Lawrence Anini – Nigeria’s Most Notorious Armed Robber

Lawrence Anini and his gang members before their execution
Lawrence Anini and his gang members before their execution in 1987

Who was Lawrence Anini?

Lawrence Anini, also known as ‘the law’, was born in 1960, the same year Nigeria gained independence, to the Owuo family in Orogbo village, Orhionmwon area, about 20 miles from Benin city, the capital of Bendel, presently Edo State.

 

The 26-year-old robber kingpin terrorized the nook and cranny of Benin city and some other neighbouring towns; he unleashed havoc on civilians, police and banks as well with his gang of five men which included his brutal sidekick, Monday Osunbo.

Lawrence Anini started off as a taxi driver, then as a transporter for thieves and drug lords till he finally became a notorious daylight robber who sent fear down the spines of rich, middle class and poor Nigerians.

Lawrence Anini’s Criminal Exploits

Anini’s major concentration in his robbery career was robbing banks and assassinating top government officials. During his trial, he allegedly accused a Deputy Superintendent of Police, George Iyamu, of masterminding the assassination of an Assistant Inspector General, Christopher Omuben, who was in charge of investigating Anini and his men.

The assassination however was unsuccessful as Anini and his gang only killed Omuben’s driver, a Sargent named Albert Otue who was mistaken for Omuben. Otue was beheaded and dumped in a shrub along the Benin- Agbor road. Lawrence Anini and his gang also killed one Mrs Remi Sobanjo and Frank Unoarumi who formerly worked with the Nigerian Observer newspaper.

On the 1st of October, 1986, Anini attacked the state’s commissioner of police, Casmir Igbokwe, who was mercilessly beaten and shot several times but eventually survived the attack with several injuries. That same year, Mr. A.O Emojeve, a medical doctor living in Benin, was also killed along the Textile Mill Road, Benin City.

Anini2
Anini handcuffed to his hospital bed

Several accounts revealed Anini’s tactics during his robbery operations. It was said that he would drive recklessly and spray some of the stolen money on the road for people to pick thus slowing down the police chasing him.

Some other account said that Lawrence Anini and Monday Osumbor sprayed money out of their generosity and because they knew Nigerians were really suffering. This earned Anini another nickname, ‘The Governor‘.

Anini Versus Babangida

Anini’s popularity over-shadowed that of Ishola Oyenusi, Babatunde Folorunsho and other armed robbers in the 1970s.

His fame reached its peak when in October 1986, he attacked some military men under President Ibrahim Babangida’s regime. This incident made the infuriated President asked the then Inspector-General of Police, Etim Inyang, a very popular question, “My friend, where is Anini?”.

Gen Ibrahim Babangida. June 12 1993 presidential election
Gen. Ibrahim Babangida

When he couldn’t get a definite answer, he ordered an immediate manhunt and arrest of Anini, Monday Osumbor and other members of the gang. This manhunt didn’t stop Anini from moving around the country, unleashing terror. During this period, several superstitions about Anini had spread round the country like wildfire, particularly among children.

Some said, he drove from Lagos to Benin in reverse and full speed in a police pursuit. Some also said that Anini was a spirit and can’t be arrested by the police, no matter how hard they try. But as an adage says, every day belongs to the thief, while the owner owns a single day. This adage was for Anini on the 3rd of December, 1986 when nemesis cornered him.

Lawrence Anini’s Capture, Trial & Execution

On the 3rd of December, 1986, Lawrence Anini was arrested by the police, led by the Superintendent of Police, Kayode Uanreroro, in a house (No 26, Oyemwosa, opp. Iguodala Primary School, Benin) in the company of his girlfriend who allegedly betrayed him.

While trying to escape the arrest, he was shot in the left leg which was later amputated in a military hospital. Monday Osumbor and other members of the gang were also apprehended by the police and were brought before the law.

Anini and his team, including George Iyamu, the police officer accused of working for Anini, were sentenced to death by Justice James Omo- Agege in the High court of Justice, off Sapele Road, Benin City.

During the trial, George Iyamu denied the allegations of helping Anini, and in return, the infuriated Anini who could hardly speak in English shouted from the back on his wheelchair “You be shameless liar, you be shameless liar!“.

Lawrence Anini and his gang members after their execution
Lawrence Anini and his gang members after their execution

While passing the judgement, Justice Omo-Agege said,

Anini will forever be remembered in the history of crime in this country, but it would be of unblessed memory. Few people if ever, would give the name to their children.”

Lawrence Anini, Monday Osumbor and other criminals were executed by a firing squad on the 29th of March, 1987 and that was the end of Anini’s reign of terror in Nigeria.

Thanks for reading, highlifextra.com

References:

  1. Omipidan. Teslim Opemipo (2018). Timeline Of Notable Events That Happened In 1987, Nigeria. highlifextra. /2018/07/18/timeline-of-notable-events-that-happened-in-1987-nigeria/
  2. Marenin, O. (1987). The Anini Saga: Armed Robbery and the Reproduction of Ideology in Nigeria. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 25(2), 259-281. doi:10.1017/S0022278X00000380
  3. Omipidan. Teslim Opemipo. Notorious Armed Robbers in Nigeria. highlifextra. https://oldnaija.com/tag/notorious-robbers-in-nigeria/