The two dismissed soldiers have been identified as Ayeni Samuel and Emeka Ariston, and it was learnt that they were arrested alongside Abanara’s cousin, Alfred Robinson and four others identified as Sunday Solemu, Abuchi Alfred, Emeka Ilo and Ekene Igbanifore by the operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team while they were reportedly planning to rob a commercial bank in Asaba, Delta State.
The gang members who a general-purpose machine gun, six AK-47 rifles, 51 magazines, 1,620 rounds of live ammunition, two vehicles and charms were recovered from, were accused of collecting a Toyota Lexus and a 4Runner from their owners who were kidnapped in Owerri, Imo State and released after payment of N5m as ransom.
Abanara who was remanded in prison custody after being arrested by the IRT four years ago on robbery charges, allegedly took part in bank robberies in Lekki, Ikorodu, Festac and Agbara areas of Lagos where millions of naira were carted away.
Narrating how he joined the robbery gang, one of the dismissed soldiers Ayeni said;
“I joined the Nigeria Army in 2003 and I was dismissed because I took part in an illegal duty. After my dismissal in 2014, I had no job then I was introduced to Millions (Abanara) who is in prison. He linked me up with his cousin Robinson. Millions said he wanted me to provide military cover during operations and I brought in my colleague, Ariston.
“We went for the operation in our uniforms. We were unlucky the bullion van escaped from the scene. I also took part in a robbery operation in Awka, Anambra, the next day and I got N150,000 as my share. I was arrested while we were making plans to rob another bullion van in Asaba.”
Robinson on the other hand disclosed they shot the policemen after being caught unawares. He further revealed that they proceeded to robbing a recharge card dealer of N7.5m and other valuables in Awka, Anambra after the failed bullion van robbery operation in Ebonyi state.
The suspect who is a father of four also admitted taking part in the 2015 bank robbery in the Lekki area of Lagos of which he got a N5m cut.
“I am from Gelegele Local Government Area of Edo State and I am married and have four children. I was a logger before I went into illegal oil bunkering. It was my cousin, Millions, who introduced me into oil bunkering. He is from my mother’s family.
“I invested the N5m I got from the Lekki bank robbery in oil bunkering from. I was doing the ‘business’ when my friend, Sunday Soyemi, brought the Ebonyi State bullion van robbery. I called my cousin in prison and he gave me all the guidelines I needed for the operation.
“He connected me with the ex-soldiers and they participated in the operation. He advised us not to use our vehicles for the operation and we followed his instructions. Soyemi brought the guns and dynamite we used for the operation but the operation failed because we weren’t prepared at the time the bullion van got to our spot. We exchanged fire with the police escort and the van escaped.”
46-year-old Soyem also blamed the failed bullion van robbery on the policemen who opened fire on them. He said;
“We weren’t prepared when the bullion van and the escort approached our location. They opened fire on us and we shot back but the van escaped. We killed four of the policemen and left Ebony State immediately.
“We proceeded to Awka and robbed a man of N7.5m. We were in Asaba strategising on a bank to rob when the police swooped on us.”