Thursday’s high-casualty robbery attack on five banks in Offa, Kwara State, was a success for the criminals because police and vigilante could not match their calibre of weapons.
Five banks — Union Bank, Ecobank, Guaranty Trust Bank, First Bank, Zenith Bank and Ibolo Micro Finance Bank — were robbed in an attack that lasted one-and-a-half hours in Offa town.
Wasiu Adepoju, Operations Commander, Vigilance Group of Nigeria, Offa, Kwara State chapter, said his men counted about 50 dead bodies after the attack,
“After the robbery, we counted about 50 dead policemen and civilians. They shattered the bodies with bullets. They targeted mainly the heads of their victims,” Adepoju told journalists on Saturday.
However, Lawan Ado, Kwara State Police Commissioner, insisted 17 people, comprising nine police officers and eight civilians, died in the attacks.
Adepoju said the robbers took the local security personnel by surprise, noting that there was little they could do upon learning of the attack because of the robbers’ “sophisticated weapons”.
He stated that the bandits stormed the area and started shooting indiscriminately with heavy guns, adding that they ran to inform the police as they did not have any ammunition to defend themselves or to confront the robbers.
Adepoju stated that before they could reach the police station, the bandits had already killed some victims, including policemen.
He also appealed to the federal and state governments to provide them with weapons and to motivate them. The vigilance group Commandant said it would have been impossible for the robbers to operate and go unchallenged if the vigilantes were armed.
He further appealed to wealthy indigenes of Offa to help them, saying they were only rendering voluntary work to the community.
Adepoju said: “This is new to us. Bandits came to Offa some years ago. After that, all security operatives, including vigilantes, started to monitor the town from morning till night. They came twice at a time but it was not possible for them to operate.
James Oyeyemi, a retired police inspector who lost his daughter, Grace Makinde, also an inspector, to the robbery, said the bandits were able to operate unhindered because of their sophisticated weapons.
“The police said they do not have the kind of weapons the robbers came with. The police have AK-47, while the robbers came with machine guns as I gathered. How could someone with AK-47 face somebody with machine gun? The police do not have sufficient weapons,” Oyeyemi said.
“In the past, the IG used to equip the police with armoured car and bulletproof vests. So where are they now? They do not maintain the vehicles for operations, they do not buy arms and they do not pay them well? How do they want the police to perform? They cannot perform.’’
The 72-year-old, who said he retired in 1998 after 35 years of service, accused the police of not officially informing families of the slain police officers of what happened to their relations.
He stated that when he got information about the robbery, he sent someone to verify the situation.
“It is not good to talk about the security situation in Nigeria because it is too bad. If there was enough security, how would armed robbers come to police station and attack policemen?
“Also, I learnt that some deceased policemen were dumped in a mortuary in Ilorin and nobody cared for them. Families of the deceased were not informed on time about the incident. It is wrong. I am a retired police officer.
“In the past, they would have contacted families of the deceased police officers who would arrange how to bury their dead. They would then talk of how to get their entitlements. But nowadays, it is not the same.”