Small things matter, but little attention is always paid to small matter. When Kingsley Eweka, a prince of Benin was about to be shot for armed robbery in mid 1986, he craned his neck on the stake to tell those asking if he had anything to say: “My friend and his boys will avenge my death!” A smile slipped out the cheeks of the questioners: no one knew his friend, and no one wanted to know. It was a matter for laughter, and since they could not laugh, they sneered. But soon, everyone knew Kingsley’s friend in Bendel State of Nigeria.
Yes, Bendel State. There was once a state in Nigeria called Bendel. It was the old Benin and Delta provinces of Western region that was merged on 8 August, 1963 to become Midwestern Region. On 27 May, 1967, it became Midwestern State, and was changed to Bendel State on 17 March, 1976. That was its name until 27 August, 1991 when it was divided into two: one part named Edo, and the other now called Delta. But in 1986, it was Bendel, and this was where Kingsley’s friend took his revenge.
The friend was a young man called Lawrence Anini. He was born in 1960 to the Anini famliy of Owuo quarters in Orogho village, Orhionmwon area of the state. He was brought to Benin as a toddler where he attended Oza primary school, and was a known truant while in the school. All the same, he completed the school and got admission to Igiedumu Secondary School. He was there for three years before he abandoned it in about 1976 and started learning how to repair motor vehicles. But he spent only three months in the mechanic workshop.
What happened was that one day, he was caught in the act when he stole N7 belonging to one of his mates in the garage. When he was seen with the money, he said the money was given to him by his mother to buy drugs for her, but when David Isiokherhe, the master of the shop, threatened that “juju” would be brought to get the money, he confessed that he indeed stole the money. Immediate search revealed that he had spent N2 out of the money, in less than an hour. He was summarily dismissed.
When he would be seen later, he had become a lorry driver, even when he was not 18 years old, but very popular, though, because of his expertise on the steering. He was doing this until politics started in 1979 and he became a full-time party thug, reaping bountifully from hooliganism. It was while in this new profession he learnt the use of firearms and quickly became the leader of many of the boys. They gave him another name “Ovbigbo the law.”
So it became easy to switch to armed robbery when politics was banned in early 1984. Business was booming, and he was notorious for reckless spending. Here he met Kingsley, and they became partner in crime. They were both friendly with the police too, and that was why he could not allow his friend to die in vain. Sometime in July 1986, he started the war with the police, and by August, the police too began a counter attack.
Two months later, the police offensive in Benin City against the prevailing mafia-style armed robbery ran, on the night of October 1 to a sudden, explosive climax of gun fire and blood. At about 9pm and about a hundred metres away from a police road block along Ring Road in the heart of the ancient city, rapid gun shots obviously from superior weaponry, broke the eerie calmness of the night.
Just like a textbook replay of any of the deadly efficient attacks of Italy Red Brigade, the notorious terrorist guerrilla group of the late 70s and like the Red Brigade’s victims, who were invariably the cream of the Italian society, the victims of the Benin shoot-out included Casmir Akagbosu, the Bendel State Commissioner of Police. Yes, the Police Chief was shot!
He paid dearly for the attack as his bullet-ridden private car, a new Peugeot 504 station wagon, wobbled to a halt, a bullet tore through the ridge of his nose. Even so, Akagbosu was two times lucky. Police sources said that the first volley of shot jolted him into a reflex action; he jerked his face sideways from its previous straight forward position to ascertain the direction of the attack. This unconscious act was all the insurance he needed against a fatal tragedy because his head, then turned at a sharp angle, was inches off the course of the bullet aimed at it.
Akagbosu’s second luck came in another stroke of circumstance. Seated in the middle compartment of the station wagon, he was sandwiched between two of his aides, one Sergeant Ojo and Corporal Ogbe Zechariah. All other shots which zipped in Akagbosu direction were received in the limbs and hips by Ojo and Zechariah who involuntarily acted as their boss shock absorbers.
For Constable Paulinus Oweh, who was behind the wheel there was no shield against the salvo of shots. Hit in the head, he slumped in his driver’s seat, staining it crimson as blood gushed out of him. An unidentified mobile policeman, who shared the front seat with Oweh, was miraculously untouched.
The Police Commissioner’s entourage, though armed, simply had no chance against their hard-hitting assailants. Caught completely unawares, they were mere sitting ducks for Anini and his boys.
Earlier in the day, the police chief had received an informant in his office who claimed to have a clue to how Lawrence Anini, Benin City’s terrorist war-lord of the underworld could be found. Akagbosu was immediately interested. Together with four of his trusted aides, he went to town late in the evening, accompanied by the informant who was said to have showed him Anini’s den.
Akagbosu dropped his informant at home and with the other policemen in his entourage, set for a visit to a Reverend Father friend of his, Monsignor Joseph Omesa of Holy Cross Catholic Church, Mission Road, Benin. The visit was a brief one, but on his way home, the police chief wanted to take one more look at Anini’s hideout. His inquisitiveness came to an abrupt end with the first report of shots. A bitter irony-Akagbosu, the hunter, became the hunted.
The police could not hide; they had to report that armed robbers nearly killed their Commissioner, but succeeded in killing his boys, and sending him to the hospital. It seemed unbelievable, and the news spread all over Nigeria, that there was a man named Anini, and that the fear of him was the beginning of wisdom for any policeman. For before then, this bloody game had claimed, at least, the lives of six policemen and a number of civilians, thrown Benin City into a state of siege and earned for Anini nation-wide notoriety, fear and condemnation.
At about 10 am on the day Akagbosu was shot, Anini stamped more fear on a city that was, for a brief moment, trying to pry itself loose from the siege of armed robbers with the 26th independence celebration. Apparently avoiding a police check-point at the Wire Road-Iwehen street junction, Anini driving a blue Santana car he had stolen a day before from an east-bound motorist, made a detour through Second Evbiemwen street, not too far from the Wire Road petrol station where, three weeks before, he had struck.
Here, Anini ran into a single police constable, who walked the desolate street. The gangster got down from his car and, in a show of maniacal fury, pumped bullets from his submachine gun into the constable. Anini had earlier taken the same car to a car wash centre along new Lagos Road a day earlier, where he had sat down for about an hour for the car to be washed. This he did to taunt the police!
Anini’s gory saga was full of exploits, many of which were directed against the police. On Monday, 11 August 1986, at 3.30pm, in what appeared to be one of his few operations outside Benin, he raided First Bank in Sabongida Ora, more than 100 kilometers north-east of Benin. Though he and his gang succeeded in stealing only N2,000, they slaughtered three persons on the spot, including a policeman. Two children locked up in a house near the bank, were to die day later from the gang’ stray bullets. The house became a war zone when a policeman, terrorised by the gang’s presence, had run there for refuge. Anini and his men shot indiscriminately at the house.
On 14 August, 1986, two policemen were shot dead and two others seriously injured in Benin by the gang. It was at the check-point at Jeromi-Edebiri road junction, the police were there and Anini was driving by in a stolen 505 Peugeot car. The police ordered them to come off the vehicle for a routine check, but Anini replied the request with a hail of bullets. The policemen were taken to Central Hospital where two of them were satisfied dead.
On September 9, Anini struck again outside Benin City. At the Abudu Police Station, in Orhionmwon local government area, he gunned down Daniel Omede, a sergeant and father of seven. He seized the pistol of the slain sergeant and carted away other weapons kept in the station.
The blitzkrieg of the robber baron took him to another Orhionmwon town, Ugo on the same day. At the town’s police station, Lucky Ogieva, a corporal, was just another pack of mince-meat for Anini’s guns.
By now, Anini seemed to have perfected into an art his now notorious ‘cluster attack” or multiple strikes in a general area on the same day. For instance, on the same day he raided Abudu and Ugo, he also gave Benin City a dose of his terror. He snatched a Peugeot 504 from the driver of Christopher Omeben, an Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police, who was in the city for an official assignment that was ironically connected with the tactics and strategies of containing armed robber’s menace in the state. Albert Otoe, the Assistant Inspector General’s driver, was abducted and it was not until 13 September 1986 before the man’s headless body was discovered in the Umelu area of the city.
The showdown outside Benin in Sabongida Ora, Abudu and Ugo were exception to Anini general pattern of operations. Except for the slaughter of policemen, his operational zones was Benin City and his style, a combination of cluster attacks and a touch of terrorism, was as religiously observed as the maniacal fury that characterized all his attacks.
Friday a day before his busy schedule in Abudu Ugo and Benin City, a three-man gang of Anini led the attack on the Sobanjos. At exactly 7.40 pm, the gang struck at the Adesogbe Street (former Plymouth Road) office of Mrs. Remi Sobanjo, a chartered accountant and president of Ugbowo Lioness Club, Benin City. The robbers banged thunderously on the door of Sobanjo’s locked office, asking the occupant to open it immediately or face the alternative of being shot.
Husband and wife agonized over their dilemma and decided to stay mute, not obeying, not moving. Then powerful shots, forcefully tearing holes through the door, landed in the room. Remi, who ran the little firm of accountants with her husband, was pierced near the heart by one of the flying bullets. She couldn’t make out what hit her. She died instantly.
The robbers, who eventually entered the office, took some N200 and drove off in a Peugeot 504 car with an Anambra state plate number in front and an Imo state’s behind. The gang had robbed the couple of their Peugeot 505 car, cash, cheques and important documents two weeks earlier. The car was recovered later in Aghalokpe in the Delta area of the state.
Yet on the same day, Anini’s ubiquitous long hand was to be seen in the city. His victim this time was Frank Unoarumi, a one time staff writer with the Nigerian Observer and who, until his fateful encounter with Anini’s gang, was a personnel manager with Bendel Pharmaceutical Company in Benin City. Unoarumi was shot dead at Ogiso Street, off Murtala Mohammed Way, and his Peugeot 505 car driven away by the robbers.
Anini crowned his three-day offensive on September 7 with two more strikes.
Operating in a Passat TS car, certainly stolen, he swooped on Ipoba Slope, near the former FEDECO office. He robbed the occupants of a Peugeot 505 car of their belongings in a five-minute blitz.
Traffic wardens, scared by the daylight terror, took to their heels amidst the loud celebratory boast from Anini who was heard to have said: “Tell them that I am around.”
And true to his word, he was around elsewhere in the city that day. This time, though, he wasn’t too lucky. He ran into a full force of the police that was battle ready. Rather than give fight, he dashed into the nearby Ekiosa Market where he mingled with buyers and sellers. The police wary of wounding or killing innocent citizens could not shoot and eventually gave up the chase. It was a close call for the king of the underworld.
Anini’s anthology of violent robberies included the mid-day attack in Benin City on Ogbogbovmen II, the Ovie (traditional ruler) of Ughelli, Bendel state’s second largest oil town. The date was September I and the Ovie, who had some business in town, was seated, bedecked in his royal beads and other paraphernalia of office, in his Mercedes Benz 200 car, BD I HA, when Anini was said to have struck. The hapless traditional ruler was dragged out and subjected to some indignities before he was made to part with his car. He went back to his domain in a hired taxi wondering, perhaps, whether it wasn’t all a dream.
Of all his atrocities, the selective attacks on policemen stood out as the most remarkable. It was the popular belief in Benin City that Anini would kill anything from 50 to 120 policemen before the end of his crusade against the security agents. He had told some that the police incurred his wrath because of a certain business between him and the police which went sour.
It was all about Kingsley Eweka, whom Anini fought tooth and nail to free. Believing with a touch of naivety that once he bought over the police, Kingsley would be freed, he was said to have given an undisclosed but huge sum of money to some officers in the state police command. Kingsley could not get the expected freedom as he was later executed. Anini became livid with rage and swore to kill as many policemen as suited his fancy.
Police authority denied it, and said they could not get any details about him. His address the police had was, Law Ovbiudu (the lion-hearted), of No One Million, Anywhere Street, within Benin City, Bendel State!
If the Law’s background was elusive, so also was his person. In Benin City and its environs, a thousand and one myths erected an impenetrable wall around Anini’s personality. He was variously known to be extra-ordinarily fearless and imbued with wonderful supernatural powers the like of which could put their possessor in the class of the gods. Several people in the city said that Anini had the supernatural means to vanish into thin air whenever he liked. They also claimed that the robber had spiritually-derived bullet-proof body that allowed him to operate in the thick of battle without fear of injury.
It was also generally believed in Benin City that Anini relied on a mirror of immense magical powers which he used as a crystal ball. Before he went on operations, Anini was said to see them in his mirror and immediately took pre-emptive measures to assure his safety. With all these stories flying around, Anini seemed invincible.
For fear that he would come around and kill them immediately, no one wanted to talk about him, except, probably the Oba of Benin, and the police too were now soliciting the help of the monarch to get to him. They said it was the “juju-men” of Benin that were providing him with charms, and if the Oba would talk to them, Anini would be history.
The police were saying this because Anini had become arrogant and once wrote to the manager of the New Nigeria Bank in one of his show of terrorist power, that he would visit his bank and that a sun of N10,000 should be set aside for him. The frightened banker sent a save our souls, SOS, message to the Oba who, in a radio and television broadcast, appealed to the underworld King not to do so.
Anini bowed to the royal intervention. In another letter to the bank which it received on September 24, Anini said: “I am no longer interested in your N10,000 as I earlier wrote you. I am doing this to respect the Oba of Benin, following his appeal.” He copied the letter to the commissioner of police, the “- + group,” “- + Group,” the Ugbowo Unit,” Ikpoba Hill Unit,” “Sakpoba Unit, etc.” And Anini became the most notorious bandit in the history of Nigeria, for in August, at the Supreme Ruling Council’s meeting, the President, Ibrahim Babangida, had publicly asked the Inspector General of Police, Etim Inyang: “My Friend, Where is Anini?”
And the police moved. Plain clothes police officers combed and mingled with the rural population of Oroghbo and Evbueisi, Anini’s paternal and maternal home and villages respectively. The intention was to pick him if he made the mistake of going to see his people. Though this did not yield the required results, the police continued to mount vigil in his home front, believing, perhaps, that such home coming was a needed psychological prop for a man under intense pressure.
But right in Benin, the police instruments of counter-attack appeared quite enormous. They declared a night curfew, stretching from 10 p.m. till dawn, and as an incentive, announced a N10,000 reward for anyone who could give information leading to the arrest of Anini. The force also printed wall bills (poster) declaring Anini wanted.
Anini’s reply was a show of contempt. He derided the police offer by making one of his own. He boastfully promised that he would give N30,000 to whoever could get him arrested. But the police poster could hardly be seen anywhere in Benin because ‘Anini is too hot to handle.”
At the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA Benin, where some were pasted, Anini reportedly visited the gatemen and threatened to annihilate them if he ever saw the posters again. The poster vanished within an hour. There were no private homes in Benin that would readily allow the poster to be placed on their walls. Even in public buildings, they were rare, a fact which led to hundreds of the posters lying unused on the floors of police headquarters.
What Anini was doing, in effect, was to counter the police offensive with a reign of terror that had further swelled the balloon of myths around him. His various daring attacks have overawed the city’s population. In the resultant reign of fear, his powers were imagined to be more than human. This discouraged those who knew about his whereabouts from squealing on him.
Anini seemed to bask in the infamy that a mention of his name and, more seriously his presence, gave rise to in the city. He operated with a panache that befitted his lawlessness. For instance, he went about town in the uniform of a police superintendent. And in a show of how much the symbols of state can be commandeered to praticalise his criminal impulses, Anini in early September, seized at gun point a Bendel State government car with a BDSG registration and headed for the Wire Road petrol station. He shot the station manager in the thigh and made away with a large sum of money which exact amount the attendants said they did not know. Like Robin Hood, Anini threw the money into the air for the passers-by. Most of the time, he continued to throw money to the people, saying, “I rob for the masses.”
The police and Governor John Inieger of Bendel State, however, continued to say that Anini’ days were already numbered. But residents, apparently thinking that there was nothing police could do about Anini, simply made jokes of the situation.
A local journalist once said he had an appointment with the governor, and his friend asked: “Which of them? Inienger or Anini?”
At the Benin police officer’s mess a senior police officer shouted the name of a colleague. “Who is that?” Asked the second officer, “Anini of course,” came the reply. “Then, of course, I’m Ovbigbo, the law,” shot back the colleague. A third officer shouted in turn: “Hands up. The two of you are under arrest!”
While the jokes were on, Anini continued to conduct himself as a politician storming a constituency for a desperate vote. Though not quite literate, he had been bombarding newspaper houses and the state police command with letters expressing his concern over social issues.
Just before Akagbosu was shot, he shot a sergeant in the leg and gave him a letter to deliver to his boss in which he complained about police brutality against students; the closure of Ife University and Kaduna Polytechnic when Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the cause of the crisis, was reopened; and about pen robbers who were left free while armed robbers were being shot.
Anini’s letter of September 11 to the editor of the Nigerian Observer, Benin was like an election manifesto. He said: “Tell our President, we like him but we are not happy here in Bendel. The payment for everything is too much. That is why I now divide any money I get to the people. Ask them.”
He gave six conditions that must be met “for peace to return to police in Bendel”
“They are to put a stop to the persecution of innocent armed robbers; a stop to police collusion with NURTW (Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers) and Ogboni cult members; non-harassment by the police of market women returning from village market; abolition of the collection of 50k – N5 (by Highway Patron); equal treatment for everybody; and fair treatment for all legitimate drivers by the police.”
Of course, Anini had an eye on the public for sympathy and support and he thought that his “Manifesto” could win for him this, but his chief enemy was time and the police. The police had said they would do everything to get Anini into the cooler. The Force quickly replaced Akagbozu, the hospitalized commissioner of police, with Parry Osayande who until then was the Benue State police commissioner. On arrival, the Governor, John Mark Inienger, gave a million Naira to the state police so that fund would not be the hinderance in the Anini project. And on Wednesday, 15 October 1986, Muhamadu Gambo was appointed the InspectorGeneral of Police. With this, the police seemed set to nail the most wanted criminal of the time.
But when the end of his bloody war on the police and people in Bendel State came, Lawrence Anini was a vulnerable man. His gang, the most notorious and feared in the gory history of violent crime in Nigeria was decimated. The frequency of his spine-chilling mayhem had become periodic violent assaults. He, too, must have known the end was near.
It eventually happened. It was a Wednesday, 3 December, 1986. Lawrence Nomayanukpon Anini, a.k.a. “The Law,” Ovbigbo, ended his bloody career in a style that showed graphically that all men are mortal. “I am Anini,” he told policemen in a voice which betrayed a pathological fear of death. “Please, take me to the hospital.” His legs had been perforated by police guns.
As blood gushed out of his shattered left ankle and the badly fractured right leg, Anini was overcome by fear induced by the acute awareness that only an immediate intervention by man’s modern medical “magic” could save him. The man whose disdain for civilised society and all it represents, and who relied heavily on juju, was willing and ready to seek help from anywhere.
When the police came for him in the afternoon, Anini was, as usual, having a good time with six girls whom the Bendel police boss, Parry Osayande – the man who meticulously plotted his downfall – described as always behind the scenes of crimes.” He was startled – a clear indication that his uncanny sense of timing and cunning had deserted him. He attempted to flee. But this time, the police were prepared. They rained bullets on him, concentrating their shots on his left ankle to ensure he would have no chance of “vanishing.”
His disappearance or so-called “miraculous” escapes from so many scenes of bloody shoot-outs with the police had become legendary. Along with the myth of his callous exploits, the legend was finally and, like his left ankle, shattered.
The police assault, carried out by a 10-man team from the mobile unit and led by Chief Superintendent Kayode Uanreroro, was precise to the finest details. At about 1pm, an informant got wind of Anini’s presence at a house, No. 26 Oyemwonsa Street, opposite Iguodala primary school on Murtala Muhammed Way, Benin City. He went to the police command to relate the news.
The police reaction was methodical. They wanted to be sure of the information. Misinformation about Anini had led them astray before, earning them public ridicule.
Osayande, who had been in charge of the state police command since October 1 when his predecessor, Casmir Akagboso, was fatally wounded by Anini’s hoodlums, dispatched the informant and sent a woman (disguised as a daughter of the soil) to confirm the information. Fate seemed to have played tricks on Anini; he was still there with his bevy of delectable girls.
As soon as the confirmation was in, the police swung into action. Uanreroro, whom Osayande described as “brave and energetic,” led his crack 10-man team to the area at 2 pm and surrounded the house, a nondescript affair with a coat of faded yellow paint. Uanreroro knocked on the door of the room and Anini himself, who had only his underpants on, opened it. “Where is Anini?” the police officer demanded.
Confronted by the real law, Anini “The Law” knew instantly that he was in serious trouble, especially given his near utter state of undress and the cut-off of the only route of escape by Uanreroro. His “vanishing” power must have failed him, but his brain was not “dead” yet.
Anini tried to outwit Uanreroro. He told him that Anini “is under the bed in the inner room,” and attempted at the same time to force his way past Uanreroro. He shoved and head-butted Uanreroro but the police officer, who knew his life was on the line, would not budge. Uanreroro reached for his gun, stepped hard on Anini’s right toes and shot at his left ankle. The Bendel king of the underworld staggered forward.
Assisted by some of his men who had moved into the room, Uanreroro grabbed him and placed him in a sitting position. And then, Anini was given a bitter, painful taste of his own medicine. Uanreroro pumped more bullets into the damaged ankle, almost severing it from the leg. This was done to ensure that he was completely incapacitated.
The shock and concentrated impact of the bullets burying themselves in the ankle triggered an involuntary movement in Anini’s body and he jerked forward and rolled on the floor, already red with his blood. He was asked if he was Anini. His anguished reply was: “My brother, I won’t tell you lie, I’m Anini,” He was then carried out, bundled into police landrover and driven to the state police command headquarters, off Sapele Road, where Osayande and his colleagues, Edward Irabor and Donald Ugbuaja (both police commissioners), were waiting.
But something happened during the melee to catch Anini. All the girls who were with him escaped as the police, anxious not to let such a fine opportunity slip away, concentrated on their major prey. The euphoria engendered by the successful operation overshadowed the only major mistake Uanreroro and his men committed.
As soon as he arrived at the police headquarters, Anini was thoroughly questioned about his real identity by the three commissioners led by Osayande. Irabor was the first to ask if he was Anini. His poor command of English, made worse by severe pains tearing through his body, made his reply incomprehensible. Irabor resorted to Bini dialect and asked him again. Anini said he was the one, and talked some more. He said that it was Monday Osunbor, the deputy leader of his gang arrested about four weeks earlier, who shot Akagbosu.
Meanwhile, his blood was oozing out uncontrollably and he pleaded with the police chiefs to take him to the hospital. They later obliged him, and he was taken to the Military Base Hospital on Airport Road at about 3:15 pm followed by an escort of heavily armed policemen. Before he was wheeled to the theatre for an emergency operation to stop the blood flow, he was presented to pressmen who had converged at the police headquarters immediately after the news of his arrest broke out.
Anini lay flat on his back on a stretcher, his trunk covered with a white hospital cloth soaked all through with blood. He was listless and his left leg with the shattered ankle dangled pitiably. His sorry condition aptly reflected the mighty fall he had taken from the hallow pedestal from which he directed his gang’s bloody assaults on the police and the public.
The operation was very vital as Anini was wanted alive to unravel his mysterious past. “I am doing everything possible to have the police get Anini alive because I think he has something to tell the public,” Governor Inieger had once said. What the Governor meant was that the merciless criminal should be made to tell all he knew about the involvement of some policemen and their officers with the underworld men. Osayande reiterated Inienger’s concern when he said: “I wanted to find him alive.” He was a bit concerned that Anini might not survive his injuries.
In the same military hospital, 22-year-old Osunbor, Anini’s henchman, was still recuperating from the wounds he sustained during his clash with the police some four weeks before. Only two rooms separated his own from that of his former crime boss. Twenty-four hours after he was caught, Anini had virtually become a cripple strapped permanently to an hospital bed in unfamiliar surroundings. There he spoke publicly for the first time with Osayande, the police boss.
Osayande: Have they given you food yet?
Osayande: When are we going to talk now, today?
Anini: Okay. But I would want to get well before I talk. I will talk
Osayande: What else do you need?
Anini: Minerals (soft drinks) and cigarettes.
Osayande: I have to find out from the doctor whether you can smoke.
Anini: Eh! He allowed it. I asked him here and he says I am free to smoke but no money to buy it.
Osayande: Do you know me?
Anini: Yes. I do but without you, I don’t think I can make a statement to anybody.
Osayande: Without me? Oh, you want me to be here. Okay, I will come. When do we come? Monday (Osunbor) is here, he was lying against you. You don’t know that.
Anini: Was he saying I am the one who killed the policemen?
Anini: He is the one who killed them. Has he not confessed to you that he is the one who killed them?
Osayande: Kills policemen?
Osayande: Didn’t I say you are very humane, that you don’t kill policemen?
Anini: I have not killed a policeman before. I have not killed anybody. I only threaten people. If you like to give me, if you don’t like, okay. But once it is Monday or any other person, they are ready to shoot. But for me, I don’t shoot any person. Eh pa, tell them to buy cigarette for me now?
Osayande kept his promise to give him anything, and ordered Uanreroro, the man who reduced the former armed robbery king to whimpering helplessness, to go and arrange for two packets of Benson and Hedges and two bottles of soft drinks to be brought to Anini. Before then, he gave him eight sticks from his own packet.
Two rooms away, Osunbor, who had refused to talk since he was arrested, began to squeal. He said that Anini led their gang because he was instrumental to the arrangement for the steady supply of arms for their operations. He castigated Anini for denying his involvement in the killing of policemen, and pointedly accused him of having masterminded the killing of A. O. Emojeve, a medical doctor brutally shot at his residence located off Textile Mill Road, Benin City, one evening in October.
According to him, he met Anini less than four months ago at a “smoke joint” somewhere on Lagos Street in Benin City. Osunbor, described by Osayande as “a sadist, one of the best shots (in the underworld) and very wild even in captivity dropped out of school in class three. His luck ran out four weeks ago when he and two members of the gang were shot and arrested by the police. Following his arrest, Osayande told the press that Osunbor was mostly responsible for the killing of policemen.
Before Osayande left the heavily guarded hospital, he again called on Anini, accompanied this time by Abdullahi Shettima, new Bendel police commissioner, and Irabor. They spoke with Anini for some minutes but no reporter was allowed into the room. It was there Anini dropped the bombshell: he implicated a very top officer of the state police special anti-crime squad who had recently been moved to the Force CID, Alagbon Close Lagos. He was reported to have said that large amounts of money were regularly passed on to the officer for his “role as a godfather” to the gang.
Jubilation in Benin was persuasive. Hundreds of market women sang and danced along some of the major roads. A huge crowd gathered at the police headquarters trying to catch a glimpse of the man who had put so much fear in them and forced them into early “retirement” behind firmly closed doors in the evening. The joy of the women was particularly understandable because Anini had vowed that he would die in one of the markets in the city and take quite a sizeable number of people with him.
The police celebration of victory was equally unabashed. Lorry loads of armed mobile policemen went round the city in a visceral outpouring of feelings of achievement. The victory dance began at the police command officers’ mess where, for over 20 minutes, policemen and their officers “sang” with their guns, shooting incessantly into the air. Their gunshots were accompanied by wild shouts and battle songs.
Governor Inienger was effusive in his praise of the police success. He said the police authorities made good their promise that Anini would be in their net before Christmas. He recalled that the mere mention of Anini’s name “drove fear down the spines of every Nigerian because of the myth built around him.”
Police Inspector-General Mohammadu Gambo was equally elated by the latest development in the battle against crime in Bendel State. When he assumed duty November I, he assured the nation that the Anini saga would soon be over.
Even people in Lagos, who equally face the menace of armed robbery, were over joyed by the news of Anini’s end. Said Gani Tokun, a businessman: “I was about to eat when I heard the news. I could no longer eat because I was so happy.” Foluke Adewusi was not impressed by Anini’s myth. She dismissed him as a common criminal and said he should be “tried and jailed for a very long time.”
Kola Bamidele, a pharmacist, did not share in the general euphoria over Anini’s end. “I don’t care if he had been arrested. It is nothing to jubilate about,” he said, adding that the jubilations would turn sour if they allow him to talk. “I hope his life will be saved.
When the end came for Anini, his famed “magical” mirror which allegedly foretold any impending danger failed miserably to perform. Even his vanishing powers were put in abeyance by his spiritual protectors who probably got angry with him for messing up their powers with too many women who were, indeed, one of Anini’s proven weaknesses. He used them indiscriminately for his nefarious acts and particularly for his pleasures.
The house in which he met his Waterloo belongs to Jackson Aideyan, deceased, and father of Florence, one of the girls with Anini. When the police pounced on him, he did not have a gun. All they recovered from the room were his gold ring, one wrist-watch, a small woven white bag of charms, 16 rounds of 9mm bullets, police and army uniforms, including ceremonial ones.
On Friday 5 December, and to ensure Anini did not die of the wounds sustained when he was arrested, his left leg was chopped off by doctors at the Military Based Hospital, Benin. Before then, he had mentioned the name of one, George Iyamu, a Deputy Superintended of Police (DSP) as their major backer in the police force of Bendel state, and when the trial began on 29 December 1986 at the second Bendel State Robbery and Firearms Tribunal, Anini and Iyamu confronted each other. Iyamu had been picked up since December 4, in Lagos.
Anini revealed how N50,000 was paid to Iyamu for destruction of evidences and the rent of guns and ammunitions. He drew out laughter from spectators when he said he did not have any supernatural “disappearing power.” What had been happening was that Iyamu informed them of all police moves, and all they did was circumspect or pre-empt such ambush. Of course, Iyamu denied it all, but that did not save him from bagging a death sentence. On Saturday, 14 February 1987, he and eight others faced the music of death from staccato of gun shots. They never lived to tell the story.
But Anini and Monday were not killed on this day, for there was the second case involving them. This case was also quickly dispatched and on Sanitation Day, Saturday, 28 March 1987, at 11.05am, Crime kingpin, Lawrence Anini, alias “Ovbigbo the Law” died, saying “Let me reap what I have sown!”