Lawrence Nomayagbon Anini aka ‘the law’ was born in 1960, the same year Nigeria gained her independence, to the families of Owuo quarters 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, unleashing havoc on the civilians, police and banks as well with his gang of five men, including his 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 that sends fear down the spine of both the rich and the masses. Anini’s major concentration in his robbery career was robbing banks and assassinating top 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 turned out unsuccessful, Anini and his gang only killed Omuben’s driver, a Sargent named Albert Otue, who was mistaken for Omuben. He was beheaded and dumped in a shrub along the Benin- Agbor road.
Lawrence Anini | Photo Credit: National Mirror
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, he was mercilessly beaten and shot several times, but he eventually survive the attack sustaining 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, the police chasing Anini will be distracted by the helter-skelter of people struggling to pick free cash. Some other accounts said that Lawrence Anini and Monday Osumbor sprayed out money out of their generosity and because they knew the people were really suffering. This earned Anini another nickname, ‘The Governor‘.
Anini’s popularity over-shadowed that of Ishola Oyenusi and other contemporary robbers in the 1970s. 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 quick arrest of the fearsome Anini and Monday Osumbor and the rest of the gang also. 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”.
Monday Osumbo, Anini’s sidekick | Photo Credit: National Mirror
This was for Anini on the 3rd of December, 1986 when nemesis caught up with him and his gruesome activities.
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 pry. sch, Benin) in company of his girlfriends. He was shot in his left leg while trying to escape. His leg was later amputated in a military hospital. Monday Osumbor and other members of the gang were also apprehended by the police and were casted 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 all the allegations of collaborating with Anini that were made against him, 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 lair!“.
While the judge was passing his judgement, he 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 suspects were executed by a firing squad on the 29th of March, 1987.
And that was the end of the reign of terror of Lawrence Nomayagbon Anini in Nigeria.
*Marenin, Otwin; June 1987; “The Anini Saga:
Armed Robbery and the Reproduction of
Ideology in Nigeria”. The Journal of Modern
African Studies .