squad had pumped bullets into two police officers. A string of three different armed robberies would then follow and all fingers pointed at Lawrence (his nickname The Law is a shortened form of his name).
-In one of Anini’s operations, the Mercedes Benz 200 (registered BD 1 HA) of the Ogbogbovmen II, the Ovie (King) of Ughelli was stolen in Benin. Actually, the monarch in full regalia in his car before he was swooped upon by Anini’s gang and he was dragged out of the car. They ensured that they meted out some measure of disgrace upon the helpless traditional ruler before they made away with his glittering Mercedes. As the King took a hired taxi back to his palace, he was wondering if it was one very bad dream. Yes, it was a nightmare and it was called Anini.
-A chartered accountant named Mrs. Remi Shobanjo who was also the President of the Ugbowo Lioness Club, was murdered while a former worker and Staff Writer with the Nigerian Observer, Mr. Frank Unoarumi, was also killed and they made away with his Peugeot 505. When Anini and his gang reached the office of the Shobanjos, they banged the door with all the fury left in Hell and then started firing at the door. They arrived the Adesogbe Street office around 7.40 in the evening.
The terrified couple inside the room did not know what to do and decided to be silent and not open the door. Then they continued firing at the door until it gave way. A bullet sped in and lodged itself near the poor woman’s heart. Before she knew what hit her, Mrs. Shobanjo was dead. She died on the spot. Then they entered, stole N200, the couple’s Peugeot 504 (later found in Aghalokpe, Delta State) which they drove off with, after making away with some documents too.
Between 5th and 9th September, 1986, Anini and his gang made it clear that they were not joking. The attacked two police stations and posts at Abudu (the seat of his own local government area) where he killed a police sergeant and father of seven named Daniel Omedew, took his pistol and went away with other weapons in the station. Then he and his devilish train moved to Ugo town where Corporal Lucky Ogieva was not lucky at all, falling to their bullets. By the time they left, two officers of the Nigerian Police had been killed in cold blood and many more escaped with varying degrees of injuries.
By the end of September 1986, Anini seemed untouchable and the entity called Nigeria was already saturated with the chilling news of a dreaded robber from Benin. That month, Anini, wearing the uniform of a police superintendent launched another assault on a petrol station situated along Wire Road in Benin City. He then collected all the proceeds of their sales for the day, an undisclosed amount of money, then he decided to shoot the station manager in the thigh. In a macabre fashion, he sprayed part of the money along the road as he made his escape. This act of his is why some termed him the ‘Robin Hood of Africa’.
As you might have guessed, Anini’s string of successes further emboldened him and spurred him to take even greater challenges. On Independence Day (1st October, 1986), he fired another salvo of surprise at Nigerians when he waylaid a man, Mr. Casmir Akagbosu, in Benin around 9 pm and shot the cartilage of his nose, which almost fell off. A reflex turning of his head saved Akagbosu’s life. His head was just centimetres away from the speeding bullets. That night was real evening of terror as Anini’s superior weaponry blasted off with brutal efficiency, shattering the calm peace of a Benin populace preparing to sleep.
But Akagbosu was no ordinary citizen, he was actually the State’s Commissioner of Police and he had just been attacked in his new Peugeot 504 right at a spot just about 100 metres from a police roadblock. With a shattered nose, he managed to survive the attack with other injuries and it must be noted that earlier that day, Anini’s men had gone round town that same day, even killing a policeman in the process. He was a pack of sheer terror, violence and destruction and I believe that at a point, he must have believed that he would never be caught, that he was on top of the world, with the globe at his sinewy feet.
The Commissioner of Police would also survive a second attack. He was seated in a station wagon flanked by two officers, his aides: one Sergeant Ojo and Corporal Ogbe Zechariah. All of a sudden, they were under a volley of fierce bullets coming from all directions. Anini and his boys again. Luckily for Akagbosu but unluckily for his assistants, his two aides received all the hits on their limbs and thighs. The driver, Constable Paulinus Oweh was not that lucky. He was hit in the head and his limp body collapsed on the seat, with blood gushing out of the point of impact. An unidentified MOPOL (mobile policeman) seating in front with the driver however escaped untouched. The sudden attack left the Commissioner and his boys completely flabbergasted and could not mount any reasonable response on time. At that point, the legend of Anini, the man who attacked a Police Commissioner spread far and wide all over Nigeria. Demoralized policemen would become hypertensive at the mere mention of the Orogho crime lord.
Not long after that, Anini was on rampage again. He was off to the Ring Road, one of his favourite spots for attacks. Driving the blue Santana that he had stolen earlier (to tease the police, he took the car after stealing it to a car wash where he calmly stayed for about an hour while the car was being cleaned), he turned at the Iwehen Street junction and he was not too far from the petrol station where he had struck less than a month ago. All of sudden, he caught a glimpse of a lonely police constable walking on the street. Chai!
He brought the car to a halt, withdrew his submachine gun and with the madness of a crazed Hitler, he released a torrent of bullets on the poor policeman.
A LITTLE ON MONDAY OSUNBOR, ANINI’S ‘TWIN’
For whatever reasons, some believe Osunbor, Anini’s second-in-command was even more brutal but whatever the case, the duo rained unspeakable terror on Nigerian citizens and were duly punished. Osunbor was a son of headmaster but he later dropped out from the Avboneka Grammar School when he was in Form Three or thereabout. He was the first out of 16 children and he had a bullish behaviour right from when he was little. The daredevil made attempts to escape from the Benin Military Hospital after their capture.
THE CAPTURE OF ANINI
Following the ‘war’ that he declared on the police, Anini and his henchmen launched a series of daredevil armed robberies and attacked police stations as they rampaged the entire city. One day in September 1986, after operating with a stolen Passat TS, the most wanted man in Nigeria was spotted at the Ekiosa Market, he was identified but in the mêlée that followed, he outsmarted those on his trail and disappeared without a trace. The police could not shoot as he mingled with the buyers and sellers.
Because of his dramatic escape, many even believed Anini used magic (some policemen even swallowed hook, line, sinker and fish the fable that Anini’s body was covered head to toe with charms that made his body resistant to bullets) and some swore that Anini had a magic mirror that showed him the movements and location of the police as they hunted him but as we now know, as against the superstitious nonsense and myth around Anini, that he had highly-connected sources in the police who always gave him hints and tips. That explains why he was always a step ahead of his police foes. Anini himself made the whole court room go into fits of laughter when he declared that he had no single supernatural power to disappear that what they used to ‘disappear’ was the insider police information supplied to them by Iyamu (same reason why Boko Haram seems invincible and indomitable, my people say that the pest eating the vegetable lives in its roots). As at the time Anini was arrested, Iyamu had already been posted to the Force Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at Alagbon, Lagos where he would continue his work as a top anti-crime police officer. Following Anini’s confession, he was arrested on the 4th of December.
The support he received from his police collaborators and godfathers imbued him with the extraordinary confidence to go on with his despicable acts. On the 21st of October, 1986, A.O. Emojeve, a medical doctor based in Benin, was killed at his residence by Anini in one of his operations on Textile Mill Road in the city. The IBB regime deployed all methods and tactics to capture Anini but the harder the police tried, the more elusive he became.
After his narrow escape at Ekiosa Market, one would have thought that Anini and his gang would lie low for a while but no, not the Ovbiudu of Bendel. On the 22nd of October, 1986, Anini and his gang left the city of Benin and launched a daredevil armed robbery in another town named Agbor. Upon landing in Agbor, the ‘action’ men launched their assault on the African Continental Bank branch in the kingdom. This was one of his most classic and dramatic robberies. Upon entering the bank, Anini first introduced himself with all majesty.
Then he ordered everyone to take their valuable cash deposits to his Santana car parked outside. After barking out the commands, he calmly strolled to a nearby bar and demanded for a chilled bottle of beer. By the time the operation ended, Anini was N40,000 richer (some accounts sayN46,000). Then, Anini, a man given to illogical festivities, drove off and went to feast men and marketwomen at Oka and he spoilt them with naira notes which he sprayed as if money rained from heaven. There, he declared that the police would never win the battle against crime as long as unemployment was the order of the day. Anini was regarded as a chieftain among the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), he lamented the poor state of the economy, inflation, expensive education fees and even proferred solutions. He even slammed the Benin police stating that some of their officers must be tried for corruption. At that stage, some analysts feel Anini was simply preparing a political platform for himself. On inflation, he said:
“Tell our President, we like him but we are not happy here in BendeI. The payment for everything is too much. That is why I now divide any money I get to the people. Ask them.’’
He even listed conditions for peace to reign in the state:
‘They are to put a stop to the persecution of innocent armed robbers; a stop to police collusion with NURTW (Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers) and Ogboni cult members; non-harassment by the police of market women returning from village market; abolition of the collection of 5Ok – N5 (by Highway Patron); equal treatment for everybody; and fair treatment for all legitimate drivers by the police.’’
To be seen as a man fighting the cause of students, he shot a police sergeant in the leg and sent him to Akagbosu, the police commissioner with a note stating his displeasure with the violence meted out on protesting students at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Kaduna State. He was gradually warming his way into the minds of the people but the police was desperate to stop him in the tracks.
For a man who terrorized an entire region of Nigeria with reckless abandon, his capture was indeed very humourous. Many would love to think that Anini was hunted down and captured by a battalion of heavily-armed soldiers and policemen but the interesting is that his end was brought about by the action of a single and extremely-determined police officer named Kayode Uanreroro, who was then a superintendent in the police force, who led a relatively small team of 10 mobile policemen (considering the fact that Anini’s gang can be almost twice that on some operations), with him being the arrowhead of the whole capture and arrest operation.
On the 3rd of December, 1986, a Wednesday, around 1pm, Uanreroro traced Anini to his hideout at No. 26, Oyemwonsa Street, opposite Iguodala Primary School on the Murtala Muhammed Way in Benin City, he had got vital information from the locals (today, people are even afraid to take part in community policing because na you wey talk to police dem go first arrest). Uanreroro went back to the police command to relay the information of Anini’s precise location. The police wanted to be 101% sure. Mistakes had got them nothing but bullets and ridicule in the past. Osayande (the Police Commissioner) sent a lady in disguise to ascertain and confirm Anini’s location. Her response was positive.
A reinforced Uanreroro returned to the building after his ‘recon’ operation. As usual, Anini was ‘chopping the life of his head’ with six rumbustious women in the room, one of whom was named Florence that Uanreroro shot in the leg as she ran out of the house to the backyard as he entered. The house belonged to Florence’s father, Jackson Aideyan. Anini had a weakness for women and apart from using them as his tools of pleasure, he also used them for his condemnable operations.
Uanreroro, described by Osayande as being ‘brave and energetic’ went straight to the house that contained Anini and served as his hideout around 2pm with his team surrounding the hideout. He knocked and guess who opened the door? Yes, it was Anini himself, wearing nothing but his underpants. His instincts must have told him the game was up but like a drowning man, he would still clutch at straws. With a thousand thoughts flying through Anini’s mind, Uanreroro then demanded sharply without wasting time:
‘Where is Anini?!’
Interestingly, Uanreroro met very little resistance from the famed king of bandits. Cornered like a terrified rabbit and sweating, Anini the Law, the Terror of Bendel and the Robber of Robbers meekly answered even as he tried to play smart:
‘Anini is under the bed in the inner room. Don’t let him escape. Leave me.‘
But Uanreroro would not be bothered with the robber’s theatrical performances. He reached for his pocket and brought out the picture of the wanted Anini. At that same time, Anini attempted a somewhat brazen move to walk past the police officer and escape (you know, like Pablo Escobar walked right past the soldiers that the President of Colombia had sent to arrest the world’s most famous druglord. As if he placed everyone on a spell, Escobar walked right past all of them, at 2.am and slipped into the darkness of the night). But Anini was no Escobar. As he made his dumb move to shove the police officer aside, he headbutted Uanreroro, who then reached for his pocket, brought out his gun and stomping very hard right on Anini’s right toes, he pulled the trigger….
Some of the other mobile policemen outside rushed into the room. Anini had no gun with him. All the police cleared from the room were 16 rounds of 9mm bullets, a tiny woven pouch of charms, his gold ring, a wristwatch and uniforms of police and the soldiers, including the ceremonial versions.
Capturing Anini was more of a tragicomic drama. While he made a mess of himself with his thoroughly imbecilic and cowardly response, the policeman who confronted him was in no mood for any stupid stage performances, especially knowing very well how dangerous a free Anini could be. As Anini was making funny moves, Uanreroro aimed his gun and fired Anini’s left leg.
His ankle was shattered. The six bullets lodged in his left leg ensured he was demobilized. As he luged forwards towards the police officer in pain, Uanreroro caught hold of Nigeria’s most wanted robber and sat him down. No magic, no amulet. Anini was a human being after all, and there he was, writhing in agony like a cobra dropped in coal embers. Subdued and almost in tears, Anini was a pitiable sight, his eyes were red and the pain was unmistakable. But that was not Uanreroro’s business. He aimed his gun at his ankle again and fired the same spot he shot earlier! Anini let out screams as his dangling ankle was almost falling off his leg. His right leg was already badly fractured. At that point, Uanreroro decided to play the gentleman and asked:
‘Are you Anini?’
And Anini, with a fluttering heart beating like the famed drums of Benin answered:
My brother, I no go deceive you; I no go lie, I be Anini. Please, take me to the hospital.
He was then whisked off inside a police Land Rover into the waiting hands of Parry Osayande, the State Commissioner of Police at the Bendel State Police Command Headquarters (Osayande replaced the injured Akagbosu) off Sapele Road, where Osayande was with Donald Ugbuaja and Edward Irabor, both also police commissioners. But please note that all the six girls caught with him all escaped as the police focused mainly on Anini and did not want to be distracted.
At the police command headquarters, Anini, who was desperately interested in being taken to the hospital, was subjected to a series of questioning and through the incredible pain, he struggled to explain himself in a smattering of Pidgin English which his interviewers struggled to understand. Irabor had to ask him of his identity in Bini dialect and Anini nodded in confirmation. Then he started a barrage of confession, of their raids, of their police accomplices and of even how his deputy, Monday Osunbor had shot and injured Akagbosu (also a Bendelite but from Agenebode) who was the former police chief in the state and almost killed in the Independence Day attack.
He named George Iyamu, the police officer who supplied them with logistics, police intelligence reports and weapons (Anini claimed he collected between N6,000 and N10,000 per deal for weapons supply). He also confessed as to how Iyamu would join them after their robberies to get his own share of the loot. Anini said they called Iyamu ‘Baba’ and that the palatial buildings that Iyamu had all over the city were from the proceeds of their criminal activities. The nation was shocked at his revelations.
At that point, he was losing so much blood that he feared for his life. He begged the police chiefs and requested that he kindly be taken to the hospital.
By the time he landed at the Benin Military Hospital on Airport Road around 3.15 pm with an escort of menacingly-armed mobile policemen, Anini was ‘properly’ injured and no one could say the number of bones that had been fractured in his 26-year-old body. One of his legs was speedily amputated and an emergency operation was conducted to stop the bleeding as the Governor and the police wanted him alive so he could confess properly and name his collaborators. However, at the military hospital, he was treated kindly and with a great sense of care. The Commandant of the Hospital, Major Ibrahim Musa and the Matron, Lt. Col. AK Onogu even took them (later with Osunbor) on walks round the hospital for ‘tours’.
The next day, Commissioner Osayande was at the hospital to see the nation’s biggest catch of the year. He asked if they have given him food. He responded in the affirmative and replied the Commissioner that he would talk but he would want that to be when he gets well enough. Osayande asked if he needed anything else, Anini asked for soft drinks and cigarette. Their conversation continued as follows, as culled from the Nigerian National Memoirs:
Osayande: I have to find out from doctor whether you can smoke.
Anini: Eh! He allowed it. I asked him here and he said I am free to smoke, but no money to buy it.
Osayande: Do you know me?
Anini: Yes. I do but without you, I don’t think I can make a statement to anybody.
Osayande: Without me? Oh, you want me to be here. Okay, I will come. When do we come? Monday (Osunbor) is here, he was lying against you. You don’t know that.
Anini: Was he saying I am the one who killed the policemen?
Anini: He is the one who killed them. Has he not confessed to you that he is the one who killed them?
Osayande: Kills policemen?
Osayande: Did l say you are very humane, that you don’t kill policemen?
Anini: I have not killed a policeman before, I have not killed anybody. I only threaten people. If you like to give me, if you don’t like, okay. But once it is Monday or any other person, they are ready to shoot. But for me, I don’t shoot any person. Eh Pa, tell them to buy cigarette for me now?
Osayande kept his promise to give him anything, and ordered Uanreroro, the man who reduced the former armed robbery king to whimpering helplessness, to go and arrange for two packets of Benson and Hedges and two bottles of soft drinks to be brought to Anini. Before then, he gave him eight sticks from his own packet.
He even got a very controversial gift from the First Lady of the state, Mrs. Inienger. While he was being treated at the hospital, with his right-hand man, Osunbor, the First Lady was on a tour of the hospital and she met with the two dreaded robbery suspects. Mrs. Inienger then asked them to ask for any special thing that they want. Both of them then stated that she should help them intercede with the governor so that they would be freed. They promised to change their evil ways and even help combat crime in the state owing to their years of ‘experience’. She listened to them with rapt attention, gave them gifts and then left. Whether she delivered the message to her husband, Governor Inienger, or not, Anini and his friend would soon know.
(Col. John Mark Inienger was the Governor of Bendel State from August 1985 to December 1987, IBB rewarded him with the post of a governor for his role in overthrowing Buhari.Governor Inienger later died on the 8th of February, 2002 at the age of 56. He hailed from the town of Mbaduku in Vandeikya Local Government Area of Benue State).
The police raided their hideout and found a terrifying cache of weapons and a variety of charms and amulets, including the one that Anini was said to have worn on his waist during his numerous operations.
Anini would later confess that he and his members made good use of police insider information (as against the widespread belief of juju) but the day he was to be caught, he and his fellow partners in crime had a ‘bad feeling’. On the 9th of November, 1986, policemen swooped on their hideout and made away with Osunbor and three other gang members. Osunbor was badly injured and another robber caught in the crossfire was killed. Anini was there too at the scene of combat, he was injured but again, he managed to escape. But his escape would not last. Two weeks later, on the 27th, he was also in the police net. Upon facing the journalists, Anini denied he ever killed any one, let alone a policeman. He said on his bed in the military hospital where he was being treated for his injuries:
I am Anini. I no dey kill people. I only threaten people for their money. If you like, you give me, if you no like, forget am. I no shoot people. Na only Monday Osunbor (his second-in-command) dey shoot (kill) people.
Meanwhile, Osunbor was just a couple of hospital wardrooms away and listened as Anini talked to the reporters declaring his innocence. Osunbor, who had been silent since they caught him, could not take it anymore and he shouted:
‘Anini dey lie! Na him be overall boss! Na him dey bring guns and na him too dey drive the Santana car we take dey do operation.’
Osunboralso pointedly accused Anini of orchestrating the murder of Dr. Emojeve at his residence and that he should not even start ‘to dey form angel for police‘. Osunbor on his own also blasted the police for their corruption and double-faced hypocrisy. At the end, Osunbor would later tell other robbers to desist because‘it is a dirty game’according to him. Osunbor said he had met Anini about four months ago at a ‘smoke joint.’
Since one of his legs was amputated, he had to be conveyed to the courtroom for his trial on a wheelchair. During Anini and his gang’s trial before Justice James Omo-Agege in Court Room 2 (Justice Amissah held proceedings in Court Room 1), they treated the nation to enough doses of drama. At a point, Iyamu the police officer denied ever having anything to do with Anini. A furious Anini fired back from his wheelchair:
You be shameless liar!
During the trial, a lot of revelations were made. The tribunal learnt that Iyamu had tipped off Anini that the Bendel-born Deputy-Inspector General of Police (then an Assistant Inspector-General of the Police, AIG in charge of F Deparment (Research and Planning)), Christopher Akhigbe Omeben would be in Benin City and that Anini and his gang should finish off Omeben. Iyamu even told them that the DIG would be staying off Ekehuan Road and gave all the needed description but Anini was unable to carry out the plot to murder the police chief. Iyamu was said to have said:
‘If you can finish off with him, the entire police intelligence network will be in disarray.’
Iyamu denied this allegation and even said he never collected any N50,000 from Anini to facilitate Eweka’s release. Although Anini and his gang would not be able to ‘finish off’ Omeben, something really nasty happened. On the 6th of September, 1986, Anini’s gang kidnapped Omeben’s driver, Albert Otoe, a police sergeant, and snatched the Peugeot 504 he was driving. What was later found was his corpse. He had been beheaded and his corpse was hidden away before his decomposing skeleton was discovered on the Benin-Agbor Highway, Umelu area, over 15 kilometres from Benin, the capital city on the 13th of September, 1986. The attack derailed the investigation and further sent fears down the people’s spines.
Some records indicate that the sergeant was abducted and decapitated by mistake, that the gang had someone else in mind. Omeben, who was also involved in Dele Giwa’s case, later became a pastor and wrote a book on his experience in the police force.
The trial held at the High Court of Justice, off Sapele Road in Benin City. Anini had implicated 10 police officers and five of them were eventually convicted (a total of 80 policemen suspected of being in collusion with Bendel criminals had been earlier transferred to other states).
During the trial, Anini maintained a sober, apologetic and somewhat regretful mood but Osunbor did not even ‘send‘. He maintained a permanent frown on his face, expressed no pitiful emotions or remorse and quickly accepted fate that the end was near. He was not interested in any defence even though the government had to assign a lawyer to him.
As for Anini, he was still optimistic a miracle would happen. At a point during the trial, he said:
‘I know say Oga Ben (his lawyer) go try for me. Hin go try free me.’
Anini’s lawyer, named Ben Iserhien, gave a spirited defence for his client. The lawyer even went ahead to state that Anini should not be executed because he suffered from a multipersonality disorder which made him rob banks and then distribute the loot to the poor. As far as Anini’s lawyer was concerned, Anini was a kind man that deserved help and assistance. The most amazing part of the whole saga was that Anini had great confidence in his lawyer and he strongly believed he would save him from an imminent death. Well lawyers, #coughs I’ve got two of you in my family so my twale to una o! As at that time, Iserhien, a Benin-based lawyer, was not too famous and taking on the case launched him onto the national stage. To worsen Anini’s case, IBB demanded for a speedy trial (many Nigerians will really find that funny and ironic).
As the laws stated then, Anini faced the Armed Robbery and Firearms Tribunal (put in place by the military) and he was found guilty. Subsequently, he was condemned to death by the firing squad. Same for his cohorts and Iyamu. The military governor of the state, Inienger, approved and signed his execution papers (why am I suddenly thinking of Governor Oshiomhole? LOL!) and that was how Anini’s world came to a screeching halt. While giving the judgment, Justice Omo-Agege then stated:
“Anini will forever be remembered in the history of crime in this country, but it would be of unblessed memory. Few people if ever, would give the name to their children.”
INTERESTING THINGS ABOUT ANINI
-Anini was described as a man who loved to dress nicely and sharply. He was particularly interested in wearing customized and tailor-made suits. He spent lavishly and cavorted with as many women that caught his horrible fancy. However, he married a woman from a village in the state but it is unclear if he ever had any child. As at the time I was writing this, I could not lay my hands on any reliable account of Anini having any offspring. Rumours abound but facts are sacred. Being an overly emotional man that he was, it was very unlikely Anini would not mention his child if he had any before he was brutally dispatched from the surface of the Earth. While the police authorities were combing everywhere for him, Anini was described as having a face with scars, an incorrigible womaniser who loved attending funeral ceremonies.
-In September 1986, when he robbed at the Ipoba Slope, near the FEDECO office, terror-stricken traffic wardens fled for their lives and as they ran away frantically, Anini shouted after them:
Tell them (police) that I am around!
-At the time when Anini trampled upon Nigeria, one of the brightest journalists in Africa, Dele Giwa, lived and this is what he had to say about Anini:
‘Son of Sam was the son of a dog! Jack the Ripper was the son of a dog! Lawrence Anini is the son of a dog!’ -DELE GIWA, Nigerian journalist (1947-1986).
It is very interesting to know that both Anini and Dele Giwa were both from the same Bendel State and both of them would later meet their tragic deaths under the IBB regime.
-Although Anini was an all-round robber with incredible sniping abilities, his area of specialization was bank robbery.
-The robbery case of Anini was handled by the outspoken and retired commissioner of police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav. He was assigned to investigate the case of the dreaded robber. On his team then was Abubakar Mohammed (who is now the current Inspector-General of the Nigerian Police), officer Zubairu (who retired as a Chief Superintendent of Police) and the late ID Muntari. In a February 2013 interview with Punch, Tsav revealed that he was not the one who arrested Anini but an Assistant Commissioner of Police named Uanreroro (AC Mobile, see his picture above, Uanreroro retired as an ACP, Mobile). However, he was the one who oversaw the entire investigative case that led to the conviction of Anini, his killer partner, Monday Osunbor who did read pass secondary school Form IV, his police accomplice, George Sam Iyamu who was an Assistant Superintendent of Police (Iyamu made the obnoxious history of becoming the first high-ranking officer in the Nigeria Police to be indicted of robbery) and others.
Tsav and his team spent six months on the case in Edo State (then Bendel State). Tsav complained that a major problem with the police today is that the seniors want to take all the glory and not give room to the juniors, even when they are the ones that did all the work in an investigation. Tsav also stated that the case file for Dele Giwa’s murder was also seized from him and you will agree with me that that is worthy of note. You know what I am talking about jooor…lol
-Anini knew the nature of his ‘job’ and was always aware of the consequences of his actions. Whenever he went to bed, two of his gang boys stood watch over the bed of His Thieving Majesty as he drifted off to dreamland.
-As at the time Anini and his gang were executed, records show that none of them could have been older than 29. Monday Osunbor’s age was listed as 22. They were all quite young and that also brings to mind the case of another notorious thief, Babatunde Folorunsho who was executed on the 21st of April, 1971 at the age of 23. The public executions of Babatunde Folorunsho and his like were the very first in Nigeria of armed robbers. In 1992, Shina Rambo of Lagos would daze the nation with his fast fingers for expensive cars. Peter Presley Preboye also did his own with jewelry on Victoria Island.
-A frustrated Nigeria Police placed a bounty of N10,000 on Anini’s head and his wanted posters with his photograph were pasted all over the state. Anini boasted that he would singlehandedly raise the ransom on his head to N30,000 and give anyone who could arrest him. Interestingly, when he was later cornered, ten police officers were immediately put under investigation. People were too terrified to have the posters pasted in their homes and there is a story of how Anini and his men threatened the NTA Benin staff for pasting the posters. The posters disappeared in a jiffy and hundreds of them laid on the floor in the police headquarters. People were just too afraid to go out and paste Anini’s wanted posters. Even police officers.
-Anini vowed that he would die in one of the markets in a shoot-out with the police and when the time comes, he would not go alone but with as many people as possible. Therefore, it was not a surprise that following his capture, marketwomen were some of the first to erupt in joy and troop to the police command to catch a glimpse of the terror called Anini. There was tremendous joy in Benin that day, mobile policemen drove round the city to the enthusiastic applause and cheers of a relieved citizenry. Gunshots were fired in celebration and Governor Inienger was profuse in his praise for the police and commended their efforts for making the dream of netting Anini before the next Christmas a reality.
-Also, although Inienger was the governor as at the time Eweka was sentenced to death, he was not the one who signed the execution documents. That was done by the Acting Governor, Navy Captain Salahudeen Akano. Inienger was on leave.
Iyamu and the rest were killed by the firing squad on a Saturday and Valentine’s Day of 1987 but Anini and Osunbor’s deaths were postponed to the Sanitation Day of March, the 28th of the same year. The myth of Anini came to a fiery end on the 27th of March, 1986. It was a Saturday and thousands of citizens of the then-Bendel State joyfully trooped out to watch the unceremonious exit of Anini the Law from this earthly plane. Whether he would continue his armed robbery in the Great Beyond was no one’s business, they just wanted to see him dispatched from this planet as quickly and with maximum vengeance.
Apart from Anini, Monday Osunbor (also the armourer for the group, he was reputed to have single-handedly gunned down six policemen), Solomon Ihebelua Osemwenkhai (Osemenvkhore, nicknamed Akpankon, aged 22), Bernard Obi and Friday Ukponmwan were other gang members found guilty of conspiracy and armed robbery by the Second Benin Armed Robbery & Firearm Tribunal on the 9th of January. They all faced the firing squad. Anini would be cut down in a final shower of bullets on the 27th of March, 1987, before thousands of the same Nigerians he had terrified. At 11.05 am, as the bullets hit his already frail body, Anini weakly muttered his final words:
Let me die reaping what I have sown.
As the proverb goes 'the evil that man do, lives after him'