By Dayo Johnson
IT would have been disastrous if not for the ingenuity and dexterity of some crack detectives in the Ondo state police command. The detectives foiled a plan by some robbers who dug a tunnel into the premises of one of the old generation banks in Akure, the Ondo State capital with the intention to bomb and subsequently rob the bank located along Ado/ Owo road.
Observers said if the plan had succeeded, the perpetrators would have hit a life time jackpot as it would have passed as the biggest robbery incident in the state. The tunnel, according to Police sources, could contain three persons at a time. Consequent upon the foiling of the plan no fewer than 15 suspects have been quizzed by detectives.
Those quizzed include farmers and construction workers within the vicinity of the bank. It was gathered that detectives after the discovery of the tunnel rounded up the suspects and whisked them to the police command for questioning, The state Police authorities confirmed that some person have been invited for interrogation.
Spokesman of the Command, Femi Joseph, said those invited were not arrested but were called to help in the investigation as regards the foiled robbery attempt. Joseph assured that the Police Command would apprehend the perpetrators soon. Meanwhile, reports had it that following last week’s discovery, banks across the state have stepped up their security and have reportedly given quit notices to shop owners and removed barriers within meters to the bank’s buildings.
Also, a visit to some banks in the Akure metropolis showed that some their security guards now monitor the surroundings of the banks instead of the usual concentration on the main entrance of the banks. Some security guards were even seen manning strategic positions around the bank buildings and car parks.
The weekend discovery was said to have sent jitters down the spines of management of banks in the state. The managers of banks in the state reportedly held an emergency meeting where some security hints from the state Police authorities were deliberated upon to guard against being caught napping by the hoodlums.
Vanguard gathered that the introduction of this new trend by men of the underworld shocked the bankers. Meanwhile, the bank surveillance squad who discovered the tunnel were reportedly tipped off by some informants who noticed strange movement of people on the footpath leading to a farm behind the bank.
Vanguard also gathered that the perpetrators did the digging at weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) when traffic in the area was thin and there would not be any banking activities.
Following the tip off, the surveillance squad reportedly laid an ambush on the perpetrators but after a week and they failed to show up, the police authorities informed the bank management before going public on its findings. Police source said that the perpetrators may have been informed by their collaborators within the bank or any of those been quizzed by the police.
The source was certain that there was an inside collaborator hence the reason the culprits absconded when detectives laid ambush for them. A top police source said that it would have been a matter of days before the robbers blow up the bank if the tunnel had not been discovered by the police detectives.
According to him; “After another digging for 48hour s, the robbers would have gotten to the banking hall and blow it open and walk straight to the vault which will also be blown open. “ While this is happening the bank security operatives would still be busy keeping watch over the bank from the front entrance not aware of happenings at the back of the fence.
“ They would have escaped the same way they came if the tunnel was not discovered by the surveillance squad . Vanguard learnt from a top security source that the perpetrators only needed to dig the tunnel which is about 15 meters already for another two days for them to get to the banking hall
Giving the blow by blow account of how the state police command foiled the robbery attempt, the State Police Commissioner, Mike Ogbodu, said that the tunnel was discovered by his detectives around 9.30am on the 14th of October. “ Our bank surveillance squad discovered a long tunnel dug by suspected armed robbers behind the Ado/ Owo road branch of the United Bank for Africa (UBA).
“The length of the tunnel dug from the perimeter fence of the bank into the premises was about 10 to 15 meters. “ The tunnel was apparently prepared to serve as a passage to the bank premises to carry out their nefarious acts without being noticed. “Shovel, diggers and other tools used for the digging were recovered from the scene.
“This is a new trend being employed by men of the underworld these days,” he disclosed Ogbodu has however advised bank management to be conscious of the happenings in their environment and also to endeavour to always remove any barrier that could serve as cover for criminals.
Dependable Police source informed Vanguard that the gang that planned the robbery would have operated at the weekend when bankers would not be at work. Sources said that the bankers would have resumed one morning to discover that the banks vault have been blown off and all the money carted away. Meanwhile, two members of a syndicate that specializes in stealing vehicle brain boxes have been arrested with over 70 brain boxes.
South West Voice learnt that one Abdulahi Matt of Kirikiri road, Masamasa, mile 2, Lagos state was arrested with 30 vehicle brain boxes and 30 vehicle glass control gadgets from where they were parked. The Police Commissioner, Ogbodu, said that the suspects mentioned one Emmanuel Ezekwe at Ladipo Spare Parts, Market, Mushin Lagos state, as the receiver of the stolen goods.
Ogbodu added that; “Over 70 vehicle brain boxes were recovered from him. In another development, a six man armed robbery gang have been arrested for hijacking a truck loaded with biscuits. The truck which was coming from Lagos was snatched by the hoodlums and driven to an unknown destination. Acting on tip off the stolen goods were traced to Ore town in Ondo state where they were about to be sold.
Consequently two suspects Celestine Okafor and Arinze Orji were arrested and they led detectives to the hideouts of other members of the gang. Others picked up include Uche Sunday, Chibueze Waribe, Obi Ikechukwu and Kolawole Ipindemi. The truck according to the Police Commissioner was also recovered with the the loot.