Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Between 15.00 hours and 15.30 local time on April 1, 2008, the city of Cotonou was greeted with an unprecedented commando-style armed robbery. Some robbers numbering about fifteen had anchored at the lagoon which constitutes the eastern border of the Dantokpa international market within the city centre. They looked like other fishermen and passenger ferry boats who disembark by that harbour to enter the market. So, it was difficult to suspect anything uncommon except that their speed boats’ engines never stopped running.
Their destination was two international banks located within twenty meters of each other within the main bowl of the Dantokpa market. Within less than two minutes of assuming strategic positions, the robbers who were apparently heavily armed with automatic sub-machine guns and some AK-47 simultaneously fired warning shots and ordered everyone in the banks to stay quiet. They then went ahead to amass every cash they could lay hands on including from customers who had not yet handed theirs to the Bank cashiers. Operations ended, the robbers then engaged in sporadic firing, shattering doors and protective gates in their bid to escape. While people dived into nearest hidings for dear lives, the robbers sped off to their waiting flying boats and disappeared into the high sea.
The Manager of the Dantokpa branch of Diamond Bank and his staff were in a very traumatic state of mind to speak to anyone. All he could tell me as I pressed to get some bit of information was that they had a hierarchy in the bank, and I should rather approach their headquarters to speak with the Public Relations Officer. As at the time of filing in this report, all the Banks branches have been placed under lock and key. The Police Commissioner at the Dantokpa post told me that his men had not arrived at any conclusive reports, and so could not risk any incorrect information.
All the traders and business people within the two adjoining international markets had thronged to the scene of the incidence to see things for themselves, as there had never been any robbery of its kind before in the city. When I tried to speak with some of them, they were unanimous in condemning the general security situation in the city. They were of the opinion that if there had been adequate security, such an incident could not have taken place. Meanwhile there has not been any word as to how much money had been taken away by the robbers. But on a usual Tuesday (which records high traffic on account of traders coming from Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina-Fasso), the takes are always higher than other days of the week. Therefore, the robbers must have taken this trend into consideration before embarking on their operation.

The "James Bond" style of escape by the daylight bank robbers in Cotonou yesterday still holds the populace spellbound. This morning, people are apprehensive of opening their business houses. They just gather around in clusters, discussing the dramatic event of yesterday. Armed security officials are being noticed at all the Bank premises, which had not been a common feature in the past.
The Police Commissioner at the Central Police station has confirmed that four (4) persons have been taken into custody for questioning in connection with the said robbery. The suspects are said to be some members of the gang who could not hasten into the speed boat as it hurried away with their loot. These four men therefore decided to join their group at some predesignated spot but were unfortunately caught within three kilometres on their way outside the city. Some of the evidences found in their possession include locally made shortguns and packets of unused ammunition.
What appears to be collateral damage resulting from the robbers fire power include two soldiers identified as Houssou Fiarc and Eric, whom the robbers perceived as potential impediment to their escape bid and sought to get rid of them. The two soldiers are reported to have died from gun shot wounds and have been deposited at the University Teaching Hospital where two other women are still being treated for serious bullet wounds.
Bureau de Change operators in the informal sector who have their shops or stalls right in front of the motorway that passes through the market have got stories of having been robbed during that operation.

No comments: