Nigeria as a country has been faced with crime and criminal activities. In the history of Nigeria, there has been a history of crime and criminals who have become heroes and legends in themselves. Some of them have had their names written in the history of the country as bandits, who almost debilitated the nation, but whatever way you look at them, they deserve the roll call of heroes and villains who have terrorized the nation.
For those who grew up in the 80s, the name Lawrence Anini can never be forgotten as one of Nigeria’s most notorious armed robbers who reigned supreme in the old Bendel State, now known as Edo and Delta state in the south southern part of Nigeria.
Anini also known as The Law, reigned supreme in the 80s and was so bloody that his matter was even discussed at the State Security Council meeting during the General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime as Nigeria military head of state.
Ani who was born in 1960 in a village about 20 miles from Benin City in present day Edo State, migrated to Benin at an early age, learned how to drive and became a skilled taxi driver, before he took to crime and quickly became a much-feared gang leader whose approach got people trembling.
His gang members include Monday Osunbor, later known to be a dreaded killer without mercy, Friday Ofege, Henry Ekponwan, Phillip Iwebelue, Prince Kingsley Eweka, and others.
The group started out as car snatchers, bus robbers and bank thieves predominantly in Benin, Anini, and his gang extended their criminal acts to other towns and cities in other states in the country.
Anini was also able to penetrate the police echelon and had some top officers as his gun suppliers and informants, the biggest of them being police Inspector George Iyamu who benefited immensely from the gang.
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 as many persons were killed.
On 6th September 1986, 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.
It was not until three months later that 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 car believed to have been stolen, also effected the snatching of another Peugeot 504 car near the former FEDECO office, in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria.
Two days after, Anini men killed two policemen in Orhiowon Local Government Area of the Edo State. Still, in that same month, they was report of three different robbery attacks taking place, all pointing to Anini’s involvement.
A day after the operation, Anini, popularly known as The Law, turned to a ‘Father Christmas’ as he threw wads of Naira notes on the ground for free pick by market men and women at a village near Benin City.
Anini thus spear-headed a four-month reign of terror between August and December 1986. Anini also reportedly wrote numerous letters to media houses using political tones of Robin Hood-like words, to describe his criminal acts.
Even the Military Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida got worried over the activities of Anini and asked the then Inspector General of Police, Etim Inyang where the bandit was and gave him the mandate to get him either dead or alive.
Anini was finally arrested in a major operation led by Superintendent of Police Kayode Uanreroro, who brought his reign of terror to an end.
He was nabbed on December 3, 1986, at No. 26, Oyemwosa Street, opposite Iguodala Primary School, Benin City, in company of six women, following a tip-off by residents of the area.
Anini who was confined to a wheelchair throughout his trial following the amputation of one of his legs was sentenced to death by Justice James Omo-Agege of the Benin High Court and was executed on March 29, 1987.