Posted by George Onah, Port-Harcourt on
It was a reminder of Arnold Schwarzenega’s film, ‘‘Commando’’. But this was a nauseating reminder. It merely showed the extent to which paralyzing greed has permeated the ranks of young men in the Niger Delta.
It was a reminder of Arnold Schwarzenega’s film, ‘‘Commando’’. But this was a nauseating reminder. It merely showed the extent to which paralyzing greed has permeated the ranks of young men in the Niger Delta. A band of youths, who could think of nothing but spill blood of security men without regard for what becomes of the families and dependants of the men they mauled down in cold blood, are certainly candidates of hell. It was as blistering as it was deadly. Twenty militants, dressed in military fatigue, armed with Russian-made sophisticated machine gun (alias AK 47), and sailing in three fast boats of 140 horse power each, anchored at the beach of National Agip Oil Company, NAOC, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital. The men disembarked with the ease and authority of genuine soldiers arriving for patrol in their area of command.
At the shore of the beach, after disembarking, their leader approached a policeman on sentinel at the jetty and lied to him that they were on routine patrol of the area. Anyone would have fallen for that type of trick, given the incident in the Niger Delta a few days earlier. The Presidency had given the matching order to security men in the region to track down those who kidnapped four oil expatriates. So, the policeman waved them on. It was to be his undoing. He unwittingly allowed the angels of death into his territory without lifting a finger. In the first place, the lone policeman was not in any position to withstand the firepower of the rogues had there been need for a shootout. As the robbers turned to walk away, a volley of bullets, from the barrels of the fake soldiers, cut down the watchman. From that point, the whistle had been blown for more blood to flow.
The men in military fatigue then moved on into the premises with the fury of fiery furnace, searching to burn any being in sight. More bodies were to fill the arena as they advanced unchecked. However, somewhere, within the NAOC ground, seven policemen were busy doing other things related to security duties.
The alarm went out to them that some soldiers had entered the premises and spitting fire. Very quickly, the leader of the mobile policemen, an ASP, told his men to jump into their stand-by van and off they went. It was their last active journey. Before getting to the battleground, the invaders had taken position. The men in black did not know what hit them. All they probably saw were blades of fire from the nozzles of the men in military fatigue. When the guns went silent, all the seven mobile policemen laid motionless, stone dead.
They may have told their families and loved ones that they would be back for supper. That did not happen and they did not have the opportunity to say goodbye either. As soon as the seeming obstacle had been removed, the vicious brigands then moved like ferocious lions into the banking halls of their target. Not done with spilling blood yet, the life of another Nigerian was snuffed out of him immediately. Satisfied with the killings, three hefty jute bags (Ghana must go) filled with three million naira notes were lifted shoulder-high out of the banks.
With no one around or in sight to challenge them, the monsters made good their escape. When Sunday Vanguard called the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Samuel Adetuyi, a few minutes after the robbery to confirm the number of people killed, he said seven of his men had just been gunned down, apparently unaware that a spy policeman was among the victims. When the dust settled, nine bodies littered the place. Adetuyi was to say later that the attack on his men was not just against the police but the society. Sunday Vanguard spoke with some witnesses and a few people around the area and their responses were revealing.
A trader, Emeka, who sells around Agip said the police were to blame for the death of their own men. “Oga let me tell you, if those men were really prepared for their job in Agip, they would not have been got so cheaply. How can all the men on duty assemble at a place when they were supposed to have scattered themselves around the compound. Why did they have to move to the place in group when they had that shooting had taken place at the jetty. I know that those armed robbers were many, but a man in authority fights with authority.
The policemen were sent there to guard the place, so they were in authority.
They should have been able to fight back and call for reinforcement. Anyway, I feel for them and may their souls rest in peace.” Another trader in the vicinity, Haruna Ali, said the policemen killed themselves by announcing to the robbers that they were coming to fight them. The people entered their jeep and started making , wao! wao! wao! wao!, with their motor. Haba Oga, if you were the thief, will you run away or stay and fight because you are more than them? The armed robbers were ready for them and they shot every one of them.”
A staff in the NAOC premises that did not want his name in print said it was regrettable that the men met their death in such a gruesome way. “Actually, if the police officers were composed, they would have been able to withstand the robbers. The men were around, doing something else when the alarm or information about the presence of the men in military uniform got to them. I am not skeptical of the fact that the policemen would have stood their ground had they made up their minds that they were going to fight. They are people we interact with everyday and I know the stuff they were made of. Every policeman on guard duty in the Niger Delta knows that he is not safe because of the problems associated with the area.
That thing happened in the afternoon, we were all taken by surprise but policemen by their training should be used to surprises. It is just like soldiers at war who prepare for eventuality at any time,” he stated. Perpetual Ahamefula, a resident in the community, said: “Let God console the families of those policemen. It shows that no one is safe in Port Harcourt. Just imagine the way those bastards killed the husbands of poor women who were waiting for their breadwinners to come home.
Children have been made fatherless and women made widows. What is wrong with Nigeria, please tell me Mr. Journalist, what shall we do to be saved from the hands of this people who don’t do anything but to just sit at home and plan how to kill other people.” Perpetual started sobbing silently and it was obvious that she could no longer continue with the interview.
She waved at this Correspondent and walked away, wiping her tears with her wrappers. Belema Tonye, who said he “saw it all”, was of the view that “the police officers were alive to their duties and fell in the line of duty. They responded promptly to the distress call but couldn’t match the sophistication of the soldiers or fake soldiers who came there. You know that even if they suspected that the soldiers were not real, they still would have tried to be sure so as not to spark off any soldier-police riot. It is a common knowledge that soldiers and policemen are not the best of friends recently.
I think the men were merely being cautious before the robbers killed them. The policemen were victims of their cautiousness. If they (policemen) had engaged the men in army uniform in a shootout, at least some of the robbers would have been killed.” Sunday Vanguard gathered that the robbers apparently had hint of huge sums of money being scheduled for one of the banks in the premises.
The informant of the rogues, who may also be an insider there, did not take cognizance of the many hold-ups in Port Harcourt. He may have given a “sure’’ time that, “come what may”, the money would be in the premises at 1 pm, hence the attack at 1.30pm. But they were wrong. It was learnt that information was quickly passed to the bullion bank and escort bringing the money that there was danger in the place, which was why many people wondered how 20 people would put there lives on the line for three million naira and in the process kill so many people. The target was missed but the stakes were high.
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