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LAWRENCE ANINI, The Robber. The Gangster That Seized A Nigerian State . - Nairaland / General - Nairaland

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LAWRENCE ANINI, The Robber. The Gangster That Seized A Nigerian State . by olamitunde(m): 2:53pm On Dec 11, 2013
SMALL things matter, but little attention is always paid to small matter. When Kingsley Eweka, a prince of Benin was about to be shot for armed robbery in mid 1986, he craned his neck on the stake to tell those asking If he had anything to say: “My friend and his boys will avenge my death!” A smile slipped out the cheeks of the questioners: no one knew his friend, and no one wanted to know. It was a matter for laughter, and since they could not laugh, they sneered. But soon, everyone knew Kingsley’s friend in Bendel State of Nigeria.

Yes, Bendel State. There was once a state in Nigeria called Bendel. It was the old Benin and Delta provinces of Western region that was merged on 8 August, 1963 to become Midwestern State, and was changed to Bendel State on 17 March, 1976, That was its name until 27 August, 1991 when it was divided into two: one part named Edo, and the other now called Delta. But in 1986,, it was Bendel, and this was where Kingsley’s friend took his revenge.

The friend was a young man called Lawrence Nomanyagbon Anini, Nigeria’s acclaimed most notorious armed robber, was born sometimes in 1960 to the family of Owuo quarters in Orogbo village, Orhionmwon area of the state. He was brought to Benin as a toddler where he attended Oza Primary School, and was a known truant while in the School. All the same, he completed the school and got admission to Igiedumu Secondary School. He was there for three years before he abandoned it in about 1976 and started learning how to repair motor vehicles. But he spent only three months in the mechanic workshop.

Anini, dreadfully called ‘The Law’ or ‘Ovbigbo’,. At an early age, learned to drive and became a skilled taxi driver in a few years. He became known in Benin motor parks as a man who could control the varied competing interest among motor park touts and operators. He later resorted to criminal acts in the city and soon became a driver and transporter for gangs, criminal godfathers and thieves. Later on, he decided to create his own gang and they started out as car hijackers, bus robbers and bank thieves. Gradually, he extended his criminal acts to other towns and cities far north and east of Benin.

He terrorized the old Bendel State, especially its capital, Benin City in the 1980s, but in 1986, his robbery exploits reached a terrific level that it became a national issue. He operated along with his lieutenant, Monday Osunbor, and others. However, one striking feature in the Anini reign of terror was the police complicity. It was soon discovered that the Anini gang had insiders within the police hierarchy of which George Iyamu, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, was their arrowhead.

The complicity of the police is believed to have triggered Anini’s reign of terror in 1986. In early 1986, two members of his gang were tried and prosecuted against an earlier under-the-table ‘agreement’ with the police to destroy evidence against the gang members. The incident, and Anini’s view of police betrayal, is believed to have spurred retaliatory actions by Anini. In August, 1986, a fatal bank robbery linked to Anini was reported in which a police officer and others were killed. That same month, two officers on duty were shot at a barricade while trying to stop Anini’s car. During a span of three months, he was known to have killed nine police officers.

Anini’s exploits

In an operation in August of 1986, the Anini team struck at First Bank, Sabongida-Ora, where they carted away N2, 000. But although the amount stolen was seen as chicken feed, they left the scene with a trail of blood. Many persons were killed.

On September 6, same year, the Anini gang snatched a Peugeot 504 car from Albert Otoe, the driver of an Assistant Inspector General of Police, Christopher Omeben. In snatching the car, they killed the driver and went to hide his corpse somewhere. It was not until three months later that the skeleton of the driver was spotted 16 kilometers away from Benin, along the Benin-Agbor highway. A day after this attack, Anini, operating in a Passat car believed to have been stolen, also effected the snatching of another Peugeot 504 car near the former FEDECO office, in Benin.

Two days after, the Anini men killed two policemen in Orhiowon Local Government of the state. Still in that month, three different robbery attacks, all pointing to Anini’s involvement, took place. They include the murder of Frank Unoarumi, a former employee of the Nigerian Observer newspapers; the killing of Mrs. Remi Sobanjo, a chartered accountant, and the stealing of the Mercedes Benz car in Benin, of the Ughelli monarch, the Ovie.

Before September, 1986 drew to a close, Anini, now steaming hot and an elusive dread, struck at a gas station along Wire Road, Benin, where he stole a substantial part of the day’s sales. He shot the Station’s attendant and gleefully started spraying his booty along the road for people to pick.

The height of Anini’s exploits, however, took place on October 1, 1986, the Independence Day when the state’s Commissioner of Police, Casmir Igbokwe was ambushed by the gang in Benin, and nearly yanked off his nose in a hail of bullets. The police boss survived the attacks with serious injuries. Earlier that day also, the Anini men had gunned down a police man within the city

Also, on October 21 of same year, the Anini robbery gang terminated the life of a Benin-based medical doctor, A.O Emojeve when they gunned him down along Textile Mill Road, in Benin. Not done, Anini and gang went and robbed the Agbor branch of African Continental Bank and carted away about N46, 000. A day after the operation, Anini, The Law, turned to a ‘Father Christmas’ as he strew wads of naira notes on the ground for free pick by market men and women at a village near Benin.

Anini’s image thus loomed larger than life, dwarfing those of Ishola Oyenusi, the king of robbers in the 1970s and Youpelle Dakuro, the army deserter who masterminded the most vicious daylight robbery in Lagos in 1978, in which two policemen were killed. Anini thus spear-headed a four-month reign of terror between August and December 1986. Anini also reportedly wrote numerous letters to media houses using political tones of Robin Hood-like words, to describe his criminal acts.

He gave six conditions that must be met “for peace to return to police in Bendel.’’
‘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.’’
Of course, Anini had an eye on the public for sympathy and support and he thought that his ‘manifesto’ would win for him this, but his chief enemy was time and the police. The police had said they would do everything to get Anini into the cooler. The force quickly replaced Akagbozu, the hospitalized commissioner of police, with Parry Osayande who until then was the Benue State police commissioner. On arrival, the Governor, John Mark Inienger, gave a million naira to the police so that fund would not be the hindrance in the Anini project. And on Wednesday, 15 October 1986, Muhamadu Gambo was appointed the Inspector General of police. With this, the police seemed set to nail the most wanted criminal of the time.

My friend, where is Anini?

Worried by the seeming elusiveness of Anini and his gang members, the military President, General Ibrahim Babangida then ordered a massive manhunt for the kingpin and his fellow robbers. The police thus went after them, combing every part of Bendel State where they were reportedly operating and living. The whole nation was gripped with fear of the robbers and their daredevil exploits.

However, Police manhunt failed to stop their activities; the more they were hunted, the more intensified their activities became.

Some of the locals in the area even began to tell stories of their invincibility and for a while, it felt like they were never going to be caught.

However, at the conclusion of a meeting of the Armed Forces Ruling Council in October 1986, General Babangida turned to the Inspector- General of Police, Etim Inyang, and asked, ‘My friend, where is Anini?’.

At about this time, Nigerian newspapers and journals were also publishing various reports and editorials on the ‘Anini Challenge’, the ‘Anini Saga’, the ‘Anini Factor’, ‘Lawrence Anini – the Man, the Myth’, ‘Anini, Jack the Ripper’, and ‘Lawrence Anini: A Robin Hood in Bendel’. The Guardian asked, emphatically, in one of its reports: ‘Will they ever find Anini, “The Law”?’.

His arrest

Finally, it took the courage of Superintendent of Police, Kayode Uanreroro to bring the Anini reign of terror to an end. On December 3, 1986, Uanreroro caught Anini at No 26, Oyemwosa Street, opposite Iguodala Primary School, Benin City, in company with six women. Acting on a tip-off from the locals, the policeman went straight to the house where Anini was hiding and apprehended him with very little resistance. Uanreroro led a crack 10-man team to the house, knocked on the door of the room, and Anini himself, clad in underpants, opened the door. “Where is Anini,” the police officer quickly enquired. Dazed as he was caught off guard and having no escape route, Anini all the same tried to be smart. “Oh, Anini is under the bed in the inner room”. As he said it, he made some moves to walk past Uanreroro and his team. In the process, he shoved and head-butted the police officer but it was an exercise in futility.

Uanreroro promptly reached for his gun, stepped hard on Anini’s right toes and shot at his left ankle. Anini surged forward but the policemen took hold of him and put him in a sitting position. They then pumped more bullets into his shot leg and almost severed the ankle from his entire leg. Already, anguished by the excruciating pains, the policemen asked him, “Are you Anini?” And he replied, “My brother, I won’t deceive you; I won’t tell you lie, I’m Anini.” He was from there taken to the police command headquarters where the state’s Police Commissioner, Parry Osayande, was waiting. While in the police net, Anini who had poor command of English and could only communicate in pidgin, made a whole lot of revelations. He disclosed, for instance that Osunbor, who had been arrested earlier, was his deputy, saying that Osunbor actually shot and wounded the former police boss of the state, Akagbosu

Anini was shot in the leg, transferred to a military hospital, and had one of his legs amputated. That was after Monday Osunbor was also captured.

When Anini’s hideout was searched, police recovered assorted charms, including the one he usually wore around his waist during “operations”.

It was instructive that after Anini was captured and dispossessed of his charms, the man who terrorised a whole state and who was supposed to be fearless suddenly became remorseful, making confessions. This was against public expectation of a daredevil hoodlum who would remain defiant to the very end.

Revelations on Iyamu, others

Shortly after the arrest of Anini and co, the dare-devil robbers began to squeal, revealing the roles played by key police officers and men, in the aid ing and abetting of criminals in Bendel State and the entire country. Anini particularly revealed that Iyamu, who was the most senior police officer shielding the robbers, would reveal police secrets to them and then, give them logistic supports such as arms, to carry out robbery operations. He further revealed how N50,000 was paid to lyamu for destruction of evidences and the rent of guns and ammunitions after each operation, would join them in sharing the loot. It was further exposed how Iyamu planned to kill Christopher Omeben, an Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Intelligence and Investigation. But Iyamu was later to be disappointed as the assailants dispatched to eliminate Omeben were only able to kill his driver, Otue, a sergeant.

Iyamu, whom the robbers fondly referred to as ‘Baba’, reportedly had choice buildings in Benin City; being how he invested the loots he obtained from men of the underworld.

Anini drew out laughter from spectators when he said he did not have any supernatural “disappearing power. “What had been happening was that lyamu informed them of all police moves, and all they did was circumspect or preempt such ambush. Of course, lyamu denied it all, but that did not save him from bagging a death sentence. On Saturday, 14 February 1987, he and eight others faced the music of death from staccato of gun shots. They never lived to tell the story.

Trial and execution

Due to amputation of his leg, Anini was confined to a wheelchair throughout his trial. Iyamu, on his part, denied ever knowing and collaborating with Anini, but Anini The Law furiously retorted, “You are a shameless liar!” Anini had accused him before Justice James Omo-Agege in the High Court of Justice, off Sapele Road in Benin City. Of the 10 police officers Anini implicated, five were convicted. The robbery suspects, including Iyamu, were sentenced to death. But in passing his judgement, Justice Omo-Agege remarked, “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.” Their execution took place on March 29, 1987. “ Lawrence Anini, alias Ovbigbo the Law” died, saying ‘Let me reap what have sown!”
Re: LAWRENCE ANINI, The Robber. The Gangster That Seized A Nigerian State . by NnamdiN: 4:24pm On Dec 11, 2013
Thought he attempted robbing the CBN as well ? Abi that one was just rumour ?
Re: LAWRENCE ANINI, The Robber. The Gangster That Seized A Nigerian State . by Deiok(m): 6:45pm On Dec 11, 2013
Bad lagacy to leave behind.
Re: LAWRENCE ANINI, The Robber. The Gangster That Seized A Nigerian State . by Nobody: 9:00am On Dec 12, 2013
He must have felt he was sort of a crusader, "robbing to give the masses". This even shows how d police force has always been aiding and abetting robbery. Anini really made Nigeria feel him...lol
Re: LAWRENCE ANINI, The Robber. The Gangster That Seized A Nigerian State . by Canine1(m): 12:41pm On Dec 12, 2013
W shocked W w shocked w w shocked w....

''He gave six conditions that must be met “for peace to return to police in Bendel.’’
‘They are to put a stop to the persecution of innocent armed robbers;''
Which one fi ''innocent armed robbers'' again
Them'a say; Behind every successful man is'a.... . . .. Ironicaly women them'a play a greater role in d downfall of man in'a history.. shocked

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