At the last count on Tuesday, December 21, 12 members of the robbery gang who attacked banks and security formations last week in Egbe and Odo Ere communities in Yagba West Local Council of Kogi State, killing four civilians, a police officer and a bank guard have been arrested.
The Guardian learnt the arrests came through combined efforts of security agencies, local hunters and vigilantes.
Sadly, the death yesterday of Princess Omolayo Olugbenga (nee Owojaiye) from bullet wounds, eight days after she was admitted at ECWA hospital, Egbe has raised the death toll to seven.
Last wekTuesday, the two communities were a theatre of war as residents and business owners came under attack by the armed bandits believed to be bank robbers.
During the robbery operation, sound of gunshots and fire grenades resonated nonstop about 3:20p.m. lasting for an hour, as residents scampered to safety and turned Egbe, the commercial hub of Yagba West Local Council into a ghost city.
The Guardian gathered that security formations including divisional police stations were the main target before it shifted to banks in Egbe.
The robbers later invaded neighbouring Odo-Ere, the council headquarters.
When the rubbles settled, four people were confirmed killed in Egbe, including a bank security guard in Egbe, simply identified as Taiye.
Taiye, a graduate, who was recently employed as a guard in the newly opened bank, was allegedly shot on the head after the robbers’ repeated failed attempts to gain entry into the well fortified bank’s vault.
Point of Sales (PoS) pay points, supermarkets, including the popular BOFAD Foods and Confectionery, located adjacent First Bank, Egbe, along Kabba Federal Road were all raided, while owners and customers were dispossessed of their cash and other valuables.
A story building housing BOFAD Foods and Confectionery was riddled with bullets, while huge sums of money was carted away by the robbers.
The coordinated robbery involving males and female actors, extended to Odo-Ere, about three kilometres drive from Egbe, which saw another bank in the headquarters destroyed through the launch of dynamites and other explosives.
A police man was shot dead in the process, while a girl, whose name was given as Kehinde, was hit by stray bullets, following the pandemonium that greeted the sporadic gunshots fired by the assailants to scare away members of the public from the scenes.
A church chorister identified as Brother Paul became another victim of stray bullets, as he was shot on the head after he unsuspectingly walked into the robbers, near Egbe Microfinance Bank.
The late Princess Olugbenga, a worker in the Kogi State Civil Service was shot on her legs and abdomen while using the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) when the robbers struck.
She, alongside other unidentified victims who sustained bullet wounds was admitted at the ECWA hospital Egbe and was said to be responding to treatment until her death, yesterday.
MEANWHILE, a positive indication of counter security response by a combined team of security agents has emerged as the army, police and local council vigilantes, immediately swooped into action to ensure the criminals did not make their escape.
The Guardian gathered that soon after the bandits thought they had a field day, the security architecture mounted surveillance around forests of Yagba, following tips that the bandits were still within the territory.
The local hunters, who apparently understood the terrain, offered leads to monitor likely escape routes the robbers could explore.
Last Wednesday, residents observed a police helicopter circling Yagba West neighbourhood all day, extending to Thursday, in what later was learned to be air surveillance and part of search efforts to locate hideouts of the criminal gangs.
Yagba West Council Chairman, Pius Kolawole, in a statement last Wednesday, said: “Join us in prayer as our security agencies are seriously still battling with the robbers till this very moment as there’s no escape routes for them.”
The effort paid off. The gang was tracked. All tactics deployed to escape from the forests failed them. Not even when they resorted to firing grenades from their hideouts as it became a mistake and further exposed their hideouts.
An unofficial report said nine of the robbers were killed in their hideouts. However two members of the fleeing gang were apprehended at Igbaruku, a suburb of Odo-Ere, while pleading for water to drink.
Following a tip-off by vigilant villagers, the duo were promptly apprehended by the local hunters and kept in the police cell at Odo-Ere.
CmaTrends of the arrests attracted a visibly enraged crowd, who were gathered at the Divisional Police Station at Odo-Ere, demanding instant justice.
Sadly, an eyewitness said when the police failed to yield to their demand, the crowd became unruly and in the ensuing melee, an officer allegedly mistakenly fired gunshots that led to the death of two yet to be identified persons.
The mob retaliated, killing the erring police officer, and razed part of the police station in process.
On Saturday, three more members of the fleeing robbers were intercepted at Ejiba, two others were held while trying to board a commercial vehicle in nearby Isanlu.
“The driver of the vehicle, who pretended to take them on the journey, instead drove them into the police station. The other two were intercepted in Isanlu. During a stop and search operation, they were found in possession of N2 million cash, wrapped in the emblem of a new generation bank, Egbe, one of the three banks robbed,” the eye witness said.
All suspects arrested have been moved to Kogi State Command headquarters in Lokoja, for further investigations and prosecution.
More Arrests/Confessions On Monday and Tuesday respectively, more members of the gang were arrested in various locations. The common causes of their arrests were hunger and the irresistible urge for food and water.
Unconfirmed report said the robbers were aged between 17 and 30 years.
However, a top Vigilante leader, disclosed that arrested members of the gang confessed that they were 27 of which, at least nine have been killed in the bush.
One of the arrested robbers, who identified himself as Ojo Jimoh, was visibly tired and wandering around someone’s farm in Oke-Ere in search of what to eat, when he was caught.
In his preliminary confessional statement via a video streamed on the social media, he said they lost coordination and rest following the hot chase by security operatives and vigilantes complemented by airstrikes, of robbers lost coordination.
Jimoh, who claimed to be a first time robber, said for nine days, he was alone in the forest, tired and hungry and wished he could turn himself in, if only he could find someone to lead him to the police station, “to explain myself”.
Reward for Bravery
Meanwhile, Apapo Omo Yagba (AOY), a WhatsApp group of influential Yagba sons and daughters have joined governor Yahaya Bello to make donations in appreciation of the bravery of the local hunters, vigilantes, Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), Agbekoya and other locals, who participated in the effective counter response.
Yagba West chairman, Kolawole while making the cash presentations on behalf of Governor Bello and AOY, noted that the donations were in appreciation of their bravery and not to pay for their services.
“All vigilantes, local hunters from Ogga, Omi,and other parts of Yagba West that participated in arresting the robbers; our brothers from neighbouring Yagba East and Ijumu, who came to assist us, each was given cash reward by His Excellency, including representatives of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) and Agbekoya for their proactive response to the sad invasion of our communities on December 14.
The money is not to pay you for the job you have done, but in appreciation of your role in ensuring that the robbers did not escape after they robbed and killed our people and thought they had a field day.
Source:- Guardian Ng