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The Anini Saga: Armed Robbery and the Reproduction of Ideology in Nigeria

  • Otwin Marenin (a1)

At the conclusion of a meeting of the Armed Forces Ruling Council in October 1986, President Ibrahim Babangida turned to the Inspector- General of the Nigeria Police Force, Etim Inyang, and asked, ‘My friend, where is Anini?’. At about this time, Nigerian newspapers and journals were publishing numerous articles 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, almost plaintively, ‘Will they ever find Anini, “The Law”?’, and when he was finally captured in early December, the cover of the magazine Thisweek blared forth, above a picture of the badly injured criminal in his hospital bed, ‘Anini. Face to Face with The Law’.

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1 Newswatch (Lagos), 27 10 1986, p. 17.

2 The phrases are, respectively, from Punch (Lagos), 17 10 1986;The Guardian (Lagos), 16 11 1986;Nigerian Tribune (Ibadan), 31 10 1986;Sunday Punch (Lagos), 19 10 1986;Newswatch, 27 10 1986, p. 15; and Sundy Tribune (Ibadan), 5 10 1986.

3 The Guardian, 25 October 1986.

4 Thisweek (Lagos), 15 12 1986.

5 Newswatch, 27 October 1986, p. 22.

6 Dele Giwa, ‘Son of Dog’, in Ibid. p. 11.

1 New members are inducted annually into the National Youth Service Corps during the first three weeks in August. During the 1986 orientation camps the authorities scheduled two days of lectures on national security and crime, and these stressed not only the need to be vigilant, but also the possibility that the crime wave was being manipulated to discredit and destabilise the Government. Interviews with members and officials of the N.Y.S.C. during August–September 1986.

2 Daily Times (Lagos), 1 10 1986.

3 For example, The Guardian, 5 October 1986. The Nigerian Tribune, 18 October 1986, carried the complete text of the announcement.

4 Punch, 31 October 1986.

5 Nigerian Tribune, 4 October 1986. Some of the ‘leaders of thought’ elsewhere refused to accept those so posted away from Benin City because of ‘their fears that the former Bendel State policemen may likely corrupt the officers in their new states of posting’.

6 Summarised from numerous stories in the Nigerian Observer (Benin City), 08 to 12 1986.According to The Guardian, 15 October 1986, the Governor, Colonel John Mark Inienger, complained that Anini ‘doesn't live in the winds. He lives amongst us. People in this area [Benin] know his whereabouts so they should be able to provide the information. It looks as if everybody is maintaining sealed lips over his whereabouts.’

1 As a Deputy Commissioner told a reporter from Punch, 22 October 1986: Anini ‘is too good on the wheel’, hence the police always come out the losers in car chases. Another officer claimed that Anini could reach out and pick up a piece of paper from the road while driving at 120 kmh.

2 A fellow taxi-driver, cited by Etakibuebu, Godwin in Sunday Punch, 19 October 1986.

1 Sources previously cited. Also Thisweek, 15 December 1986.

2 Ibid. and 29 September 1986, p. 18.

3 Punch, 22 October 1986.

4 After his capture, Anini claimed that he had been arrested on one occasion and released by Police Chief Superintendent George lyamu, who not only ran a gang of robbers of his own, but who had actually provided weapons for Anini and suppressed information given by citizens concerning his whereabouts, and had ordered the assassination of an Assistant Inspector-General who had been posted to Benin City to help with the Anini case. Summarised from New Nigerian (Kaduna), 7 12 1986,and Nigerian Tribune, 10 December 1986. As reported in the latter newspaper the day previously, Anini explained how he had asked lyamu ‘why he did not ensure that his friend was spared since he had paid the N 50,000 demanded from him for that purpose. lyamu, he went on, sent him away with the threat that the next time he caught Anini he would shoot him.’ lyamu was tried along with members of Anini's gang by the Second Benin Armed Robbery and Firearms Tribunal, sentenced to death and executed. His properties were confiscated.West Africa (London), 19 01, 23 02, and 2 03 1987.

1 Summarised from Newswatch, 29 September 1986, pp. 18–19, and 27 October 1986, pp. 15–20; Thssweek, 29 September 1986; Nigerian Tribune, 4 October 1986;Vanguard (Lagos), 4 12 1986;Daily Times, 4 December 1986. The Guardian, 19 November 1986, reported that Akagbosu had been flown to London to have his nose fixed. According to New Nigerian, 7 December 1986, Anini's second in command claimed the attack was all a mistake: ‘We thought the people who were in the vehicle were police detectives and we wanted to perish the whole of them.’ He also told Thisweek, 15 December 1986, p. 18: ‘We don't know na Akagbosu dey inside. Lawrence was driving, then I shot him. We wanted to kill men of the C.I.D. Na dem dey come our house come collect money.’

2 Etakibuebu, loc. cit. p. 7.

3 The Guardian, 25 October 1986.

1 Sunday Tribune, 5 October 1986.

2 Newswatch, 27 October 1986, p. 20/

4 ‘Anini today is the most talked about Bendelite in Bendel State. He has become a legend even before his death which he himself has predicted will take place in one of the markets in Benin City. Anini is regarded with a mixture of awe and fear. So many myths have been built around by the public that it is not sure who the next victim would be. He is credited with so many feats, the most incredible of which is that he can disappear at will.’ Newswatch, 29 September 1986, p. 18.

5 Daily Times, 4 December 1986. According to the Vanguard, 4 December 1986, Anini was captured ‘as he ate and wined in a room in the midst of six ladies’.

1 Thisweek, 15 December 1986, p. 14.

2 West Africa, 16 December and 6 April 1987). Details from Daily Times and Vanguard, 4 December 1986;National Concord (Lagos), 5 12 1986;New Nigerian, 7 December 1986; Nigerian Tribune, 9 December 1986; Punch, 13 December 1986; and Thisweek, 15 December 1986. Only The Guardian, 13 December 1986, denounced the actions of his captors: there ‘is no reason why the police pumped six rounds of ammunition to blow off his leg. The state has the duty to protect even a notoriously bad man… It cannot be said that the force used on Anini was reasonable. It was patently brutal and unfortunate.’

1 Sunday Tribune, 26 October 1986. Newswatch, 27 October 1986, p. 22, quoted Anini's words from the same letter: ‘Tell our President, we like him but we are not happy here in Bendel. The payment for everything is too much. That is why I now divide any money I get to the people.’ Six conditions were given for peace to return to Benin: no more prosecution of innocent armed robbers; a stop to collusion between the police and the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers, and with members of the Ogboni cult; no more harrassment of market women returning from their work; the ‘abolition of the collection of 50k-N5 [by the Highway Patrol] equal treatment for everybody; and fair treatment for all legitimate drivers by the police.’

2 Adedipe, Sina, ‘The Comedy and Letters from “Lawrence Anini”’, in Sunday Concord (Lagos), 7 12 1986, p. 5.

3 When I used Anini as an example of theorising with insufficient data, my graduate students at the University of Benin came up, without much difficulty, with nine different theories claiming to explain the situation.

1 The police reported a total of 324,296 criminal offences during 1985, including 1,432 murders and 1,194 armed robberies, with an estimated loss of property worth about N 350 million. The Guardian, 19 03, and Sunday Vanguard (Lagos), 23 11 1986.See the reports in Thisweek, 15 September, and Vanguard, 22 September 1986, of Adedokun Adeyemi's seminar paper on ‘Robbery and its Countermeasures’, which included police data for armed robberies during the 1966–85 period: the largest number so recorded were 2,381 in 1980 and 2,370 in 1966, the lowest being 883 in 1974 and 1,194 in 1985. Such fluctuations suggest inconsistencies in the collection and/or presentation of the statistics by the police. See also Nkpa, N. K. U., ‘Armed Robbery in Post-Civil War Nigeria: the role of the victim’, in Victimology (Arlington, Va.), 1, 1, Spring 1976, pp. 7183; and Rotimi, Adewale, ‘Perspectives on the Armed Robbery Offence in Nigeria’, in Indian Journal of Criminology (Madras), 12, 2, 07 1984, pp. 122–35. By way of comparison, New York City recorded 1,812 murders and 107,475 robberies in 1981, according to U.S. Department of Justice, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics (Washington, D.C., 1982), p. 352.

2 Thisweek, 29 September 1986.

3 Taken respectively from Punch, 25 August 1986; Sunday Times, 24 August and 14 September 1986; Newswatch, 22 September 1986; Sunday Tribune, 28 September 1986; Sina Adedipe, in Sunday Concord, 4 May 1986; Dele Omotunde, in Newswatch, 29 September 1986;The African Guardian (Lagos), 27 11 1986;and Thisweek, 15 September 1986. Stories on crime and the police are a staple of the Nigerian mass media. Recently, reports have begun to appear on female robbers, either as accomplices to males or as being in the business for themselves.

1 ‘Anniversary: the Lion of Adelabu’, in The Guardian, 28 September 1986, p. 7.

2 A personal episode conveys the flavour. Before returning from a restaurant in Port Harcourt to the campus of the University, which is about 30 kilometres from the city centre, my Nigerian colleagues spent a long time debating which of the roads back would be least likely to have robbers lying in wait at that time of the night. Having picked what was hoped to be the ‘safest’ route, we then accelerated at totally unsafe speeds through pitch darkness to get back as quickly as possible, and all heaved a sigh of relief when the lights of the University came into view. The week before, a professor had been robbed of his car right in front of the gates to the campus.

3 By ideology I mean nothing more complicated than the notion that meaning is not self- evident in facts, but must be produced and inserted into the social fabric. The production of meaning or ideology is the work of the intelligentsia, or those who aspire to that status, who in Nigeria, as in any society, are busily employed in attempting to reshape existing socially relevant meanings. There is often only a tenuous thread linking what goes on to what is observed to go on. Nigeria has an exceedingly flourishing and diverse ideological life. Debates on political issues persist, whether officially sponsored or not, and every Nigerian seems to have worked Out a plan for setting the country straight, especially when a new system of government and administration is in the offing. For an example, see Ofonagoro, W. Ibekwe et al. , The Great Debate. Nigerian Viewpoints on the Draft Constitution, 1976/1977 (Lagos, 1977).

1 Some general treatments can be found in Ajayi, J. F. Ade and Ikara, Bashir, The Evolution of Political Culture in Nigeria (Kaduna, 1985);Dudley, Billy, An Introduction to Nigerian Government and Politics (Bloomington, 1982), pp. 1340;Nnoli, Okwudiba, Ethnic Politics in Nigeria (Enugu, 1980), ch. I; and Peil, Margaret, Nigerian Politics: the people's view (London, 1976). The described aspects of Nigerian political culture which follow, especially the images of prison and audience, are not based on systematic surveys. Rather they are impressions and interpretations which arise from reading local newspapers and journals, and from many talks over several years with Nigerian colleagues, students, and others interviewed.

2 The column appears routinely in the Vanguard.

1 The Nigerian press is little restrained by private discretion or governmental directives. The constrictions which exist are imposed largely by the professional judgements of practising editors and journalists. The press is vociferous in its clamour over suspected repression, however mild this may be – witness the uproar over Decree No. 4 by the Buhari régime. Only two journalists were ever detained under its provisions, yet on reading the press now, two years or so later, it would be easy to gain the impression that mass repression of public opinion had been carried out by dictatorial, fascist, and murderous means. It is true that a number of journalists have been questioned and/or arrested by the police, and some newspapers and magazines have been shut down occasionally – for example, Newswatch for six months, after it leaked some findings from the report of the Political Bureau, despite having been warned not to do so by the military Government. But when such events occur there is always a massive outcry by the press which is wary of – albeit not intimidated by – the soldiers. One needs to compare this Situation with the systematic, massive, and brutal repression of the media by the military in such countries as Brazil, Chile, or Guatemala in order to understand the freedom which exists in Nigeria.

1 Witness the outpouring of grief and accusations which followed the letter-bomb assassination of Dele Giwa, the editor of Newswatch. Much of this reflected genuine respect and admiration for the man, yet there was also a strong undercurrent of outrage that the killing had been aimed at the press as a whole.

2 Difficulties in communications have much to do with this. Stories cannot easily be checked, so journalists depend on what others have written earlier. Still more caution in accepting stories as facts could be exercised than is now done.

3 For example, in reading the many stories about Anini in all the papers and journals I did not once come across the word ‘rape’, though this was one of his known ‘hobbies’. The long description of Anini's life and the secret of his ‘success’ as presented by Etakibuebu, loc. cit., includes an account of two female abductions, but still manages to give the impression that the girl who participated in the ‘show all night’ ought to consider herself lucky to have been so honoured by someone of Anini's discriminating taste and sexual prowess. A number of male Nigerian journalists seem to find it difficult to conceive that rape is possible or important, and in this they are not alone, since sexism is one of the dominant traits of the political culture. See Women in Nigeria, (ed.), The Win Document: conditions of women in Nigeria and policy recommendations to 2000 AD (Zaria, 1985).

1 Interview with Police Inspector-General Alhaji Muhammadu Gambo in Vanguard, 9 December 1986. When asked whether he considered Anini's capture to be the high point of his career, Commissioner Osayande replied: ‘I can't regard this as my finest hour. I have spent over 27 years in the Police Force. I have achieved a lot and will not regard the arrest of a common criminal as my greatest achievement.’ Thisweek, 15 December 1986, p. 15.

1 Vanguard, 9 December 1986

2 The Guardian, 7 December 1986.

3 Demola Bello, ‘Lawrence Anini: a Robin Hood in Bendel’, in Sunday Tribune, 5 October 1986. To Professor Angulu Onwuejeogwu, Anini was the symbol of Nigeria's moral decay, and specifically the ‘pyramidal corruption’ in the Nigeria Police Force. As explained in Newswatch, 27 October 1986, p. 22: ‘A time comes when the whole mechanism of law and order gives way. In a situation like the one we have in Benin, the police and criminals have some understanding. Now the understanding breaks down and we have an Anini situation.’ Even Governor Inienger subscribed to this view. As reported in Ibid. p. 21: ‘there may well be some rift between Anini and the police on which only Anini can give the answer, and that is why I am doing everything possible to have the police get Anini alive because I think he has something to tell the public.’

4 Izeze, Eluem E., ‘Oyasande, the Police and Crime in Bendel’, in The Guardian, 11 October 1986. He later expressed his views thus in Ibid. 13 December 1986: perhaps ‘you were lucky enough to be a mere observer of the double siege mounted in Benin City by Anini and his men, and the police. You watched in awe as people including old women were frightened out of their cars by the police, asked to stand spreadeagled or lean in the same posture on their cars, frisked in a manner you, until then, had only watched on television or movies, kicked and slapped if they were stupid enough to protest, their pockets turned inside out, and their bags emptied on the motorway, and then ordered to run for their dear lives. Perhaps, you had tales of a different nature to tell – of how you had to part with your hard-earned naira at every stationary checkpoint (and there were many) in Benin City, at the instance of the duty policemen.’

1 Etakbucbu, ‘Anini. The Man, the Myth, and the…’, in Punch, 22 October 1986.

2 Akpata, Tayo, ‘The Anini Saga’, in The Guardian, 16 November 1986.

3 Adedipe, loc. cit.

4 Bello, loc. cit. The more straightforward reason is that people were afraid to inform on Anini. Many suspected that they would be accused of being accomplices (how else would they know?), and that the police might release their names to Anini, either publicly or through his corrupt channels. In either case they would end up suffering, and possibly dead.

1 Fadile, Tayo, ‘Anini. Any Cause for Cheers?’, in National Concord, 11 December 1986. Cf. Dele Omotunde's column, ‘A Metaphor of Horror’, in Newsatch, 29 September 1986: ‘Criminals are as good as the system. A decadent, materialist and fast decaying society can only breed false values and decadent people, some of whom would graduate into embezzlers of public money, thieves, felons, hoodlums and armed bandits.’

2 Quoted in Thisweek, 29 September 1986, p. 19. Ogugbuaja, then public relations officer for the Lagos State Police Force, was suspended by his superiors after making these and other unflattering remarks about the military while testifying before a panel investigating fraud and corruption.

3 Bassey, Nimmo, ‘Politics of Armed Robbery’, in The Guardian, 5 October 1986.

1 Kolawole, Tunde, ‘The Anini Factor’, in Nigerian Tribune, 31 October 1986.

2 Relations between the police and Nigerians are not good. It is the common perception of many members of the public and the press that the police are, routinely and systematically, corrupt, inefficient, and not interested in protecting people or property. General descriptions of the state of relations between the police and the community can be found in Carter, Marshall H. and Marenin, Otwin, ‘Law Enforcement and Political Change in Post-Civil War Nigeria’, in Journal of Criminal Justice (Ann Arbor), 9, 1981, pp. 125–49; and Igbinovia, Patrick E., ‘the Police in Trouble: administrative and organisational problems in the Nigeria Police Force’, in Indian Journal of Public Administration (New Delhi), 28, 1982, pp. 334–72.

3 Fadile, loc. cit.

4 Editorial, ‘Anini: the euphoria and the challenge’, in The Guardian, 13 December 1986.

5 Etakbuebu, loc. cit. 22 October 1986.

6 Newswatch, 27 October 1986. The Oba of Benin reacted angrily when asked whether he had ‘some undeclared sympathies for Anini’. According to Ibid. pp. 18–19, he demanded an apology for questions ‘which I regret to say seem ill-motivated. I like to add that we in Benin do not encourage or condone evil in any form.’ Stories about the ‘rôle’ of the royal court in the affairs of Anini are among the most confused and confusing. Were the Oba and/or members of his household so upset that one of their members had been executed that they used Anini to attack the police who had caught Prince Eweka? Had perhaps some used Anini to indirectly challenge the Oba who had failed to protect a member of the royal family from the police and the courts? To what extent was the Anini affair regarded as an attack on the traditional rulers? If the very powerful Oba of Benin City could not protect his people against a common criminal, what good was the institution?

1 Newswatch, 27 October 1986, p. 14.

1 Said Anini: ‘I did not kill police. My is to do my own. I am a driver, I drive. I always beg them not to kill policemen, not to kill people. My problem with the police is that them kill my father and my brother at Ibadan, and my friend Kingsley Eweka.’ Thisweek, 15 December 1986.

2 Summarised from Ibid. pp. 14–19; Sunday New Nigerian (Kaduna), 7 12 1986; and Nigerian Tribune, 9 December 1986.

1 The tendency to ‘romanticise’ or ‘politicise’ crime is not peculiar to Nigeria. For example, Mahabir, Cynthia, Crime and Nation-Building: the legacy of legal barriers (Cambridge, Mass., 1985), analyses the criminalisation of resistance by the Black Power movement in Tobago to ‘colonial’ laws, and concludes that activities labelled ‘criminal’ are, in fact, nation-building efforts. Similar arguments can be found in Sumner, Cohn (ed.), Crime, Justice and Underdevelopment (London, 1982). The classic statement of this position is, of course, Hobsbawm, E. J., Primitive Rebels (New York, 1959). It may be true that some crimes and some criminals are political in intent. But it is unconvincing to argue that crime in general, if done by the oppressed, the exploited, and the poor, has this ‘Robin Hood’ and ‘freedom fighter’ colouration. More likely, it is just crime – that is robbing, stealing, and killing for personal revenge or advancement.

1 An excellent and convincing study of hegemony at work can be found in Hall, Stuart et al. , Policing the Crisis: muggings, the state, and law and order (London, 1978). They present two main arguments: that panics are manufactured, by the media largely; and that they are orchestrated, that is controlled and guided by the state. The Anini panic was manufactured and shaped by and within the particular configurations of public opinion, professionalism in the media, and the interactions of social groups and state agencies. It was not orchestrated.

2 See the excellent discussion of the weakness, disunity, and ineffectiveness of the Nigerian state by Forrest, Tom, ‘The Political Economy of Civil Rule and the Economic Crisis in Nigeria (1979–1984)’, in Review of African Political Economy (Sheffield), 35, 1986, pp. 426.

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