By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor, Tony Edike, Enugu & Dennis Agbo, Abakiliki
IN the 1980s, Lawrence Nomanyagbo popularly called Anini held sway in Benin City by terrorising both the people and law enforcement agents.
His reign of terror in the area was so frightening that then Head of State, General Ibrahim Babaginda interrupted a crucial meeting of the nationâ€˜s highest ruling body, AFRC to ask the then Police boss, Etim Inyang, â€œWhere is Anini?â€
The Police bossâ€™ instant pledge was â€œI will catch himâ€, and he did within one month and that was the end of the Anini saga.
Before then, another notorious bandit, Onyenusi held both Lagos and Ibadan axis in the jugular with his criminal activities.
He also ended disastrously.Â Â Today in the South Eastern part of Nigeria, both Anini and Onyenusi have resurrected in the person of Chuka Arum Ogbodo popularly called Ngwu Egere Omu (sacred tree tied with palm leaves).Â Â His mode of operation and style of execution is very much similar to that of his late robbery kingpins.
The only difference is the use of sophisticated modern telecommunication gadgets and weapons in executing his operations. While Anini and Onyenusi made do with locally-made weapons, Ogbodo prided himself as having sophisticated weapons comparable to that being used by the Military.Â His arsenals comprise both the usually admired AK 47 rifles, explosives, submachine guns and rocket propelled grenades which he used to bomb his targets mostly banks and police stations.
Like Anini and co, he was also magnanimous to members of the public during operations as he leisurely sprayedÂ his loot to passers~by and onlookers.
In fact, during his last operation in the University town of Nsukka three weeks ago, it was reported that while they were ransacking and ravaging one of the four banks they raided, Ogbodo quietly walked outside the bank premises in search of Ghana-Must-go bags for the money they stole.
He strode into a near-by kiosk, collected four bags of Ghana-must-go and threw two neat wraps of N1000 notes totally over N2000,000 to the owner of the kiosk who quickly closed his store and disappeared for the day.
A native of Akagbe Ugwu in Nkanu West Local government Area of Enugu State, Ogbodo (35) also brandished his dare-devilry openly in his country home.Â Â Reports said he was so dreaded to the extent that when ever he enters any public place or beer parlour, nobody leaves until he satisfied himself and takes his own exit.
He succeeded in attending primary school at Central Primary School, Akegbe-Ugwu after which he went to learn trading at Ogbete market in Enugu. Not long after , Ogbodo stayed under his master than his criminal activities started manifesting and he was subsequently expelled from the market.
His farther is said to be a timber dealer in Enugu who had since disowned him.Â Â Reports said he sacrificed a cow monthly to a popular deity in his village, Atugbuoma, for protection.Â His name was openly touted in the ragging spate of kidnapping in the South East.
The police had spread their dragnets in parts of the states to apprehend Ogbodo and members of his dreaded gang to no avail. The Police believed Ogbodo was involved in most of the bank robberies and kidnapping in the south east and the claim was collaborated by one of his victimsÂ in Ebonyi state that was lucky to be alive after the gang robbed a bullion van at Ezzamgbo.
The victim, a driver, who was held hostage stated that the gang leader spoke Nkanu dialect and that he had so many mobile phones with him that rang ceaselessly. Ogbodo and his gang trapped that bullion van, catered the money away and set the van ablaze at Ntezi in Ebonyi state.Â Â He was said to be on steady convoy of high profile jeeps.
Sources in Enugu alleged that he was one of the thugs being used by politicians and that they were responsible for the bail he secured in February this year Chuka Arum Ogbodo is the same person the immediate past IGP, Sir, Mike Okiro referred to as Sylvester Ogbodo.
In fact, Sir Okiro had cause to bitterly complain about the despicable role a Judge played in the release of Ogbodo after he was nabbed and charged to court for prosecution.Â He had earlier declared him the most wanted criminal in the South East.Â Okiro also described him as a fugitive without a family of his own.
Recently, his banditry took a more dangerous dimension in both Anambra and Enugu States.Â Â He struck first at some banks in Awka, capital of Anambra State and succeeded in carting away millions of naira with his gang.Â Before escaping from the scene, they performed their usual ritual of spraying onlookers and passers-bye with money.
This operation took place barely a month after some kidnappers invaded the city and kidnapped a business magnate.Â Â A divisional Police officer and one other policeman were killed during the raid.
Not done with that, Ogbodo and his gang struck at the serene University town of Nsukka where they not only raided four banks but bombed the only police station in a town with about 30,000.000 people after which they killed the gallant divisional police officer who, in spite of protests from his colleagues, confronted them during their operation.
Their five hour reign of terror in Nsukka was particularly intriguing. This is because, few weeks before they struck, the divisional police officer in the town was posted out following protests by indigenes of the town and the Catholic community over the rising activities of criminals.
They alleged connivance between the police and criminals calling for their immediate re-deployment.Â Curiously, as soon as some policemen were redeployed Ogbodo struck.
Unconfirmed sources said Ogbodo and his gang members operated freely as if they had security network of the town on their palms.Â They also engaged in their usual spraying of money before disappearing through Nsukka, Adani, Onitsha road.Â On their way, they bombed four police Hilux jeeps which were pursuing them.
Unfortunately for them, as they were cruising towards Onitsha, they encountered a crack team of anti-robbery policemen from Anambra state who laid ambush for them after receiving a distress call from their counterparts in Enugu command.
During the fierce battle that ensued, many of the bandits escaped with serious injuries.Â Â Two of their members were killed while one person was arrested.Â Â Ogbodo who was also seriously wounded managed to escape from the scene.
The fleeing members of the gang reportedly ended up at Isuochi in Abia state where their gang leader, Ogbodo gave up the ghost.Â Â He was buried in a shallow grave.
Incidentally, the arrested member of the gang ended up making confessional statements to the police which helped in rounding up about ten of their members.Â Â However, the case of Ogbodo is still not only contentious but controversial.
While reports said his remains were exhumed in a village in Abia state, Police in Enugu said they found his dead body somewhere along Enugu-Port-Harcourt expressway.
Worse still, members of the public still believe that the whole claim by the police both in Enugu and Anambra is a hoax as they insisted that Ogbodo was still alive and will soon strike again.Â This is in spite of photographs showing both his dead body , that of his colleagues killed during the battle and their recovered loot.
However, the police in both Enugu and Anambra State Commands have stuck to their guns that, at last, they have gotten ridÂ of the most dreaded robbery kingpin,ChukaÂ ArumÂ Ogbodo alias Ngwu Egere Omu.