Many suspected armed robbers had been taken to the office of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Ikeja, Lagos State for questioning, but nobody had heard of a woman and her two kids being taken there.
But a housewife, Victoria Onyinye, is now revealing how her husband, two kids and herself were taken into a place she called: “SARS torture chamber.”
According to Onyinye, she, her five-year-old son and a year-old son were forced to watch as police tortured her husband.
The policemen kept shouting: “Where is the money? Where is the money?”
She said when her husband, Victor Anamelechi, repeatedly denied knowing what they were talking about, the policemen started hitting him.
She recounted that her husband was arrested just as he was coming out from a branch of Guaranty Trust Bank at Amuwo Odofin, where he went to cash money for their use.
Anamelechi was picked up by SARS men and taken to his home at Bashorun Ogundairo Estate, an upscale residential estate in Amuwo Odofin.
When they got to his home, they met Onyinye and her two kids.
The family watched, scared as the armed men shouted at Anamelechi: Where’s the money? Where’s the money?
Onyinye said: “My husband told them that he didn’t have money. When my husband said he didn’t have any money, they asked for his ATM card PIN. He refused to give it. One of them placed a gun against the head of my five-year-old son, threatening to shoot him unless my husband gives them his PIN or account number. This happened on December 15, 2014. But till date, my son still wakes up in the middle of the night, shaking and screaming, mummy, gun! Mummy, gun!”
Scared the policemen may shoot and kill his son, Anamelechi bowed to the demands of the policemen.
He was said to have been taken to the bank on three different occasions by the policemen, where N7.7 million was cashed and taken by the policemen.
The family and lawyer of the Anamelechis’ were said to have gone to the Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria after the stay of Anamelechi in SARS custody became too long, without him being charged to court.
The wife said Anamelechi was accosted by SARS operatives as he was coming out from the bank premises, where he had gone to withdraw some money. Onyinye said she later heard from the SARS men that Anamelechi was being held for robbery. She however believed he was being held on trumped up charges.
Onyinye said her husband had been in the custody of the policemen since December 15, 2014 over an alleged offence of armed robbery. She wondered why he had not been charged to court since then.
She said: “Some minutes after my husband left home for the bank, I started calling his phone, but he wasn’t picking. I’d not dropped the phone I used in calling him when some unidentified men in mufti walked into our home.
“The manner they barged into our home shocked me. I couldn’t recognise any of them. They were with my husband. They were asking my husband, where’s the money! Where’s the money! The way they were asking, where is the money, I thought they were armed robbers. When they noticed that I was not saying anything, one of them started beating me. At the same time, they started searching every part of our house. I didn’t understand.”
Onyinye said some important documents were retrieved and taken away by the SASRS operatives without any Warrant of Arrest or Search Warrant.
“They took my husband’s laptop, Ipad, phones and my jewelries were all taken away,” said Onyinye.
She further said that after the operatives had taken whatever they wanted from the apartment, everybody in the house was arrested.
Aside from her, the kids and husband, her brother-in-law and her course mate who came to pay them a visit were also arrested.
She recalled: “The two vehicles parked in our compound – Acura MDX and Toyota Corolla – were taken away. They also took our dogs away. They took us to their station at Ikeja. When we got there, they insisted they wanted to know my husband’s bank account and his Automated Teller Machine card PIN. They said he was arrested for armed robbery.”
She explained further that the policemen took her husband to the bank and withdrew N7.7 million from his account on different occasions.
Onyinye said: “The first time they went to the bank and came back, they locked him up in the male cell at the command, while I and my children were detained in the female section of the cell. My children and I spent two weeks in the cell without food. Whenever it rains, we wouldn’t feel comfortable. Sometimes at night, my kids would wake me, crying for their father.”
Anamelechi’s wife said that SARS cell is not a place for human beings, adding that inmates defecate and bath without proper sanitation.
“It was inside the cell I had a miscarriage at night. I almost lost my life. While I was crying of pains, my children were also crying,” stated Onyinye. “On the second night of our detention, I had a miscarriage in the cell and the whole place was filled with blood. Within three days there, my children and I almost died as we were always hungry.”
Onyinye said on December 29, 2014, the cries of her kids attracted the attention of a senior police officer at SARS, who came to the cell and ordered that the woman and her kids be released immediately. “We were released the following day.”
When she was released, she got permission from one of SARS operatives, named Hassan, to go home and get a change of clothes for her kids.
Speaking like one still in shock as she recollected the event of that day, she said: “When I got home, eight heavily armed policemen, led by the same Sergeant Abdulraman who arrested my husband, stormed the house with three vehicles. For reason I can’t fathom, they started beating me mercilessly. Sergeant Abdulraman and his men removed all our furniture, fittings and household items. Items they couldn’t remove were destroyed. They confiscated my ATM card and also forced me to disclose my PIN at gun point. The following day, when I went to my bank, I discovered my account had been emptied.”
On February 23, 2015, Anamelechi’s younger brother, Azunna, got a call from the SARS operatives.
They ordered him to bring the keys to his brother’s shop at Alaba International Market, where Anamelechi used to sell generators.
Azunna took the keys to SARS and he was arrested and brought to Alaba Market in handcuffs. The policemen took away all the generators in the shop and detained Azunna for four days.
Onyinye said: “The SARS operatives made my life and those of my family members unbearable! They subjected us to absolute fear. It was as a result of this incident that my husband’s mother died.”
The National Coordinator of NOPRIN, Okechukwu Nwanguma, urged the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, to look into Anamelechi’s plight and get him out of the police detention since SARS had refused to charge him to court.
Onyinye said: “My children have stopped going to school since their dad was detained. We cannot go into our apartment anymore. The place had been sealed up. Since we had no place to sleep, we have relocated to our village.”
We use police uniform to rob filling stations, ATM galleries, says Anamelechi
Victor Anamelechi 45 is being held for robbery by SARS operatives, Ikeja.
Anamelechi, unaware that his wife, Onyinye has been speaking with journalists, confessed to being an armed robber.
He said that he and his gang members used to dress in police uniforms to rob filling stations. The gang also specialised in attacking ATM galleries, he said.
Anamelechi, who has a shop at Alaba International Market, where he sells generator sets, said that most people believed him to be a genuine trader.
SARS operatives have accused him of organising most major bank robberies in Ogun, Kogi, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Anambra States.
A police source said: “His gang operates with two Ak-47 rifles. The gang coordinated trans-border bank robberies in Benin Republic, Togo and Mali, where they realized huge sum of money. He met his waterloo after SARS operatives led by the Officer-in-Charge of SARS, SP. Abba Kyari, rounded about seven members of his gang and recovered their operational rifles, ammunitions and vehicles.”
Recalling how he was arrested, Anamelechi said SARS operatives trailed and arrested a gang member, Nnamdi ,at Igando area, after the gang’s last operation in Benin Republic, where they robbed a bank and carted away millions.
“The police arrested Nnamdi and he led the police to me. Nnamdi called me, saying I should meet him at Apple Junction in Amuwo Odofin. When I got there, I discovered that he was with the police. They apprehended me.”
It was further gathered that during a search of his apartment, some residents said they were shocked that Anamelechi is a suspected armed robber.
A resident, who described Anamelechi as one of the respected members in the estate, added: “He’s a highly respected person in this estate. He and members of his family drive around the estate in exotic cars. We heard he is a trader. I respect this man. I’ve always wanted to be like him. I was extremely shocked when I saw policemen handcuffed and brought him to his house. I wondered what he could have done wrong. I learnt later that he was an armed robber. Ever since that incident, I have stopped paying too much respect to rich people who drive expensive cars in the area.”
Singing in SARS, Anamelechi said he was forced into robbery by poverty.
According to him, he joined an robbery gang in 2010 when things were very difficult for him and his family. He said that things were so tough, that he could barely feed his wife and kids.
Anamelechi said: “I usually go to Alaba Market to look for job. I was making absolutely nothing. I became confused. I had a friend who told me there was a way out from poverty. He introduced me to his gang. The gang had just locally made guns. They used to sneak into fillings stations at night and broke into safes. Robbing filling stations is easy. Most fillings stations operators usually don’t go home with their daily sales. The gang would go at night, burgle the place and cart away all the money in the office.
“I met Alhaji, Dabo and Akin in the gang. Our targets were usually busy fillings stations on Badagry Expressway, LASU-Igando Road, Lagos-Abeokuta Road, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and Ikorodu Road. I started making money. I enrolled my children into good schools and I opened a small business for my wife. People in my area at Shibiri, in Ajangbadi area, didn’t know what I was doing. They thought fortune has smiled my way. After a while, some of the fillings station owners started employing armed security guards and then made our operations difficult.”
Anamelechi confessed that at point, Debo introduced the gang to one Nnamdi who had two Ak47 rifles. Anamelechi said he didn’t know how Nnamdi got the rifles. He however remembered that Nnamdi told him that he was a member of an armed robber gang. Nnamdi had also boasted that no member of his gang had ever being killed. Nnamdi’s bragging impressed everyone in Anamelechi’s gang.
“We adopted him into our gang. He suggested we should buy police uniforms so that when we visit any fillings stations, the armed guards would think we are policemen on routine patrol,” narrated Anamelechi. “We bought police uniforms and started using it to rob. We robbed a lots of fillings stations. Once we get to any filling station, we would tie up the guards before embarking on the operation.”
Bad news travels like wildfire. The news that some policemen used to rob filling station travelled wide. Soon, once any filling station security sees policemen coming, they would fear the worst and do everything to stop them from entering their premises.
Anamelechi said that the gang had to change tactics in robbery after filling station operations became difficult. The gang met, brainstormed and came up with the idea of attacking ATM galleries across states.
He said: “Our first ATM and fast food robbery was in Ogun State. We realised N400, 000 from the operation.
The second operation was at a bank in Okene in Kogi State. We were however still trying to open the vault at the Okene robbery, when our burner got spoilt. We stopped working and returned to Lagos.”
Anamelechi said that before the gang attacks any bank, surveillance would be carried out, to know the numbers of policemen or security guards guarding it. “If the place is clear, we would strike!”
He noted that the gang’s most money-spinning operation was in Ogun State. The gang got well over N15 million from the ATM vault. On that same day, the gang attacked a filling station and smiled away with N3.5 million.
“We also robbed banks in Akwa Ibom, Port Harcourt, Onitsha,” said Anamelechi. “Anytime we went on operation, my role is to open the vaults. I use a special metal to open the lock of the vaults. Even if it the vault has a special code, I would open it! I bought three vehicles from the loots; two for me and one for my wife. I also built a house at Amuwo Odofin. I opened a big shop in Alaba Market.”
A police source said: “Controversy is currently trailing Anamelechi’s arrest. A nongovernmental organisation, notorious for soliciting for armed robbers and kidnappers, is mounting pressure on the police to free Anamelechi and other members of his gang. The NGO is being sponsored by relatives of suspected robbers and kidnappers who are in police custody. This NGO wants the police authorities to release Anamelechi unconditionally as he is a law abiding businessman who was arrested illegally by police.”
Some traders at Alaba Market, where he has a shop, claimed they rarely see him at the market.
A trader, identified as Charles Mba, said he only knows Azunna. “I was shocked when the police came and sealed up their shop with members of the task force,” said Mba.
The market task force chairman for Electronic section of the market also denied knowing Anamelechi.
His words: “The incident is unfortunate. We don’t condone crime in this market. Buying and selling of stolen goods are not allowed. It’s not acceptable. Whoever is caught would be handed over to the police. On the day the police came to the market, they booked their arrival and told us their mission. When I looked at the case, I knew it was a bad one. We assisted them and they parked all the goods in the man’s shop. One thing is that I don’t know this guy. This market is very big. I can’t know everybody that trades here. I’m familiar with those who come to my office and those who are popular in the market. Our chairman usually calls for general meeting. He used to advise the traders to keep away from crime. He used to tell them that if police arrest them, we would not come for them.”