By Chuks Ekpeneru
Robbery suspects arrested in connection with the bullion van robbery and killing of four policemen in Ebonyi State in July have narrated how the operation was planned from the Ikoyi Prison, Lagos.
Ayeni Samuel and Emeka Ariston, who are dismissed soldiers allegedly planned the attack with their leader, Clement Abanara aka Millions from the Ikoyi Prison where he is remanded.
Others in police net are Abanara’s cousin, Alfred Robinson and four others identified as Sunday Solemu, Abuchi Alfred, Emeka Ilo and Ekene Igbanifore.
They were apprehended recently by operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team while they were reportedly planning to rob a commercial bank in Asaba, Delta State.
The leader of the gang, Abanara was arrested by the IRT four years ago and arraigned on robbery charges before a Lagos court which remanded him in prison custody.
Abanara allegedly took part in bank robberies in Lekki, Ikorodu, Festac and Agbara areas of Lagos, where millions of naira were carted away.
In an interview with journalists during the week, the dismissed soldiers said they were looking for money to support their families when a friend, who is serving a jail term in Ikoyi prison, introduced them to Abanara.
One of them, Ayeni, said, “I joined the Nigeria Army in 2003 and I was dismissed because I took part in an illegal duty. After my dismissal in 2014, I had no job then I was introduced to Millions (Abanara) who is in prison. He linked me up with his cousin Robinson.
“Millions said he wanted me to provide military cover during operations and I brought in my colleague, Ariston.
“We went for the operation in our uniforms. We were unlucky the bullion van escaped from the scene. I also took part in a robbery operation in Awka, Anambra, the next day and I got N150,000 as my share. I was arrested while we were making plans to rob another bullion van in Asaba.”
Robinson said the gang members opened fire on the policemen escorting the bullion van because they were caught unaware.
He stated after the failed operation, they proceeded to Akwa, Anambra, where they robbed a recharge card dealer of N7.5m and other valuables.
The father of four also confessed to have taken part in the 2015 bank robbery in the Lekki area of Lagos said he got a share of N5m from the proceeds.
He said, “I am from Gelegele Local Government Area of Edo State and I am married and have four children. I was a logger before I went into illegal oil bunkering. It was my cousin, Millions, who introduced me into oil bunkering. He is from my mother’s family.
“I invested the N5m I got from the Lekki bank robbery in oil bunkering. I was doing the ‘business’ when my friend, Sunday Soyemi, brought the Ebonyi State bullion van robbery. I called my cousin in prison and he gave me all the guidelines I needed for the operation.
“He connected me with the ex-soldiers and they participated in the operation. He advised us not to use our vehicles for the operation and we followed his instructions. Soyemi brought the guns and dynamite we used for the operation but the operation failed because we weren’t prepared at the time the bullion van got to our spot. We exchanged fire with the police escort and the van escaped.”
Soyem, 46, a native of Bayelsa State said the bullion van robbery failed because the policemen escorting it noticed their presence and opened fire on them.
He stated, “We weren’t prepared when the bullion van and the escort approached our location. They opened fire on us and we shot back but the van escaped. We killed four of the policemen and left Ebony State immediately.
“We proceeded to Awka and robbed a man of N7.5m. We were in Asaba strategising on a bank to rob when the police swooped on us.”