News & Features
Fall of Lawrence Anini, ‘the son of dog’
For four long months, Lawrence Anini held Bendelites and, in fact, Nigerians breathless. He shot at will. Many were forced indoors before dusk… The police were after him in full force, caught and tried him along with his friends in crime. They were condemned to death. On Saturday, March 28, 1987, they were tied to the stake at Ekenwan Road, Benin, and executed. SIAKA MOMOH, who witnessed the execution that momentous Saturday morning, relives the event.
He was a terror to all in his native Bendel State (Bendel State was made up of the present Delta State and Edo State). The same area in question was called Midwest Region when Nigeria was composed of four regions – North, East, West and Midwest. Midwest was carved out of old West.
Anini and gang foisted their four-long-month monstrous reign on Bendel. And beyond Bendel, the fear of Lawrence Anini was the beginning of wisdom. It was so because there was this myth of invincibility, of the power to surface before anyone painting him in bad light and kill such a person. It would be recalled that a colleague at Vanguard’s Features Desk in Lagos, Anini’s kinsman, warned us of the futility of speaking ill of Lawrence Anini. “Don’t you ever try it if you want to see the next day,” he warned. Of course, we tried it and nothing happened.
Lawrence Anini was law. In fact, his nickname was ‘The Law’. If you called him the ‘The Law’, you would have made his day. It was one name that ignited him; that brought out the rage in him. Newsmen incurred his rage in the court room in Benin when they called him The Law.
He enjoyed the myth which grew around him; his indestructibility; his ability to vanish; his unstoppable vow to slaughter 50 policemen before the law would catch up with him. He left nine policemen dead before volley of bullets silenced him at the stake. Anini revelled in the report that said he stole money and littered such along the streets in market places.
But the nation found out when he met his waterloo he was not the Field Marshal of the under-world he made Nigerians believe but a squeamish apologetic small fry thief. It was all bravado helped by a shameless cop, George Iyamu, alias ‘Gbagbati’, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) in the Nigeria Police Force in Bendel State. The Law was demystified and peace was restored.
Going to see Anini
Military Base Hospital, GRA, Benin, is a walking distance from the Benin Airport. Two newsmen arrived the airport by an Okada aircraft at about 11 am on a Thursday. On arrival at the entrance of the hospital, what they saw was what they had expected. The gate was under tight security. There were six soldiers, including one Regimental Police (RP) who headed the security team, and two mobile policemen. They were armed to the teeth.
The newsmen were not bothered; they approached them with the usual newsmen confidence, and announced their mission. “Stay aside and wait to speak to our RP” was the chorused response from a number of them. The RP was busy attending to other visitors on own wheels. He soon came and listened to the newsmen’s request. “You must go to the police station for a note before we can allow you in,” was the brisk response from him.
Encounter with Parry Osanyade
The two newsmen and others met Parry Osanyade, outgoing Bendel State Police Commissioner then at the police headquarters, as he came in from the Oba of Benin’s Palace where he had gone to pay a courtesy visit. Flag-pole tall Parry Osanyade, the man who trapped the dog, drove in, in stately splendour, tumbled out of his car smiling, acknowledging salutes from policemen on duty and waving to the crowd that had gathered to hear the latest on deadly Anini.
To the delight of the newsmen, who wanted a note from him, he was very accessible. In his office, he spoke at length.
“Anini had an intelligence network of girls. And you know girls can penetrate anywhere; they can penetrate the upper and lower class of the society. And Anini had an advantage: he was in his home; he was a driver, a garage boy and as such in the motor-park boys group. He enjoyed their cooperation and could easily move around with them. The motor-park is a breeding ground for criminals. Road transport workers refuse to give information to police. Anini has agreed to talk to me,” he said.
How did he succeed in making him agree to talk to police? “Anini is now alone. Everyone has deserted him. He knows this. That anyone wants to make friend with him is therefore of advantage to him. If you want to communicate with a criminal, you give him what he wants. I offer him cigarettes. He likes cigarettes. He can finish three packets of cigarettes in one hour.”
Coincidentally, a policeman came in with a roll of Benson and Hedges which Parry had ordered. The Commissioner brought out three and said: “These are for Anini”.
On how Anini was arrested: “When I was given the assignment by the IG, I made up my mind that I would get him. On that fateful day, we got information that he was in a house in a street off East Circular, Benin. Then we set out for the place. We stormed the place and found Anini relaxing with six girls. Our target was Anini. My men shot him. They shattered his left leg and he could not escape. The myth being spun around Anini that he had the power to disappear has thus been debunked by this singular action.”
How about the girls? “They escaped. In fact, in the excitement that we had caught Anini, we forgot to care about them. But we will get them, we will surely get them.”
At the hospital on his sick bed, Anini vowed: “If this country wants to help me, they should not kill me…I will help Nigeria solve the problem of armed robbery.”
They include Monday Osunbor, Solomon Osemwemkhai, Johnbull Ahunwan, Moses Idahosa, Philip Iwebelua, Benard Obi, and Friday Ukponwan. All, including George Iyamu the police DSP who aided their operations, were condemned to death and executed in Benin. Relatively unknown Lawrence Ogibo and Saturday Omoruyi were also brought to the execution ground, Ekenwan Road, Benin along with Anini and Co.
And deadly Anini died
For four long months, Lawrence Anini held Bendelites and, in fact, Nigerians breathless. He shot at will. Many were forced indoors before dusk… The police were after him in full force, caught and tried him along with his friends in crime. They were condemned to death. On Saturday March 28, 1987, they were tied to the stake at Ekenwan Road, Benin and executed.
At the stake, Anini sweated profusely. He stiffened up and his body assumed the look of a blown balloon, ostensibly preparing himself for the expected volley of shots from marksmen who were still out of sight. Anini was no doubt shaken but he tried to put up a stern face.
Next Week: The Abami Eda himself; one who has death in his pouch – Fela Anikulapo Kuti
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