Some residents of Okeho town, Kajola Local Government Area of Oyo State, have been accused of stealing huge sums of money they allegedly recovered from armed robbers who attacked the community’s First Bank branch on July 29.
Corroborating the allegation, the traditional ruler of the town, Onjo of Okeho, Rafiu Mustapha, told PREMIUM TIMES that investigations were ongoing to arrest “the bad boys and bring them to book.”
A senior official of the bank, who does not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, had told PREMIUM TIMES about the gallantry displayed by the community’s vigilantes, local hunters and some members of the Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC).
He said they intercepted the robbers a few metres from the bank, arrested four of them and lynched them.
However, the source added, as soon as the car in which the robbers were fleeing with the cash reportedly loaded in rice sacks was ambushed, leading to an accident, a crowd of young men and women forced the trunk of the car open and emptied the sacks.
The source said; “It is unfortunate that the gallantry displayed by the community men is now being overshadowed by the activities of the unscrupulous men and women in the community who stole what had already been saved by the brave warriors.
“This money is roughly N60 million and nobody has reported that a penny was retrieved. That is unfortunate. So what is the difference between the robbers who attacked us, killed a police officer and stole from the vaults, and those who shared the loot? Who says the robbers are not known to the community, then? Was it a set-up or what? The community needs to redeem its image.”
The bank’s operation manager, Saheed Aiyelagbe, who confirmed the development to our reporter on Sunday morning, said he could not be categorical about those who stole the money.
He also did not confirm the exact amount stolen from the bank, saying the internal control officials of the bank had visited the branch and “had established the figure.”
“The vigilantes arrested those robbers, but unfortunately when we got to the scene, we didn’t find any cash there. So who stole the money specifically, I can’t say. But if Kabiyesi has confirmed that, he would know better because we were still inside the bank’s premises lying down when those things were happening. So we cannot tell what happened outside our premises.”
We’re working round the clock – Monarch
The community’s traditional ruler, who decried the development, said he was already mobilising the community to expose the “bad eggs” who may have taken part in the sharing of the loot.
The monarch said; “Yes, those who shared the money are bad boys from our community. They are everywhere here but we are working hard on exposing them, and I am sure God will expose them. We learnt they are already fighting over their shares. But by His grace, they will be exposed.
“If you recalled, on Thursday, July 30, a day after the incident, ahead of the commissioner’s visit, the police had brought one suspect arrested in connection to the incident to the community, and our people had tried to burn the suspect. Maybe it was during an attempt to disperse the crowd that stray bullets hit a resident and one of the drivers of the police escort vehicles. The police officer also later died that day. I went to the police in Ibadan and I was told the bullet retrieved from the late officer was from a double barrel gun. So it is unclear who shot, and that is what we are still battling again.
“So, on Tuesday, I went to see the commissioner of police on the whole matter. So, we are cooperating with the police to get all those that shared the loot.”
The traditional ruler added that to boost the morale of the valiant men, he personally gave N50,000 to the nine representatives of the vigilantes, OPC and local hunters.
Arrested suspects aiding our investigation – Police
Meanwhile police said investigations into the case are still ongoing and that in “a short while, the public will be briefed.”
Speaking with our reporter on the phone, the police spokesperson in Oyo State, Olugbenga Fadeyi, said the report of both the discreet and preliminary investigations will unravel the details of the robbery.
Mr. Fadeyi said; “So after both the discreet and preliminary investigations, we will reach out to the press, and that will be in a short while. This is because we already have some suspects in our custody who are assisting the police in our investigations.”
Apart from the two suspects earlier arrested, the police on Tuesday said they have three more suspected.
A report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted a statement credited to Mr Fadeyi, which it noted confirmed the arrest.
The bank was attacked on July 29 by armed robbers who took away an undisclosed amount of money, NAN had reported.
According to the report, Mr Fadeyi said five suspects have so far been arrested in connection with the robbery, adding that they were “being interrogated by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Ibadan.”
No 18-seater involved in the robbery
Meanwhile, the bank official has denied the report that the robbers left the bank in an 18-seater bus, saying instead, the robbers loaded stolen cash in two cars; one belonging to a worker of the financial institution and the second car hijacked from a customer.
The official said; “I don’t know where they got the story of the 18-seater bus. If you look at the picture of the scene of the accident, you would see a blue Toyota Corolla car that was involved in the accident. That belongs to a colleague. The other car was also a Toyota Corolla but was hijacked at the entrance of the bank.
“So apart from the one that had an accident, we have a short video of the escape of the second car. But surprisingly, a few kilometres away, the other vehicle couldn’t move again, maybe its security. So the other members of the gang jumped into the bush to escape. We also didn’t find any money in that car either.”