Robbers, in movie style, storm Agbara banks avenue
DARE devil robbers armed to the teeth stormed Agbara Estate early yesterday and broke into one of the new generation banks. The time was 6. 30 a.m. The robbers were literally speaking a battalion. Some eyewitnesses said they must number 45.
They came some wearing Army camouflage uniform and one in what looked like an Air Force light blue rating dress. It was the first of such armed robbery in the 37 years of the existence of the Estate, Nigeria’s first privately-owned Estate. The robbery took everyone familiar with the Estate by surprise.
Agbara Estate Limited, the owners of leafy Estate inhabited by company executives and university lecturers, said yesterday: “At about 7 a.m., there was an organised armed robbery on Agbara Estate, the first of its kind in the estate’s 37-year history. The target of the attack was Zenith Bank on Bank Road, where the vault and various ATMs were looted. There are two fatalities reported (two police guards at the bank). Agbara Estate is carrying out an immediate review of its security operations and is collaborating with the local authorities and police force to prevent any such incident happening again.”
A resident of the area who does not want to be named told reporters that the armed men came through the waterway right opposite Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education at Ijanikin and seized some vehicles on the Badagry Expressway before heading for the Estate which is home to many blue chip companies and banks. He said the surprise is that Customs, immigration and the police have their checkpoints there.
Segun Olumuyiwa, another resident, said bullets had destroyed parts of his building. “I don’t know if it’s the police that engaged them in shooting but the bullets kept flying all over.’’
Presumably on information, upon arrival at the bank on foot and hiding their weapons as well as disguising as bank customers, a handful of them, in unarguably practised lightning speed, made for the door to bare their fangs. They blew it up with an explosive which security men of some other companies watching from afar thought was dynamite. The robbers had distributed themselves, each or groups with different assignments on Bank Road where the operation was intense and firing went on uninterruptedly. They were also on the adjourning street.
Police sources said their men engaged the robbers using their Armoured Personnel Carrier and the heavy sound of guns came from their carrier.
All the banks have their offices lining Bank Road, their stretch broken only by PHCN (EKEDC) offices and a cozy five-star hotel access road.
Eyewitnesses said two of the robbers approached the commercial tricycle riders gathered at the T- junction of the road and advised them to leave, informing them unabashedly that they were armed robbers and that they were about to start operation. They told them point-blank to leave if they loved themselves. Within seconds heavy sounding guns began to boom. And confusion ensued.
Building vibrated, egrets and bats which make the estate their habitat perching in their hundreds on rich giant trees for which the Estate is renowned were rudely woken from their slumber and they fled, not in their usual columns but in different directions. The electronically powered doors of Zenith Bank came down with its glass shattered, flying off as missiles.
Passersby on the ever-bustling road and customers of other banks fled, heading for nowhere in particular, some taking cover behind trees or just clutching raw grasses by the gutter. Workers in neighbouring companies dived for cover and lay flat on the floor. It was pandemonium galore, which lasted about two hours.
The gang came by boat through a tributary, called Ilase River that empties into Atlantic Ocean aborting Agbara, stretching expansively to the ancient town of Badagry.
Traffic on the main access road that runs from Atan-Ota to Agbara passing through the Estate came to a chaotic halt. Drivers abandoned their vehicles and fled. A lady who passed the gate of a company just as the robbers began their operation abandoned her car leaving the engine running and the door ajar with her bag inside. She bruised her knees. She was helped by the staff of Lotus Plastic Company and Nestle after the confusion was over. A brave staffer of Lotus tip-toed to help her lock the car and to keep the key.
The robbers on entering the bank shot dead a Mobile policeman usually referred to as Mopol. He was on duty at the bank. Two others on the floor of the banking hall were also shot, one critically injured in the back. The injured were taken first to Badagry General Hospital where doctors said they did not have the requisite equipment. They headed for Ikeja Teaching Hospital from where they were referred to Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) for lack of beds for them.
At the end of the operation, the robbers left leisurely on foot shooting sporadically at offices of companies that line the street to Bank Road. Bullet holes dot many of the buildings of the companies. The robbers were young and they did not cover their faces. The Estate is separated into residential and industrial. On their way out of the industrial part, the armed men blocked the road linking the industrial with the residential part. They shot at the tire of police Armoured Personnel Carrier. They formed a convoy of four cars, which they had seized from bank customers.
The robbers headed back to the river on foot, putting the cars in the middle. It was at the river bank that they emptied their loot into their boat and left the cars for the owners to recover them. Even then this was not until they had shot two persons, one an unsuspecting woman passing by, injuring her gravely.
The Agbara robbery is the fourth time this year that robbers would attack banks and escape through waterways. In May a branch of First City Monument Bank was attacked in Lekki and five persons including two policemen were killed. In June First Bank and Zenith Bank were raided in Ikorodu. Last month, about five persons were killed during attacks on Access Bank and Diamond Bank in Festac Town. Yesterday’s robbery happened three days after there was an exchange of gunfire between the police and suspected robbers in Epe. The armed men wanted to steal the gunboat of the police to rob banks in Lagos State.
Agbara is in Ogun State, sharing border with Lagos State. Indeed it is the Badagry Expressway that separates the two states in the area.