In Anambra State, a new understanding between the police and the communities have yielded results in the fight against armed robbery in the last quarter of 2012, a period which usually records tremendous rise in the activities of men of the underworld.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Balla Nasarawa, said the Anambra command recorded huge success because members of the public, who have been shying away in the past, volunteered useful information to the police that led to the arrest of several armed gangs ahead of the Yuletide.
CP Balla, who spoke to Daily Trust in his office, said his men had arrested 123 suspected armed robbers towards the end of 2012 and 117 sophisticated arms were recovered from the suspects.
The weapons recovered included 42 AK47 rifles, one K2 rifle, 3 type 06 rifles, 20 locally made pistols, 6 cut-to-size guns, 3 English made pistols, 6 SBSG, 4 DBSG, 1 General Purposes Machine Gun (GPMG), 8 rocket propellers, 14 rocket grenades, 9 rockets, 16, 069 assorted live ammunitions, 61 assorted magazines, 41 cartridges and 34 stolen vehicles.
The commissioner said operation in the last four months of 2012 had been very successful largely because of the involvement of the local communities.
"We were proactive in our approach to handling criminal matters in the state. Because of the transparent and professional way we handle some of these cases, members of the public who have been shying away in the past, now give us useful information that led us to several successful arrests," he said.
Giving details, Balla said: "We have this notorious gang of two that consist of one Ejiofor Daniel, a dismissed Police Constable and Obiajulu Mbaogu alias Nwa-Abuja, who escaped from SSS cell at Awka about a month ago but were arrested by my men. The suspects specialize in snatching of vehicles and motorcycles. They made useful statements to the Police and effort is being made to recover their operational firearms.
"Our response time to distress calls has improved as a result of the new strategy we adopted. For example, when there was attempt to rob SUMMEC filling station at Amawbia in Awka, as soon as a distress call was raised, a team of patrol men from 'B' Division Awka moved in and intercepted the two armed robbers while trying to rob the station. We recovered a locally made single barrel pistol with one live cartridge from them. They gave their names as Emenegini Emmanuel and Joseph Enukora," he said.
The commissioner said when a distress call was received at Ozubulu Division that two armed men on a motorcycle with reg. no. UMZ 629 QA were attempting to snatch a motorcycle from the owner at Ibolo Orafite, a police patrol team from Ozubulu Division, in conjunction with vigilante men, quickly raced to the area and engaged the suspects in a gun duel.
"During the exchange of fire, two vigilante men namely; Owen Ekpelinwa and Nnaji Nnazor were shot and injured on the leg and hand respectively. The hoodlums escaped into the bush at Nkwo Oraifite where they were later arrested by the villagers and police. A pistol Berretta with serial number M 482835 with three rounds of live ammunition and their operational motorcycle were recovered from them. The bandits were set ablaze and burnt beyond recognition by angry mob," he said.
CP Balla said an Anti-Robbery Squad team (SARS) had an encounter with an armed robbery gang at Agulu where two members of the syndicate were shot and arrested with various degrees of bullet injuries. They gave their names as Emeka Ibesi and Emesiani Patrick.
He said the command recovered one AK47 rifle No. 25-DP-1347 with three magazines loaded with seventy-six (76) rounds of live ammunition, one pump action gun No. R325210 and a Mitsubishi L300 bus with reg. no. XU 558 ENU from them.
"Investigation revealed that the suspects are responsible for the killing of two vigilante men at Nkpor," he said.
He said one of the suspects Emeka Ibesi led SARS operatives to the arrest of his gang members that include Okechukwu Chukwu Ezeani, Maduabuchi Nwoye alias Major and Nwachukwu Chukwuemeka.
"They have also confessed to the killing of the vigilante men. A white Toyota bus with registration number UWN 252 XL suspected to have been snatched from its owner was recovered from them," he said.
He said the police in the state have also stormed the hideout and armoury of a notorious kidnapping and armed robbery suspect in the state, Sunday Nwachukwu at Umuichefuna umuachi, Uli where one Emeka Ezekude was arrested and two AK47 rifles with serial numbers 56-2401697 and 56-2520707, one type 06 rifle number 07018358, one rocket grenade, three rocket propellers, a total of 770 rounds of 7.62 mm live ammunition, 27 magazines and 9 chains for restraining kidnapped victims were recovered from his custom while Sunday Nwachukwu is still on the run.
He said when recently, a distress call was received that suspected armed robbers had blocked Onitsha to Owerri expressway and were robbing motorists, a SARS team was raised to the area where the operatives engaged the suspects in a fierce gun battle that led to the shooting and killing of one of the suspects. One military AK47 rifle and one magazine loaded with twenty rounds of 7.62mm live ammunitions were recovered from the scene.
Some of the suspects that spoke to our reporter from their confinement admitted committing the offence and blamed the devil for their involvement. John Emmanuel who said he was arrested during a robbery operation, said he led the police to Iwofe in Port-Harcourt, Rivers state where some of his gang members were arrested.
"Na me carry police go Iwofe in Port-Harcourt where they arrested Lucky Bob-Manuel at Rumukoro but our other members don run before we reach there. But the police carry his unregistered Mercedes Benz Jeep M L350 and a path-finder Jeep that we robbed from some people," he said.
Three other suspects, Afanmefuna Edo, Ogalagu Ozoemena and Chukwuanuga Onigwe said that they were operating as a gang before they were arrested, said other members of their gang had fled. Onigwe said: "We are praying very hard for them to be arrested and they will surely be arrested in Jesus name. Yes, we rob very well for Onitsha/Owerri expressway by Oba. Na we get that side."
CP Balla said his men are on the trail of other fleeing members of the gang.