It was like a war scene. Pandemonium gripped the air as everyone ran for dear lives.
Barely 48 hours after the interment of the late Igbo leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu at his Umudim Village, Nnewi, Anambra State, daredevil armed robbers unleashed mayhem on the commercial city of Onitsha, killing two persons and gravely injuring two policemen.
As the shooting raged, people scampered for safety. After the booming of guns had subsided, two unidentified persons lay dead while two policemen attached to one of the banks along the New Market Road, Onitsha, lay on the ground, groaning in pains.
When the reporter visited the scene shortly after the commando-like operation, many people had stormed the scene to catch a glimpse of the victims. They included a lady whose body was shattered by bullets from the robbers’ AK 47 rifles and the commercial motorcyclist, who was conveying her to the bank.
Police authorities described the incident as a foiled bank robbery in Onitsha. Eyewitnesses said the lady, who was killed by the robbers, was actually going to the bank with an undisclosed sum of money when the armed robbers intercepted her while riding on a commercial motorbike popularly called okada. She was killed instantly along with the okada operator.
The reporter also gathered that the five-man gang, operating on motorcycles, had trailed the lady said to be a sales girl along the New Market Road, Onitsha from her shop. She was said to be going to the bank with the money on a commercial motorcycle when the gang caught up with her in front of the bank.
The two policemen attached to the bank, on noticing the incident tried to prevent the robbers from entering the bank premises and also save the deceased but they were overpowered by the robbers, who opened fire on them, leaving the cops with serious injuries.
An eyewitness said: “The armed robbers had intercepted the commercial motorcyclist, who was conveying the girl to the bank but the girl, on noticing that they were coming for the money, tried to safeguard the bag. Unfortunately, the bag fell down. When the girl tried to pick up the bag, one of the robbers on another okada opened fire on her, killing her immediately. The okada man was also hit and he was confirmed dead on the spot.”
The eyewitness said it was during the gunfire that the two policemen, who came out from the bank with a view to protecting the building, were also shot.
The incident caused most of the new generation banks in the commercial city to hurriedly close their branches while customers were seen, scampering for safety as the robbery lasted.
Meanwhile, a detachment of policemen from the Onitsha Central Police Station (CPS), led by the Divisional Police Officer, Mr. Abdul Yusuf, immediately mobilised to the scene to restore normalcy while soldiers also cordoned off the area to avoid more casualties.
A police source also informed the reporter that the armed robbers had trailed a man, who they suspected was carrying money in his car but unfortunately for them, the man outran them and abandoned the car in front of one of the banks and escaped.
“The robbers, on noticing that the banks along the New Market Road would be difficult to penetrate as policemen were there, started shooting sporadically and the police responded. That was how the robbers were able to kill the two persons,” he said.
He said further: “Of course, the fire power of the policemen finally beat the armed robbers to retreat but I must tell you that it was not targeted at any bank within the Onitsha axis because they knew it would not be possible. It was during the exchange of fire that an okada man and the lady she was carrying were hit by stray bullets. Their bodies are still unidentified but we are waiting for their relatives to come and collect their corpses.”
Also speaking, one of the customers at the scene, Jerry Agada, said the robbery incident was unfortunate even as he blamed it on the lack of jobs for the teeming youths in the country. This, he said, had forced them into carrying arms against their brothers and sisters.
Said he: “The long vacation caused by the burial of Ezeigbo, Ojukwu, also played a major role in the robbery attack because for more than five days, there was no transaction in this Onitsha and you know what it means. The boys became hungry and they just played out their hearts here this morning. Despite the fact that they knew that policemen were always at the banks, they still risked their lives. I am very sorry for the families of the victims, who just met their untimely death.”
Meanwhile, after the robbery incident, soldiers cordoned off the road leading to the New Market Road to avert further loss of lives while vehicular movement was restrained until normalcy was restored.
The reporter gathered that the bodies of the robbery victims were deposited at the General Hospital mortuary, Onitsha, while the injured two policemen from the Police Mobile Force, PMF 54, Onitsha, were receiving treatment at the New Hope Hospital, also within the commercial city.
Confirming the incident, the Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer, (PPRO), Emeka Chukwuemeka (ASP), said only two persons were killed by the robbers while the police recorded two casualties.
He said efforts were on top gear to arrest the fleeing members of the gang and urged residents of the commercial city to go about their lawful businesses, insisting that the police would make sure their safety was guaranteed.