Heavily-armed robbers, in commando-style, Wednesday held residents of Ipakodo area of Ikorodu in Lagos hostage for about two hours as they robbed two major banks in the area.
The scene of the robbery operation was just a stone’s throw to Ipakodo Divisional Police station. But the policemen who engaged the armed robbers in a shootout were overwhelmed.
Three persons were injured, while an unspecified amount of money was carted away from the two banks. The robbers also set five vehicles ablaze and damaged an armoured tank as they escaped from the scene.
Eyewitnesses’ accounts said all members of the gang wore masks and were led by a young lady of about 20 years of age. They were said to have used guns, dynamite and charms to scare people during the operation.
It was also learnt that the three persons injured in the attack were a vulcanizer, a motorcyclist and a policeman who were rushed to Ikorodu General Hospital for treatment.
The robbers were said to have arrived Ipakodo around 8.30am, announcing their arrival with sporadic gunfire and use of dynamite to scare residents, road users and bank workers while they operated unhindered till about 10:05am. They came with a dove, mortar and charms, even as the team leader suspended a live tortoise round her neck and tied a snake round her waist.
One of the robbers reportedly sat on the mortar and released the dove into the air to signal commencement of operation.
Eyewitnesses said the robbers, who wielded sophisticated weapons, drove to the scene in three SUVs but later escaped in a boat christened Origin Gardens, which operates Ipakodo en route Victoria Island.
According to an eyewitness, Gabriel Anayo, the robbers’ first port of call was a first generation bank, after which they proceeded to another bank and finally to the jetty where they took time to arrange their loot, removed the number plates of the vehicles they came in before setting the cars on fire.
Vehicles set ablaze
The fire later spread to other vehicles parked at the jetty.
Lagos State Commissioner of Police Kayode Aderanti and some senior officers in the military visited the scene with a promise to investigate the matter.
“We want to apply a joint, co-ordinated approach to the incident to ensure we get to the root of the matter. This is a preliminary stage and we need more time to do a thorough job,” said the CP.
Sources in the area, however, hinted that the managers of the banks attacked by the bandits were currently in Police custody for interrogation as residents also called on government to provide adequate security on the Lagos waterways.
WEdnesday’s incident is the second this month as a branch of one of the banks raided on Ijede Road, Ikorodu, was visited by robbers on Monday, June 1, 2015, carting away a huge amount of money.
The robbers later proceeded to Bayeku jetty where they killed a boat operator and made away with his boat.
Eye-witnesses said the Police could not overpower the robbers because they were overwhelmed by the superior fire power of the bandits.
Around 11am, the two jetties in the area had suspended operations for the day, while bank workers were seen discussing in groups.
The incident which caused traffic gridlock for hours, also caused panic among residents and road users who scampered for safety but the arrival of the Police Commissioner and his entourage calmed the situation.
The jetty owner, Mr Fehinti Adeola Kosoko said he suspected the robbers were hiding somewhere as their boat could not operate for more than an hour.
He said: “We are into leisure and water transportation but our services were disrupted by several gunshots and the first step we took was to withdraw all boats from the jetty.
“The gunshots lasted for about an hour and forty-five minutes in the banks and we were careful not to obstruct their movement should the bandits come to the jetty.
“The Police Station was also attacked by the robbers but hundreds of motorcyclists and policemen ran after them but could not catch up with them.
“The robbers were not familiar with the jetty, but they communicated in pidgin language and on getting to the jetty to discover there was no boat, they put a call across to one of their colleagues to bring a boat in which they escaped,” he said.
Kosoko said he sent a distress call to the Police but there was no response, adding that the Police were also under attack.
“The Police were also under attack; we then called the Nigerian Navy at Majidun to no avail. The robbers’ boat was a slow moving one and I am very sure they are hiding somewhere around here because the boat cannot move too far,” he added.
The owner of a Sienna car with number plate KSF 18 AP, Madam Gbemisola Afolalu, whose car was also burnt during the operation, said:
“I arrived here around 8.55am only to be greeted by gunshots and I quickly parked my car and ran for safety. But by the time I came back, I discovered the car was burnt beyond recognition. They sprayed the cars with petrol and set them ablaze.”