Robbers’ New Found Tactics
It is fast becoming a new trend of armed robbery in Nigeria. From Kogi to Delta, Ogun to Rivers, armed robbers have resorted to the use of dangerous explosives such as dynamite for robbery operations. The targets most often are commercial banks. In Yobe State, 20 explosives were used by gunmen to attack the cattle market in Potiskum, which left 34 people dead and several cows burnt. The attack was said to be a reprisal for an earlier attempt in the day by the gang of armed robbers who sought to rob the market but were repulsed by the traders who caught one of the attackers and burnt him alive.
The most disturbing was the attack two weeks ago of two banks in Abraka, Delta State, which claimed the lives of six policemen including the divisional police officer, DPO, Steven Chigbuef. Ikechukwu Adaba, Delta State commissioner of police said the robbers used rocket launcher and assault rifles during the attack. The robbers were later reported to be arrested at Igbodo in Ika northeast local government with the sum of N3.9 million and other assorted weapons recovered from them.
Barely a week after the incident, a bus said to have been loaded with substance suspected to be dynamites, exploded at the Rumuokoro Roundabout on the East-West Road in Obio/Akpor local government area of Rivers State. The explosion, which occurred around 10 am, claimed two lives. The driver of the vehicle and his conductor were said to have escaped shortly after they had invited people to assist them push the bus, which had developed fault, out of the road. The state commission of police, Mohammed Indawaba however denied that it was a terrorist attack, but said they may be robbers going for an operation. Also in March this year, about 10 armed robbers attacked a first generation bank opposite the University of Port Harcourt, UNIPORT, Choba, with dynamite. The bank’s security guards were overpowered by the armed robbers who used the SMGs, AK-47 rifles and dynamite to destroy the security door of the bank’s main entrance before moving straight to the safe which they forced open and carted away cash.
Over 100 banks were said to have been robbed in the last 12 months with over 30 people killed. About 500 customers, bank workers and passersby were hit and injured by stray bullets from the guns of robbers in different raids.
The new dimension has made security experts to suspect the motive behind the attack. An intelligence report recently linked the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram, which has since 2009 unleashed terror on Nigeria, with an Algerian terrorist group. The Algerian group was said to have promised to mentor members of the Boko Haram through trainings that will help it fortify its financial base locally. This include hostage taking and bank robberies. Abu Qaqa, the spokesman of Boko Haram reportedly told The UK Guardian early this year that his leaders met with high ranking members of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia during a pilgrimage in August 2011 to finalise financial and logistic arrangements with al-Qaeda. In February this year, the sect was linked with the kidnap of two white men – a Brit, Lamolinara and an Italian, McMamus. The two were later killed in an attempt to rescue them by a team of Nigerian and British security operatives. But Qaqa denied the sect involvement in the kidnap. He gave the misrepresentation of the group by the media as one of the reasons why the sect attacked some media houses In Abuja and Kaduna last April.
But the attacks on banks by robbers and their catastrophic consequences have continued to worry security experts. A security expert, Frank Ohwofa want security agencies to spread their intelligence gathering so as to be able to unravel the motive behind the attacks. He explained that it would be presumptuous to narrow the attacks on any terrorist group, as this will affect the cause of investigation.
The attacks are taking tolls on the nation’s economy. In March this year, most commercial banks in Ogun State shut their doors to customers for several weeks, following incessant armed robbery attacks. Olusegun Olusoga, chairman of Ijebuland Bankers’ Forum said the banks in all the three senatorial zones of the sate would be shut …to drive home the security demands of the banks.
Before the bankers took the decision, many banks in the state have come under attack of armed robbers. A Bank in Ijebu-Igbo was attacked in February. A day after, a similar attack was launched on a branch of the bank; two security men were injured in the attack. The Sapida Microfinance Bank in Ijebu East local government was also attacked by bandits who blew the bank’s security doors and automated teller machine, ATM, with dynamite.
The forced closure affected business activities. Virtually every economic activity was affected as depositors could no longer have access to their money.
Despite close circuit television, CCTV cameras, mounted in these banks, most of these robberies happen without any trace of the attackers. Although Abuja has not witnessed any of such attacks, other criminal activities took place in the territory without police arrest, despite CCTV cameras mounted almost at every location. Security consultants however said CCTV cameras cannot effectively function without basic infrastructure to make deployment effective in tackling criminal activities. This includes the deployment of central criminal data base which will assist in tracking down suspects. Ohwofa was of the opinion that until the issues of intelligence gathering, processing and dissemination are addressed, Nigerian security agencies cannot tackle crime and criminality. “For us to out-match the activities of organised crime, it requires continuous capacity building and continuous capacity development within the security agency.”
The acting inspector general of police, Mohammed Abubakar said the force is training 50,000 officers in intelligence and crime investigation to check the spate of insecurity in the country. Abubakar who was on familiarisation tour of police commands in the country, said in Lagos last week that the security situation in the country calls for more proactive measures if the nation must win the war against violence.