By Rotimi Ojomoyela, Ado-Ekiti
Conveying the ‘dead’ (read assault rifles) in a casket, the ambulance made its way into the serene and empty streets of Ijero-Ekiti on a Monday evening.
Destination was the Divisional Police Headquarters in the heart of the agrarian community.
On reaching the gates of the police station, the ‘undertakers’ (read gunmen) disembarked with a ferocious mien, turning their assault rifles on the structure and firing on police officers inside who were caught unawares.
Two policemen were immediately hit, soaked in their own blood and lay dead.
The rest of the officers ran for dear lives.
After the attack on the police station, the gunmen jumped into the ambulance and headed to one of the old generation banks nearby.
More guns and explosives appeared from the casket in the ambulance and, in quick succession, the men began firing into the bank security door.
Another policeman on guard duty at the bank fell.
The bank’s chief security guard was also gunned down at the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) gallery.
Meanwhile, the sound of gunfire had sent residents into panic.
Whereas some of the residents locked themselves in their houses, others dashed into the forest for cover.
With the sacking of the police station, the robbers, who were said to have entered Ijero through Aramoko Road, had a field day, operating for hours.
A source in the town said the men of the underworld ransacked the bank premises unchallenged and retreated through the same route.
As they were leaving town, the robbers were said to have fired several gun shots into the air as if in celebration of victory over perceived enemies.
It was learnt that the robbers made away with an unspecified but large amount of money during the raid on the bank.
A resident of the town, who told Sunday Vanguard that he watched the attack from a safe distance, disclosed that the robbers announced their arrival with gun shots thus sending everyone in town running into the house or the bush.
“It was like a scene from a movie. Gunshots rented the air as the bandits shot indiscriminately at any moving object. I’m sure that by the time we take the headcount of the casualty, it will be on the scale that we never saw in this town”, he said.
“I have never seen a scene like that in my entire life. Though I can’t say the number (bandits), they appeared to be many”.
The bandits reportedly blew the bank’s security door with dynamites to gain access into the banking hall.
It was gathered that it took several minutes before life returned to the community as the robbers’ operation paralysed transportation, economic and social activities.
The raid of the bank in Ijero came barely three months after a similar incident at a first generation bank in Igede Ekiti in which a policeman was killed.
Before then, an operation played out at Ifaki-Ekiti, almost a year ago, when the same method was applied by some bandits who attacked a first generation bank located at a popular junction in the town.
In the 2015 operation in Ifaki, the robbers had reportedly driven past the bank, attacked a police station located a few meters away before returning to the bank, ripped apart the security door with dynamites and carted away an undisclosed sum of money.
The bank in the community had yet to open for business.
Speaking with newsmen after the Ijero bank attack, Ekiti State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Caleb Ikechukwu, said the incident occurred at about 5:30pm.
Ikechukwu said, “They succeeded by using dynamites to gain access into the banking hall and the robbery took place around 5:30pm on Monday.”
The Command, on Tuesday, said it was on the trail of the dare-devil armed robbers, saying three police officers and one bank customer were killed in the attack.
The police expressed sadness over the deaths but assured that the culprits would soon be arrested and brought to book.
They disclosed that they had recovered a vehicle reportedly stolen by the bandits during the incident.
Ikechukwu said the families of the deceased police officers would be contacted before publicly revealing their identities.
The police spokesman expressed sadness over bank robberies in the state, urging members of the public to provide information that could prevent attacks on people and institutions in Ekiti.
“We are contacting the families of the deceased persons to express our grief”, he said.
“The police will not be deterred or shy away from the responsibility of protecting lives and property no matter what happens.
“Our men are working. We are stepping up intelligence with the public and sister agencies to ensure that Ekiti is safe.
“We have even recovered the Toyota car that was stolen by the bandits during the robbery. The bandits had abandoned the vehicle along Aramoko-Ijero Road and fled into the bush upon realizing that the police were closing in on them.
“We are not stopping at that. Our men from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the Special Intelligence Bureau (SIB) are combing the bush we suspected they ran into. We are chasing them and the long arm of the law shall catch up with them.
“We are particularly pleased because members of the pubic are cooperating. They are giving us useful information that will automatically help us in tracking down the robbers”.
Fayemi and the new security architecture
Worried at the increasing crime rate in the state, Governor Kayode Fayemi, who came in the saddle barely a month ago, said there was the need to re-draw the security architecture in the state.
Security agents, he said, are poorly motivated, saying all of the armoured vehicles he bought for the police to enhance their operational performance during his first tenure in office had gone bad and abandoned, while no effort had been made to procure new ones.
Also speaking during the maiden edition of ‘Meet Your Governor’ programme on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Ado-Ekiti on Wednesday, Fayemi assured the people of Ekiti that efforts were underway to tackle the security gap in the state through a new architecture.