Who was Lawrence Anini?
Lawrence Anini, also known as ‘the law’, was born in 1960, the year Nigeria gained her independence, to the families of Owuo 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 neighboring towns; he unleashed havoc on civilians, police and banks as well with his gang of five men, including his brutal side kick, 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 spine of both the rich and the struggling. 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, for masterminding the assassination of an Assistant Inspector General, Christopher Omuben, who was in charge of the investigation of 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.
Several accounts revealed Anini’s tactics while on a robbery operation. It was said that he would drive recklessly and spray out some of his booties on the road for people to pick and as a result of this, police chasing Anini will be distracted by the helter-skelter of people struggling to pick free cash. 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’s popularity over-shadowed that of Ishola Oyenusi, Babatunde Folorunsho and other contemporary robbers in the 1970s. Lawrence Nomayagbon Anini’s fame climbed its peak when in October 1986, he attacked the military junta of president Ibrahim Badamsi Babangida. This incident made the infuriated President asked the then Inspector-General of Police, Etim Inyang, a very popular question, “My friend, where is Anini?”. When he couldn’t get a definite answer, he ordered the instant arrest of the fearsome Anini, Monday Osumbor and the rest of the gang. But this manhunt didn’t stop Anini from unleashing terror on the country. This time, several superstitions about Anini had spread round the country like wildfire, particularly among the 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 the adage says, “Everyday belongs to the thief, while the owner owns a single day”.