Last Thursday’s armed robbery attacks which left nine policemen and scores of civilians dead in Off a, Kwara state, has opened a new chapter in the nation’s security challenges. UMAR BAYO ABDULWAHAB recounts the developments trailing the gruesome killings
Life goes in the home of sweet potatoes Like a Cat with nine lives, Off a has refused to be cowed by last Thursday’s bloody armed robbery attacks during which nine police men and scores of civilians were gruesomely killed. Despite the mayhem unleashed on the town by armed robbers, the spirits of the highly enterprising Iyeru -Okins in Off a local government area of Kwara state have refused to be broken dawn.
The people of the ancient Iyeru Okin city were seen going about their normal businesses, determined to recover from the shock and trauma experienced during the horrifying moments they went through last Thursday. Indeed, against all odds, life goes .The popular Owode Market was not deserted as commercial activities immediately resumed few days after the attack. Condolences The town has continued to witness influx of dignitaries, family members and friends of victims and survivors of the attacks who thronged the home of sweet Potatoes to sympathise with their loved ones.
The Palace of the Olofa of Off a ,Oba Muftau Gbadamosi Esuwoye 11,is the first port of call for dignitaries who have been visiting the town to sympathise with the first monarch over the calamity that befall the town. The state, governor, Alhaji Abdulfatha Ahmed, had visited the town twice since the incident on Thursday. Also, the senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki and Minister of Information, Alhaji LayiMohammed, have visited the town to condole with the Olofa and people of the town. The National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union,(IEDPU) Ambassador Sheikh Usman AbdulAzeez, also led over 30 members of the national executive committee of the union on a condolence visit to Olofa of Off a, Oba Esuwoye, yesterday. The list is truly endless. The Olofa’s palace is devoid of the fun fare that usually accompanied the visit of such dignitaries to the place of a first class Yoruba King, in the highly civilised town of Off a. Black Thursday in Offa For about one hour, residents of Off a were soaked in tension as sounds of sporadic gunshots rented the air.
The distressed residents with trembling voices put distress calls to friends and family members across the state that Off a was under armed robbery attack. Blueprint learnt from some distressed residents, it is better imagined the trauma the residents went through at that moment when hell was let lose, within a twinkle of an eye. Gory pictures of the lifeless bodies of victims trended on social media while some were sent to reporters through WhatsApps and other social media platforms. How robbers operated Blueprint gathered that the bandits, who operated for about an hour, entered the town around 4:45pm and operated till about 5:40pm as they first reportedly blocked roads from both Ilorin and Osogbo ends. According to residents, the bandits, who numbered about 15, came in different vehicles as they stationed themselves at strategic areas of the town, they also snatched commercial motorcycles to operate and escape.
It was gathered that the armed robbers first attacked police stations and killed seven police men on duty including civilians at the station. Some resident who ran to the divisional police stations in Off a for refuge were also reportedly shot dead when the robbers attacked the police stations. Affected banks Off a in recent times has suffered recurring attacks on commercial banks with the last one recorded in 2013. Last Thursday’s mayhem launched on the town also affected five commercial banks where they also shot some unidentified persons dead.
According to the state commissioner of police, Lawan Ado, fi ve commercial banks namely; First Bank, Guarantee Trust Bank, ECO Bank, Union Bank and Ibolo Community Bank were attacked by the robbers. The robbers did not also spare relaxation centre as they were said to have attacked Captain Cook eatery where they also shot some people dead. Conflicting Figures Since Thursday’s incident, there have been conflicting reports about the number of those who lost their lives. The Commissioner of Police, Lawan Ado, confirmed the death of 17 persons out of which he said nine were police men while others were civilians. But the Operations Commander, Vigilance Group of Nigeria, Off a, Kwara State chapter, Wasiu Adepoju, on Saturday, said vigilantes in the state counted about 50 dead bodies after armed robbers attacked on Thursday.
Adepoju stated that there was little they could do when they learnt of the robbery because of the sophisticated weapons the robbers came with. Police Casualty List Feature The police is the worst hit in the massacre losing nine personnel at go. The commissioner of police who confirmed the death of the police men, said the robbers also carted away some riffles. He said those killed in the robbery included a pregnant woman. Seven of the police men according to the CP, were shot dead in the police station. Injured victims transferred to UITH The commissioner of police said the police was yet to determine the number of those who sustained injuries in the operation because they were receiving treatments at different hospitals.
It was learnt that the general hospital, Off a, where most of the injured victims were rushed to was already over populated by those with gun wounds. Blueprint gathered that some of the victims had been transferred to Ilorin General Hospital where they are recuperating. Ahmed foot medical bills As a way of providing succour to the survivors, Governor Abdulfatha Ahmed who visited some victims at Off a General Hospitals promised that the state government will foot their medical bills. IGP deploys special intelligence units The Inspector General of Police has deployed a Special Intelligence Unit of the Force to launch a manhunt for those behind last Thursday’s armed robbery attack during which nine police men and scores of civilians were killed in Off a in Kwara state.
The state commissioner of Police Lawan Ado announced this while briefing journalists on the update of last Thursday’s robbery incident in Off a. N5 million bounty on suspects Determined to bring the perpetrators to book, the Kwara state governor, on Saturday, announced a bounty of N5 million to anyone who offers useful information that could lead to the arrest of the perpetrators of the robbery attack. Ahmed, in a statement by his spokesperson, Dr. Muyideen Akorede, called on anyone with useful information on the incident to contact the state police command on the following mobiles — 08037391280 and 08032365122.
He said, “While we mourn our dead with a heart full of sadness, and care for the injured by paying all their medical bills, we will do everything in our power to bring the attackers to justice and ensure that never again does any community or people in our state experience such tragedy.” The governor said there was an urgent need to ensure that justice was done on the matter, assuring informants of anonymity, confidentiality and safety.
The governor also promised that the state government would build a new police station for Offa at a strategic position in the town within the next 45 days. He said these measures were necessary to forestall incessant attacks on the existing police station each time there was armed robbery attack, assuring that those behind the act will soon be apprehended and brought to justice. Senate Presidents’ Fears For the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, the magnitude of the attack was an indication of the lapses in the nation’s security architecture. Saraki who spoke when he paid a condolence visit to the Olofa of Off a, Oba Muftau Gbadamosi Esuwoye, on the robbery incident. Saraki added that Nigeria’s security challenges are as a result of the country’s inadequate response to security. “All the issues had to do on how we will improve on our security infrastructure. It is clear that we are not responding adequately to this. That is why we organized a security summit some time ago to address the issue and to work close with the executive and see how we can find solution to the security problems in the country. “We on the legislative arm are ready to come up with the real design to improve on the security challenges, whether it is the human resources, equipment, whether it has to do with funding and legislation.
There is also the issue of the actual structure of the police. “This issue requires a very radical and serious minded approach. Unless we address this we will continue to have this kind of scenario where a bunch of criminals will hold a town for two hours and carry out this mayhem. There is no society that will really allow this kind of thing to happen.
“We condole with the families of both the civilians and the policemen that died during the incident. In a place like Offa that is very vibrant in commerce, we must address security challenge so that people can continue to carry out their normal activities. “The police must see this as an institutional issue. It is not personal. On our part as legislators we are ready to do anything that will empower them,” he stated. Time for State Police Also speaking, the Olofa of Off a, revisits the need for the establishment of state police. The monarch said: “It will be better for the Federal Government to establish state police. With that they will be closer to the people and to the state government.
This is the fourth time that we will experience this kind of robbery attacks in the last ten years. “One of the major problems of the police force is inadequate manpower. We discovered that in Offa local government area, the number of policemen is not up to 50. Anytime we have something like this there will be no reinforcement anywhere. So what we need is manpower. The state government can afford to buy us armoured personnel carrier (APC), it can afford to build more police station but if the manpower is not there it is not enough.’’ The ugly incident in Off a is no doubt a metaphor of the nation’s failed security system.