AREa, Zico come and see money. See money wey we dey look for,” screamed one of the robbers.
In a jiffy, the robbers packed about N20m said to have been arranged for loading into the Automated Teller Machines at a Zenith Bank branch in Ebute-Ipakodo in Ikorodu, Lagos, on Wednesday morning.
A bank official, who narrated how the robbery took place, said the ecstasy displayed by the robbers was only comparable to “what you see when a footballer scores a decisive goal.”
As some of the gang members held everyone in bank hostage while looting additional cash from the strong room, others were doing the same at the First Bank branch in the area.
Satisfied with their bounty, the gunmen stormed out and challenged policemen, whose station is opposite the First Bank branch, to confront them.
Even though no policeman was in sight, they displayed more bravado by setting three Sports Utility Vehicles which they drove to the banks, on fire. Before this, they had removed the number plates of the vehicles.
A young lady was said to have led the over one hour attacks which bore semblance of the March 12 robbery in Lekki, Lagos.
Four persons, including a teenage apprentice vulcaniser, simply identified as Rilwan, were injured by the robbers who fled through a jetty in the area.
It was learnt that the bandits, numbering about 16 invaded the banks, located directly opposite the Ipakodo Police Division, at about 9am and started shooting indiscriminately.
They were said to have opened fire at the police station to scare the officers, after which they proceeded with their operation.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the robbers used dynamite to shatter the rotor doors of the two banks to gain entrance and order members of staff and their customers to lie down.
It was gathered that some of the gunmen were outside the banks firing into the air for over an hour.
Some security operatives, comprising policemen and soldiers, arrived the area around 1.30pm after the robbers had fled.
Our correspondent, who visited the Ikorodu General Hospital, where the injured victims were taken to, met an employee of the Zenith Bank and a customer,who gave his name simply as Segun.
The banker (name withheld) and Segun sustained injuries after hitting their heads on glasses while the teenage vulcaniser and the fourth victim, an okada (motorcycle) rider, were hit by stray bullets.
The bank official narrated the incident to sympathisers and our correspondent who found his way into the hospital.
He said the robbers carted away over N80m from Zenith Bank which “a bullion van was to transport out of the bank.”
The banker added, “They shouted, ‘open the door, open the door’, but none of us answered them. Suddenly, we heard an explosion and the glass went down. I was wounded by broken glasses.
“One of them entered and when he saw about N20m that we had arranged to put inside our ATMs, he shouted, ‘Area, Zico see money. See money wey we dey look for.’ He started dancing. He pulled a lady among us and ordered her to pack the money inside the bags they brought. After packing the money, the robbers ordered her to lead them to the strong room.
“When the lady opened the strong room, the robber that shouted in the ATM room exclaimed again, ‘Eheeeee, Area, Zico give me bags! Give me bags. Come and see money wey we dey look for. They packed everything in the strong room; more than N60m. We were expecting a bullion van to move the money before the incident happened.”
Segun, said, “I was at the ATM section of the Zenith Bank to withdraw money. Suddenly, there were gunshots. Two of the gunmen came in and one of them threw me on the floor. He wanted to shoot, but his colleague told him to leave me.”
Another eyewitness, Ikechukwu Oyenso, said, “I was at the First Bank at exactly 9am to use the ATM. It was my turn when we suddenly heard gunshots. I saw two of the robbers shooting directly at the police station and the policemen ran away.
“Some gunmen came into the First Bank. A guy stood outside and two entered the bank.
“They used dynamite to destroy the door of the bank. They entered the banking hall and ordered everybody to lie down. These guys looked young. They were dressed in black and they wore caps. They did not use masks. They robbed for over an hour. It was terrible.”
A resident of the area, Chinedu Chapel, said the police were helpless, adding that it was a pointer that citizens were not secured.
He said, “From what happened today, it shows that Nigerians are not safe. It is a shame. The policemen hid at the back of Ipakodo Grammar School for more than one hour.”
A pastor at a Redeemed Christian Church of God parish in the area, Anayo Okpara, wrote his experience on his Facebook page.
“This(Wednesday) morning, between the hours of 9am and 10am, I was a few meters away from the scene of a bank robbery at Ipakodo, Ebute, Ikorodu. The robbers operated with guns for about 30 minutes right opposite a police station.
“Everyone took cover, including the policemen; not even the military officers at the other end could come to the aid of the citizens. We were more like in a war scene with gunshots roaring for the entire 30 minutes.
“About 20 minutes after the robbers were done and gone, the whole place became flooded with policemen, I counted about 10 pickups, two armoured tanks and one OP MESA pickup van. Except the Lord watches a city, the watchmen stay awake in vain!”
Another eyewitness, Ademola Fashola, said he hid somewhere around the jetty area while the robbers escaped.
He said, “I came to withdraw money from the First Bank ATM, but I changed my mind and headed for Ipakodo, near the jetty. I was there when I heard the gunshots. After they had robbed the banks, the gang leader, a woman, walked while their cars moved towards the Origin Gardens (the jetty area). She dared the police to come out and ordered her gang members not to shoot anybody. She is not up to 20 years. I saw five of them. They dragged the bags that contained the money inside the jetty. I heard one of them calling somebody to pick them. He was shouting ‘Taofeeq, Taofeek, come and pick us now’.”
Saheed, also an eyewitness, said, “Where I hid, I saw them carrying bags of money into the jetty. That short woman held the gun, while another guy took the money inside the jetty. When they were about to escape, they removed the number plates of their three cars, poured fuel on them and shot at one of them, which erupted in flames.
“Along that waterfront are naval officers. Where were they then?”
The head of security, Ipakodo Community Development Association, Femi Awode, said he called two police officers on the phone to no avail.
The workers at the gardens declined comments on the incident and told our correspondenst to come later.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Kayode Aderanti, who visited the scene of the incident along with some military officers, said the command would get the robbers.
He said, “I am here with other service chiefs to have a joint coordinated approach to this incident. We are very positive that we are going to get to the root of the matter. Just give us time.
“The timing and conduct of the men (police officers) are also going into investigation. We are checking the operation of these jetties and the vulnerability of our waterways. Nobody died.”
The command’s spokesperson DSP Kenneth Nwosu said N5m would be given to anybody, who could avail the police with useful information to ensure the arrest of the robbers.
“The command will reward anybody with useful information towards the arrest of the bank robbers with N5m,” he said.
The spokesperson for the First Bank, Mr. Babatunde Lasaki, said he could not confirm whether the robbers made off with cash from the bank as he had yet to receive the details of the incident.
Calls made to the number of the Zenith Bank spokesperson, Mr. Akin Olaniyan, rang out. He had also yet to reply to a text message sent to him as of 9pm on Wednesday.