Anini was born in 1960 in a village about 20 miles from Benin City, present-day Edo State. He migrated to Benin at an early age, learned to drive, and became a skilled taxi driver.
He became known in Benin motor parks as a man who could control the varied competing interests among motor park touts and operators. He later delved into the criminal business in the city and soon became a driver and transporter for gangs, criminal godfathers, and thieves.
Later on, he decided to create his own gang which includes, Monday Osunbor, Ofege, and others, and they started out as car hijackers, bus robbers, and bank thieves. Gradually, he extended his criminal acts to other towns and cities far north and east of Benin.
The complicity of the police is believed to have triggered Anini’s reign of terror in 1986. In early 1986, two members of his gang were tried and prosecuted against an earlier under-the-table ‘agreement’ with the police to destroy evidence against the gang members.
The incident, and Anini’s view of police betrayal, is believed to have spurred retaliatory actions by Anini. In August 1986, a fatal bank robbery linked to Anini was reported in which a police officer and others were killed.
That same month, two officers on duty were shot at a barricade while trying to stop Anini’s car. During a span of three months, he was known to have killed nine police officers.
In an operation in August of 1986, the Anini team struck at First Bank, Sabongida-Ora, where they carted away N2,000. But although the amount stolen was seen as chicken feed, they left the scene with a trail of blood. Many persons were killed.
On September 6, the same year, the Anini gang snatched a Peugeot 504 car from Albert Otoe, the driver of an Assistant Inspector General of Police, Christopher Omeben. In snatching the car, they killed the driver and went to hide his corpse somewhere.
It was not until three months later that the skeleton of the driver was spotted 16 kilometers away from Benin, along the Benin-Agbor highway. A day after this attack, Anini, operating in a Passat car believed to have been stolen, also effected the snatching of another Peugeot 504 car near the former FEDECO office, in Benin.
Two days after, the Anini men killed two policemen in Orhiowon Local Government Area of the state. Still in that month, three different robbery attacks, all pointing to Anini’s involvement, took place.
A day after the operation, Anini, The Law, turned to a ‘Father Christmas’ as he strews wads of naira notes on the ground for free pick by market men and women at a village near Benin.
Anini thus spear-headed a four-month reign of terror between August and December 1986. Anini also reportedly wrote numerous letters to media houses using political tones of Robin Hood-like words, to describe his criminal acts.
Worried by the seeming elusiveness of Anini and his gang members, the then military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, ordered a massive manhunt for the kingpin and his fellow robbers.
The police thus went after them, combing every part of Bendel State where they were reportedly operating and living. The whole nation was gripped with fear of the robbers and their daredevil exploits.
However, police manhunt failed to stop their activities; the more they were hunted, the more intensified their activities became. Some of the locals in the area even began to tell stories of their invincibility and for a while, it felt like they were never going to be caught.
However, at the conclusion of a meeting of the Armed Forces Ruling Council in October 1986, General Babangida turned to the Inspector-General of Police, Etim Inyang, and asked, ‘My friend, where is Anini?
At about this time, Nigerian newspapers and journals were also publishing various reports 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’.
Finally, it took the courage of Superintendent of Police, Kayode Uanreroro, to bring the Anini reign of terror to an end. On December 3, 1986, Uanreroro caught Anini at No 26, Oyemwosa Street, opposite Iguodala Primary School, Benin City, in company with six women.
Friday 3rd of July 2020