More details have emerged about how a bullion van conveying a huge sum of money was robbed on Thursday at Ajah, Lagos, in which a commercial motor cyclist (Okada) was killed. The robbery, which took place exactly opposite a popular shopping mall along Ado Road, Blenco Supermarket, was reportedly carried out by four young men who were said to have carried out the operation “clinically”.
TELL’s investigation revealed that the improvised bullion van, a bullet-proof Toyota Hilux pickup remodeled with a carriage to carry cash, took off from a branch of the United Bank for Africa, UBA, on Ado Road and was conveying cash to an unknown destination when it was trailed by the hoodlums.
An eyewitness who did not want to be identified, told TELL that “Before it got to Oke-Ira Kekere, (small Oke-Ira), they started firing at the tyres to demobilize it and force it to stop. Even though it lost one of the back tyres, the driver refused to stop and managed to control the vehicle until he got to a place called pump-and-sell, (where sand is excavated and sold) and decided to take “one-way” with the intention of driving into the Blenco Supermarket. But the gate had been locked by the security men when they started hearing sound of gun shots and people were running helter-skelter”.
According to the source, having lost three tires, the driver ran out of the vehicle into the mall. “All the customers and workers too ran inside the shopping mall and they were locked in. They were asked to lie flat on the ground to avoid being hit by the bullets flying everywhere. One of the robbers had jumped out from the Toyota Sienna that they came in and entered into the Blenco car park and was shooting sporadically to scare people away while the others were trying to force the bullion van open to gain access to the money. Even though mobile policemen were attached to the supermarket, they refused to engage them because if they had, many people would have died. The okada man who died was hit by a stray bullet. Nobody knew what happened to the other two policemen in the bullion van because it was only the driver we saw running into the shopping mall,” he narrated.
But beyond avoiding fatalities, the magazine gathered that the policemen attached to the supermarket refrained from engaging the robbers in exchange of fire for fear of reprisal attack in future. Ado Road is said to be notorious for violent crimes, especially rival cult clashes and robberies which had escalated in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest following the withdrawal of policemen from public space. Motorists and pedestrians are said to be openly robbed especially during heavy traffic.
There are however conflicting accounts of how the lock of the carriage was eventually broken. While a source said they used a hammer to force it open, another account said it was shot open. One of the eyewitnesses expressed amazement at how daring and dexterous the robbers were, stating that “they took their time in carrying out the operation. Those boys were professional; they knew exactly what to do. They tried not to leave a trail. They came with their own bags, something like Ghana-must-go; emptied the money from the bags used by the bank into their own and disappeared from the scene. And nobody knew how they escaped. Some people said it was through the lagoon but nobody is sure. They operated clinically”.
Asked if nobody made a distress call to the police while the operation was going on, the source said “some people said they called the police but they said they were waiting for SWAT (the newly formed Special Weapons and Tactics unit which replaced the disbanded Federal Anti-Robbery Squad, FSARS). They said until policemen who have just been trained are deployed to respond to armed robbery cases there is nothing they can do”. He regretted that “the robbers knew that there is no policeman to challenge them that is why they were so daring”.
The state commissioner of police, Hakeem Odumosu, who confirmed the incident, claimed no life was lost though the corpse of the victim, a commercial motor cyclist, could be seen on the ground with his motorcycle near the scene of the robbery. As of Friday afternoon, the bullet- riddled bullion van was yet to be removed from the crime scene.