Nigeria has recorded two types of armed robbers:
Lawrence Nomanyagbon Anini and others. No armed robber has
ever held the entire country on ransom as Anini. In fact, his reign
was so bloody that he was even discussed at the State Security
He held the old Bendel State captive in the 1980s. Bendel is now
known as Edo and Delta State. His main area of operation was
Benin City to be precise.
HIS EARLY LIFE
Anini was born in a village about 20 miles from Benin City in
present-day Edo State.He was dreadfully called ‘The Law’ or
‘Ovbigbo’. An only son of his Evbueisi-born mother, he had two
sisters. His father died when he was still a young boy.
Anini was brought to Benin where he was admitted at the Oza Primary
School but from a young age, he started manifesting the signs of
truancy. He struggled to finish his primary school then entered the
Igiedumu Secondary School. He did not spend more than three
years when he dropped out of school, preferring to be an
apprentice at a local mechanic workshop. That was around 1976.
He started work as a lorry driver (some say taxi driver) after his
master fired him and slowly transformed into a leader of the local
motor parks, controlling and commanding touts.
Following the sudden overthrow of the politicians in the early
1980s and banning of politics in 1984 by the Buhari regime the
highly-skilled driver (now of of criminal gangs and godfathers)
discovered that armed robbery was far more lucrative and decided
to form his own deadly gang which included, Monday Osunbor,
Friday Ofege, Henry Ekponwan, Eweka and Alhaji zed zed or
Zegezege who was never captured.They started out as car
hijackers, bus robbers and bank thieves. He sealed a pact with
corrupt police officers and ruled with reckless abandon.
The complicity of the police is believed to have triggered Anini’s reign
of terror in 1986.Highway robberies, car jackings, bank raids,
Anini was a specialist in all aspects of pilfering with the gun.
Gradually, he extended his criminal acts to other towns and cities
far north and east of Benin.
In early 1986, two members of his gang were tried and prosecuted
against an earlier under-the-table ‘agreement’ with the police to
destroy evidence against the gang members.
The incident, and Anini’s view of police betrayal, is believed to
have spurred retaliatory actions by Anini. In August, 1986, a fatal
bank robbery linked to Anini was reported in which a police officer
and others were killed. That same month, two officers on duty
were shot at a barricade while trying to stop Anini’s car. During a
span of three months, he was known to have killed nine police
In an operation in August of 1986, the Anini team struck at First
Bank, Sabongida-Ora, where they carted away N2, 000. But
although the amount stolen was seen as chicken feed, they left the
scene with a trail of blood. Many persons were killed.
On September 6, same year, the Anini gang snatched a Peugeot
504 car from Albert Otoe, the driver of an Assistant Inspector
General of Police, Christopher Omeben. In snatching the car, they
killed the driver and went to hide his corpse somewhere.
Three months later, the skeleton of the driver was spotted 16
kilometers away from Benin, along the Benin-Agbor highway. A
day after this attack, Anini, operating in a Passat car believed to
have been stolen, also effected the snatching of another Peugeot
504 car near the former FEDECO office, in Benin.
Two days after, the Anini men killed two policemen in Orhiowon
Local Government Area of the state. Still in that month, three
different robbery attacks, all pointing to Anini’s involvement, took
A day after the operation, Anini, visited a village near Benin and
threw wads of naira notes on the ground for free pick by market
men and women.
Between August and December 1986, he led a four-month reign of
terror. He also reportedly wrote numerous letters to media houses
using political tones of Robin Hood-like words, to describe his
The search for Anini
The then military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, saw the
nation’s fear for the daredevil and ordered a massive manhunt for
the kingpin and his fellow robbers. The police thus went after
them, combing every part of Bendel State where they were
reportedly operating and living
However, the more they were hunted, the more intensified their
activities became. Some of the locals in the area even began to tell
stories of their invincibility and for a while, it felt like they were
never going to be caught.
At the conclusion of a meeting of the Armed Forces Ruling Council
in October 1986, General Babangida turned to the Inspector-
General of Police, Etim Inyang, and asked, ‘My friend, where is
At about this time, Nigerian newspapers and journals were also
publishing various reports and editorials on the ‘Anini Challenge’,
the ‘Anini Saga’, the ‘Anini Factor’, ‘Lawrence Anini – the Man,
the Myth’, ‘Anini, Jack the Ripper’, and ‘Lawrence Anini: A Robin
Hood in Bendel’. The Guardian asked, emphatically, in one of its
reports: ‘Will they ever find Anini, “The Law”?’
The Anini terrror finally came to an end thanks to the courage of
Superintendent of Police, Kayode Uanreroro. On December 3, 1986,
Uanreroro caught Anini at No 26, Oyemwosa Street, opposite
Iguodala Primary School, Benin City, in company with six women.
Acting on a tip-off from the locals, the policeman went straight to
the house where Anini was hiding and apprehended him with very
little resistance. Uanreroro led a crack 10-man team to the house,
knocked on the door of the room, and Anini himself, clad in
underpants, opened the door. “Where is Anini?”, the police officer
Dazed as he was caught off guard and having no escape route,
Anini all the same tried to be smart. “Oh, Anini is under the bed in
the inner room”. As he said it, he made some moves to walk past
Uanreroro and his team.
In the process, he shoved and head-butted the police officer but it
was an exercise in futility. Uanreroro promptly reached for his gun,
stepped hard on Anini’s right toes and shot at his left ankle. Anini
surged forward but the policemen took hold of him and put him in a
They then pumped more bullets into his shot leg and almost
severed the ankle from his entire leg. Already, anguished by the
excruciating pains, the policemen asked him, “Are you Anini?” And
he replied, “My brother, I won’t deceive you; I won’t tell you lie,
While in the police net, Anini who had poor command of English
and could only communicate in pidgin, made a whole lot of
revelations. He disclosed, for instance that Osunbor, who had been
arrested earlier, was his deputy, saying that Osunbor actually shot
and wounded the former police boss of the state, Akagbosu.
The daredevil robbers also revealed that some policemen assisted
them in the criminal operations in Bendel State and the entire
Anini particularly revealed that George Iyamu, who was the most
senior police officer shielding the robbers, would reveal police
secrets to them and then, give them logistic supports such as
arms, to carry out robbery operations.
Because of the numerous gunshots, Anini had one of his legs
amputated in a military hospital. When his hideout was searched,
police recovered assorted charms, including the one he usually
wore around his waist during “operations”. All charms were
disposed after his arrest.
Due to amputation of his leg, Anini was confined to a wheelchair
throughout his trial. He was sentenced to death by Justice James
Omo-Agege and executed on March 29, 1987.
Credit - Nigeria monitor