Four suspected armed rob¬bers who were alleged to be members of a gang who broke into a branch of an old generation bank in Ilututu area of Ondo State, on Christmas eve, have said that they were shocked when they opened the bank’s vault and discovered that it was empty.

The suspects identified as Ebibo Winoh, Michael Mipera, Thank¬god Sugha and Idowu Sobijoh, who were rounded up last week¬end, by operatives of the Inspector General of Police Special In¬telligence Response Team (SIRT) in Ondo State, were said to have broken into the bank through the aid of a security guard, who had worked with the bank.

It was gathered that the guard, who was sacked last year, was said to have approached a mem¬ber of the gang, Michael Mipera, a native of Ajapa in Ese-Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State, with the idea of robbing the bank, as there was less se¬curity around the bank at night.

Police investigation disclosed that Mipera, after conducting his own survey around the bank, invit¬ed two of his friends, Thankgod Sugha and Ebibo Winoh, from his hometown to Ilututu and rented an apartment for them.

He was also said to have invited six militants based at a camp in Ijegemo-Ish¬eri Oshun, Lagos State, head¬ed by one TK, a notorious of pipeline vandal and bank robber. Their other members from Lagos, which was led by one Bright, was said to have supplied the gang with two AK 47 rifles and addi¬tional expertise on how to break into bank.

On their arrest, our police source said that a day after the incident, the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, had re¬ceived an intelligence report on the gang’s activities and he deployed operatives of the SIRT, headed by CSP Abba Kyari to Ondo State, to track and apprehend the suspects. Four of the suspects were arrested in Ondo while the fifth suspect, a militant was picked up in Lagos.

At the police station during in¬terrogation, the suspected leader of the gang, Micheal said that they monitored the bank for weeks be¬fore the struck. “After the bank’s former security man gave us infor¬mation, we rented a room close to the police station in the communi¬ty.

We found a petty job, as a form of distraction while we monitored the activities of the police and that of the bank. We discovered that at night, there is no private security official or policeman guarding the bank. We also discovered that the police station was not active and cannot easily withstand us if we are heavily armed.

As soon as the experts from Ikorodu arrived, we agreed to strike on Christmas eve because everyone is supposed to be busy preparing for Christmas.

“We entered the bank easily and broke into the vault. We got the shock of our lives when we discov¬ered that it was empty. It was when we understood why there was no security man in the bank. Our mat¬ter got worse when we were ar¬rested the next day by policemen. I am begging for mercy because we did not succeed. There is no money to return rather we are looking for how to raise money to pay back those we hired from Lagos.

The militant among the gang, Sobijoh claimed that he had never participated in robbery but was lured into it after their pipeline operation was disrupted by sol¬diers at Ijegemo in Ogun State. According to him, “I have never got myself involved in any bank robbery before, this was my first attempt and it wasn’t completely my intention. It was some sol-diers who stopped our operation at Ijegemo that forced me into it.

The soldiers were demanding that we pay them N5million before we will resume operation. We of¬fered them N3million but they refused. Life became so difficult without money and we needed to survive.

Luckily, Bright got a call from Mipera about the Ilututu bank operation and he mobilized six of us to go for the operation. I didn’t get to Ilututu on time be¬cause I had to travel down to Ondo from Lagos. I was informed that the operation was successful but they didn’t get any money from the bank.

Unfortunately, I was arrested on my way back to my village in Ajapa,” he narrated. On how he became a militant, Sobijoh said one of his relatives introduced him to pipeline van¬dalism when he was looking for money to marry his girlfriend whom he impregnated. He said: “As soon as she got pregnant, her family insisted I must pay her dowry before taking her in as a wife. I had no money, that was why I was easily introduced into pipeline vandalization.

I followed him to Lagos and when we arrived Ikorodu, I joined the Fatola camp and I was introduced to the com¬mander, known Ossy and I was given a gun but I declined and told them that I have never used a gun before and they asked me to leave the camp. I left, and I was staying in Ishawo, but at night my brother will call me, we will move into the creek with our jerry cans to siphon fuel from the pipeline. After work¬ing for two weeks, I raised enough money and I took the money home and I got married to my pregnant girlfriend.”

When I returned to the camp, I discovered that my brother had bought additional 100 jerry cans and at night he woke me up to follow him to the line where we siphon the fuel but I refused. Sin¬cerely, I was tired and I told him to leave me alone to have some rest. Around 2 am, I heard a large blast and when I looked out, I saw a massive fire at the spot where they were siphoning the product.

We couldn’t go close to the place until the NNPC officials came and put out the fire. We counted 370 dead bodies when we got in and we buried them in three large graves. I also saw my brother’s corpse because he wasn’t burnt completely. He and many others trying to escape were trapped in the mud.

That incident was so tragic and I contemplated quitting the job, but I couldn’t because I had no other. Few weeks after that, I witnessed how they killed nine officials of DSS. I actually don’t know the reason they were killed but it was one Igbala who opened fire on all of them.

After that killing, I knew there will be trouble, so I packed my things and left for Ijegemo where I teamed up with Bright who is a boy to TK, the commander,” he stated.

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Chris Kehinde Nwandu is the Editor In Chief of CKNNEWS || He is a Law graduate and an Alumnus of Lagos State University, Lead City University Ibadan and Nigerian Institute Of Journalism || With over 2 decades practice in Journalism, PR and Advertising, he is a member of several Professional bodies within and outside Nigeria || Member: Institute Of Chartered Arbitrators ( UK ) || Member : Institute of Chartered Mediators And Conciliation || Member : Nigerian Institute Of Public Relations || Member : Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria || Fellow : Institute of Personality Development And Customer Relationship Management || Member and Chairman Board Of Trustees: Guild Of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria

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