By Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Asaba, the Delta State capital and particularly the Koka/Ibusa Road Junction on the Benin-Asaba expressway, was on Friday thrown into pandemonium as mid-day armed robbery attack on a bullion van took place practically unchallenged.
The bandits according to eye witness account laid ambush on the vehicle conveying undisclosed amount of money from Onitsha in neighbouring Abambra State to an undisclosed location.
The robbers were said to have intercepted the vehicle when the driver was negotiating the turnoff on Ibusa Road, which ironically is often manned by hordes of policemen.
There was sporadic shooting between the hoodlums and the police escorting the vehicle with scared motorists, commuters, traders and others scampering for safety.
Although, no life was lost in the incident, the hoodlums reportedly succeeded in making away with the cash after ripping open the bullion van with bullets.
The police escorts were said to have taken to their heels following fierce shooting by the bandits, who overwhelmed the cops with superior firepower.
“It was like a scene in one of those foreign movies where the actors engage in gun battle. The hoodlums came in with about three cars and intercepted the bullion van at the junction. They started shooting and innocent people took to their heels to avoid being victims of stray bullets,” a source said.
Even vehicles on the expressway had to quickly detour as a result of the attack with nobody to challenge the daredevil gang, eyewitnesses said.
An eyewitness accounts claimed that policemen attached to the van initially returned fire but that the criminals apparently had superior fire-power as “the officers soon disappeared from the scene, giving the bandits an unfettered access to the cash stocked in the bullion van.”
Confirming the story, the state police command spokesman, Mr. Andrew Aniamaka (a DSP) said that the police was already intensifying investigation into incident, which described as unfortunate.
“It was unfortunate that some banks are still using bullion vans without bullet proof despite repeated warnings by the police,” Aniamaka said sadly.
He however said no life was lost and none of the police escorts sustained any injuries during the operation.
Although no conclusive statement could yet be made, the spokesman noted that internal connivance could not be ruled out considering what played out.
“Who informed the hoodlums that they were carrying cash through that route? It is quite unfortunate that banks are still using configured bullion vans without bullet proof, subjecting their personnel and police escorts to unnecessary risk.”
A similar incident occurred few months ago on same Benin-Asaba expressway, with bandits attacking a bullion vehicle conveying money from the branch of a bank in Asaba.
The armed robbers carted away millions of naira during the incident that occurred in the afternoon near Asaba.