Either for good or for ill, history has a way of repeating itself. Remember Lawrence Nomanyagbon Anini, the notorious armed robber dreadfully called ‘The Law’ or ‘Ovbigbo’ in the defunct Bendel State? In the 1980s, Anini and his gang of bloodthirsty armed robbers held Benin City, the capital of the then Bendel State, comprising today’s Edo and Delta states, by the jugular. The hoodlums held everybody spellbound as they raided, robbed, maimed and killed at will. It was such a sadistic exploit that kept security agencies, especially the police, on their toes while their criminal ‘regime’ lasted.
In the fight to contain their dare-devilry, many policemen lost their lives, many more were maimed, while the list of their victims read like a classroom register. The escapades of the notorious gang entered into national consciousness in 1986, when the then military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, gave Etim Inyang, the then Inspector-General of Police, a marching order to produce Anini “dead or alive”. A worried Babangida had confronted Inyang after one of the Council’s meetings with the question: “My friend, where is Anini?”
That brief encounter appeared to be the final straw that broke the camel’s back as the echelon of the police deployed all they had – men and materials – in search of Anini and his gang. There were fears and apprehension in the then Bendel state while the hunt for Anini lasted. This was because of certain diabolical mysticism associated with Anini, who was largely rumoured to have heavily fortified himself with charms and amulets to evade arrest. At a point, the fear of Anini was the beginning of wisdom, as many of the policemen literally took to their heels whenever he was on the prowl.
At the end of the day, Anini and his gang, including his fearsome deputy in the underworld, Monday Osunbor, were reined in. But before then, Christopher Omeben, then an Assistant Inspector-General of Police, who was dispatched to head the team of investigators that plotted Anini’s arrest, narrowly escaped death in the hands of the gang. If Omeben, now a pastor, was lucky, his driver, one Albert Otue, a Sergeant, was not that lucky. The driver was abducted by the gang members led by Osunbor and murdered.
The arrest of the gang opened a Pandora’s Box as Anini started singing like a canary bird in police custody while begging for leniency.
The trial of Anini led to the conviction and eventual shameful execution of George Iyamu, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, who was, until his arrest, the head of the anti-robbery squad of the Bendel State Police Command. Anini and his gang members had confessed that Iyamu had abandoned his call to service as a police officer and, instead, became the godfather of the criminal gang.
He aided them with information on security movements which enabled the gang to beat police operations as well as supplied them with arms and ammunition. And when the end came, both Anini and Iyamu, including other members of the notorious gang, went down in a hail of bullets when they were publicly executed by firing squads at different times in Benin in 1987.
Today, 26 years after, another hoodlum who goes by the name Kelvin Ibruvwe seems to have stepped into Anini’s shoes. This time around, his bestiality has gone beyond armed robbery. Kelvin and his band of well-armed hoodlums have made their satanic marks in kidnapping, raping, pipeline vandalism and all sorts of heinous crimes.
He has become well known as the brain behind high profile kidnappings in many parts of the country in recent times particularly in parts of the South-west, South-east and South-south geo-political regions.
His victims include eminent persons like Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, late Chudi Nwike, a former Deputy Governor of Anambra State, who was killed in captivity by the gang, as well as Adedoyin Rhodes-Vivour, wife of a Supreme Court judge kidnapped with her daughter and driver on their way to Benin on May 10.
A fortnight ago, unknown to him that his cup was about to be full, a boastful Kelvin appeared from nowhere, flanked by some of his gang members – all in military camouflage dress – and addressed a gathering of his kinsmen at his Kokori native town in Delta State. There, he gave President Goodluck Jonathan a 60-day ultimatum to address the degradation of his native land and other communities in the Niger Delta or face grave consequences.
All that has now proved to be hollow bravado and nothing more than a façade that it is, as he was arrested in a hotel room in Port Harcourt in the wee hours of last Wednesday. His arrest, along with five of his gang members, was carried out by a combined team of the Army and Department of State Services, DSS, operatives, in a coded lightning operation.
However, a few hours after his arrest, a shootout ensued between Kelvin’s ‘boys’ in his country home, Kokori, Ethiope-East Local Government Area of Delta State and soldiers. Nevertheless, the soldiers succeeded in arresting the chief priest (Ose Igba), said to have provided native charms for Kelvin and his gang to evade arrest over the years.
All the while, Kelvin knew he was being monitored, but he did not know his end was so near. The security agencies only re-doubled their operational strategies after his infamous declaration where he handed over an ultimatum to the federal government to develop the oil community or his group would blow up oil facilities in the area.
At that declaration, the hoodlum described himself as leader of the newly-found Liberation Movement of the Urhobo People, LIMUP, and said he had become a freedom fighter. That is now history.
Kelvin lived like a kingpin. His tentacles and business interests cut across Delta State, Port-Harcourt, Enugu, Ibadan and Lagos. The kidnap baron shocked security operatives when he pulled a daring mission in Warri, some months ago, killing a number of prisons officials, as his gang ambushed warders and snatched two of its men being taken to court for trial.
It was learnt that the police were deliberately sidetracked in this latest operation by the army and DSS, as neither the police in Rivers and Delta states were aware of the operation until it was concluded. Since then, his hometown, Kokori, has been taken over by soldiers, in an attempt to round up his boys as well as their arms cache. I am sure the aim is to put him away before he begins to think that he is a hero.
Kelvin is believed to be currently undergoing serious interrogation in Abuja, where he is said to have made substantial revelations. I am quite sure such revelations will have something to do with his collaborators within the security agencies who gave him cover for his nefarious activities all this while.
The fact that the police was sidelined in the operation that led to his arrest, shows that something is definitely wrong with the police hierarchy who might have been compromised all along. His interrogators will also have a lot to do to unravel his godfathers who are suspected to be mainly politicians and other highly-placed people in his community and state who may have benefited immensely from his criminal extravaganza.
We are now being inundated with the fact that the crowd of people who gathered around him in Kokori on Tuesday, September 17, when he made his boisterous declaration, did so because of a promise that ‘oil money’ will be shared at the event. What that goes to show is the level of moral decadence in our society where the love of money has relegated decency and patriotism to the background.
It is simply a rehash of the Anini episode in the 1980s, when the robbery kingpin was fond of gleefully spraying his booty in crisp naira notes along the road for people to pick each time his gang raided a bank’s vault. This was to divert people’s attention while they made good their escape.
Surely, anything that has a beginning must certainly have an end. Like every criminal, the end has come for Kelvin, just like the end came for Anini and his gang in the 80s.
The opinion expressed above is solely that of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of Nigeria Intel.