As I tuned in to Traffic Radio 96.1 fm to listen to a live programme, that rainy Friday morning 28 June, which to me was the number one ritual, performed on driving out of the house in order to understand the situation of Lagos roads and to guide my trip, many commuters were calling in on the live programme to share their travel experiences within Lagos metropolis.
One striking thing about the programme that morning, which hosted Taiwo Olufemi Salaam, permanent secretary, ministry of transportation of Lagos State, was the complaints of many of the callers about the growing security concern in Lagos, especially in heavy traffic areas.
Most importantly, was the testimony of one of the callers (name withheld), who gave account of how robbers shot and killed one of his friends between Iyana-Isolo and Cele axis of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.
According to the caller, the horrible incident occurred on that fateful night Liverpool FC defeated FC Barcelona at the last season’s Champions League semi-finals.
He said the deceased left his office that fateful night in his Toyota Corona car together with one of his brothers. On getting to Iyana-Isolo and Cele axis of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, there was heavy traffic congestion on the road such that the deceased had to go to Iyana-Isolo Bridge to turn and join the service lane, but that did not solve the problem.
“The traffic became alarming such that it was on standstill. This made the deceased to come down from his car to ascertain the cause of the traffic. Unknown to him, some robbers riding on a bike popularly known as ‘okada’ approached him and shot him pointblank on the stomach for no just reason,” the caller narrated.
Narrating further, the caller reported that it was the sound of the gunshot that woke the brother of his riding with the deceased, who was sleeping in the car when the incident occurred. Other commuters, who were trapped in the same traffic, deserted their cars and fled at the sound of the gunshot leaving the deceased and his brother.
“The only thing the deceased was able to say was, ‘take me to the hospital because I was speaking with the last strength in me’. The people around, who returned after the robbers had left, managed to take him from the traffic to a nearby hospital, where he was rejected but on getting to another hospital that accepted him, he was pronounced dead on arrival. That was how a promising young man lost his life for no just reason,” the caller added.
The pathetic story of the above mentioned young man, who lost his life to traffic robbers, was one among many of such incidents, which commuters experience while travelling or trapped in traffic on Lagos roads.
In Lagos today, there is rising spate of insecurity on Lagos roads perpetrated day and night by traffic robbers, who seize traffic opportunities to rob innocent commuters and motorists of their belongings.
This pathetic development has attracted public outcry as many Lagos residents, especially those living in Lagos suburbs and other remote communities have called all security operatives and the state government to come to their rescue.
Mile 2 axis of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway has for years been a major operating spot for traffic robbers. In many instances, the robbers approach motorists ordering them to wind down, and give them money or risk forceful attacks particularly for those who try to struggle with them.
However, many others have had their glasses chartered by these miscreants even as some have been attacked at gunpoint or with other harmful weapons at one time or the other.
BDSUNDAY discovered that all roads in Lagos State, the presumed ‘mega city’, is usually characterised by heavy traffic congestion largely due to high influx of vehicular movements and bad roads occasioned by presence of potholes and gullies, even on major roads, including some of the bridges.
Many Lagos roads usually record high traffic congestion during rainy seasons and that comes with heavy flooding on the roads as a result of poor drainage system and illegal blockage of canals.
A few days ago, one Ekene Okoro, a Lagos-based journalist, was attacked at Cele bus stop on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway. The account, which was tagged ‘My Experience: Robbed in the Rain,’ he narrated that at exactly 9:35pm, Wednesday, June 26, “I finally came face to face with dare-devil Lagos traffic robbers.”
“Until now, I had only been privy to listen to cases involving colleagues, close friends/relatives and a few friends on this platform (social media). I had just dropped off my colleague and friend at Iyana Itire bus stop on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway. For the very second time since nearly a year, I dropped him off every night, I felt pity for him. Reason because the rain was pummeling hard, fast and furious. I had no umbrella to spare him, but he assured me that he would be fine and home in no time.
“As I drove off, driving became a little bit harder, the rain covered my windscreen and even my wipers could do little to help the situation. The construction work by Hitech on Oshodi-Apapa Expressway main lane inward Mile 2, compelled all vehicles approaching Cele Express bus-stop to negotiate to the service lane in order to continue their journey. I had become familiar with the route. So, it was neither a problem, even in the downpour.
“With less than 200 metres from Cele bus-top very close to PM Fuel Station, a little traffic had built up, perhaps, caused by the rain and a few cars driving on the opposite direction. I kept to the lane on the left, really for no reason but for the fact that I felt it would move faster.”
“While enjoying a solemn gospel track, two young guys, perhaps in their twenties, approached from the opposite direction of the road and stopped right in front of my car. The vehicle in front was a commercial Tata Bus; hence, they needed the next private vehicle to perpetrate their nefarious intentions.
“One of them hollered, ‘Oga wind down your glass or I go break am’, brandishing an old-fashioned machete. I had last seen a sample like that in my village a few years ago. The other had an old dane pistol. I had seen a few in some Nollywood series.
“Immediately, I complied. ‘Oya bring the money, bring your phone’, the two robbers barked at me. Unfortunately for them and fortunately for me, I had only N1, 800 in the hand-rest of my car. I offered them the cash and my Tecno phone. They were unimpressed. ‘Oga come down jor’, they ordered me, preferring to conduct the ultimate search themselves.
“Flashing lights from the cars at the rear, perhaps gave away my watch as one instructed me to take it off my wrist, while the other continued the frantic search, scattering my documents and papers in the pigeon hole of my car.
“Done with me, they ordered me to move. At this point, I felt they wanted to use me as a bait to raid other vehicles behind. The rain kept pouring, there I was, barefooted (I had taken off my shoes earlier to free my legs a bit), walking in the rain. I felt like laughing, it seems like a scene in a movie, but it was real and I was the main character.
“As soon as I saw that they were distracted with their next victim; the first thought was to run far away from the scene, second thought was to head back to my car and zoom off. I listened to the second thought. I sneaked back to my car, approaching from the front and hoped to jump in and zoom off. Alas! They had taken my key as a collateral damage. My car needed to be motionless in order to create artificial traffic and trap more victims,” the victim narrated.
“Realising this, I stood by my car, hands akimbo, watching as the boys had a field day moving from car to car. Some put up a fight, some complied like me. Those who resisted had their windows shattered. Satisfied, they made their way to the other side of the road to the waiting arms of an okada rider, perhaps, the third man in the team.
“At this point, I summoned courage and approached them. ‘Bros, what of my key na’, I asked. I beckoned again, this time speaking their native language. One searched his pocket for it and offered to throw it to me than have me, approach them. I collected my keys and continued my journey with too many thoughts at that point racing through my mind,” the victim added.
According to him, the experience was unbelievable even though he had really lost nothing to them, except some memorable videos, recordings, photos gathered in the last four years, especially that of his family that were stored on his phone.
Apart from Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, axis such as Iponri-Alaka-Eko Bridge and Ijora-Apapa Wharf, known for its notorious traffic congestion, is popular spot for miscreants who perpetrate crime against innocent commuters.
In his own case, Idowu Johnson (not real name) a Lagos-based banker, was riding home with two of his colleagues one fateful night. One of his colleagues occupied the passenger seat in the front while the second person occupied the seat directly behind the passenger seat.
The second colleague was on call when they drove out of their office in Apapa after work. Owing to a traffic snarl on the bridge shortly after Leventis towards the Ijora Bridge, Johnson was forced to slow down. About 10 minutes into the traffic, two uncoordinated coarsed male voices were heard, saying, “bring am, bring that phone,” that was the voices of two bad boys, who approached the vehicle and ordered the person behind the passenger seat to give them her phone.
It was at that point that the lady tried to roll up the glass to prevent them access into the car. Then, one of the boys used a stone and shattered the glass, and eventually made away with the lady’s hand bag containing her phones, identification card, ATM card and some other of her belongings without any reasonable cash.
When Johnson’s car was being robbed by the two miscreants, although there were passers-by and bystanders, no one challenged the thieves; everyone minded their businesses such that none of them made any effort to rescue the victims from the hoodlums or prevented the attack.
This is always the case and fate of any commuter, that falls victim of traffic robbers in Lagos as people rarely make effort to help others in such a situation. It is always, a matter of ‘To your tent O Israel.” In Lagos, traffic robbery occurs mostly in places with bad roads like the many incidents recorded on Apapa axis.
Recently, there was an ugly incident at Oshodi, when some traffic robbers, who initially feigned to be beggars, dispossessed some ladies of their cash and other personal effects.
The most intriguing aspect of the sad story was that one of the robbers forcefully removed a wedding ring from the finger of one of the ladies and swallowed it. He later confessed that, that was his method and that after swallowing such rings, he would go to a safe place and vomit them.
The suspect, 19-year-old Taofeek Adebayo, was arrested by the men of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the Lagos State Police Command at Oshodi-Oke together with his accomplice, 20-year old Toheeb Tijani, shortly after dispossessing two ladies in a grey Sienna SUV of a gold earring and a set of wedding rings.
Similarly, one Emeka Eze, who was driving alone from his house in Surulere to Apapa, was robbed at a gunpoint by two bad boys on Alaka-Eko Bridge, one morning that his car broke down on top of the Bridge.
Narrating his experience, Eze told BDSUNDAY that on his way to his office that morning, his car developed battery fault and suddenly stopped on top of Alaka-Eko Bridge.
“As the car stopped, I came down from the vehicle, opened my bonnet to realise that it was the battery of my car that was bad. I had three of my phones with me including my ipad. I took one of my phones and called a friend, who at that time was also driving towards Apapa. He told me to stay put and wait for him as he was somewhere around Surulere. That was how I sat in the vehicle with my car bonnet open, waiting for my colleague.
“In a twinkle of an eye, I sighted two mean–looking young boys coming towards me from the opposite direction of the bridge. On seeing them, I told myself that this was no friendly visit judging by their appearance. On reaching where I parked, one of them pulled up his shirt and showed me a gun tucked into his trousers.
“He immediately issued an instruction, ‘cooperate, and bring out your phones and money if you don’t want us to harm you.’ I did not attempt to struggle with them and they collected all my phones including my ipad, ransacked the whole of my vehicle to ensure that nothing was left behind. They even collected the little money I had on me that very morning and zoomed off on a waiting okada.
“When this incident was happening, many other cars were passing and I could read the expression on their faces to mean that this man is being robbed, but none stopped to help,” Eze added.
To this end, Mohammed Ali, deputy commissioner of Police (Operations), Lagos State Police Command, recently warned traffic robbers and cult members in the state to renounce criminal activities, as the force had resolved to track them down.
He pointed out that various proactive strategies have been put in place to suppress and clamp down on traffic robbers in the state.
“Traffic robbers and cultists are criminals. My advice to them is to relocate, out of Lagos otherwise, we will dislocate them. Anyone arrested will be charged to court and he or she would end up in prison.
“Then, life to such person will have no meaning. So, instead of wasting your life as a young boy in jail, why don’t you drop the idea of joining any of these groups of criminals- be it cultists, traffic robbers, armed robbers or kidnappers?” he questioned.
Despite this note of warning, many of these bad boys have continued to perpetrate these evil acts against innocent Lagosians. Commuters are being molested on a daily basis even in the full glare of the public without fear.
Miscreants and hoodlums seize every opportunity to dispossess motorists and passengers of their belongings, especially when they are trapped in the traffic.
Hence, the need for officers of the Nigerian Police Force and the Lagos State Government to collaborate in addressing the rising security challenges in the state.
Also, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration in the state needs to, as matter of urgency, begin aggressive rehabilitation and repair of all the bad portions of Lagos major expressways as well as high traffic areas in order to reduce heavy traffic congestion on the road, which the bad boys capitalise on to ply their evil trade.
Places like Oshodi-Oke, Oshodi-Isale, Idumota – Eko, CMS, Costain, Maryland and Gbagada are also notorious for traffic robbery.
Just recently, a team of surveillance attached to the Police Command in Lagos State arrested five traffic robbery suspects.
According to Bala Elkana, spokesperson of the command, the suspects were arrested by the police patrol team on surveillance along Oshodi/Apapa Expressway.
Elkana narrated that the policemen sighted some bandits under Daleko Bridge, taking advantage of the traffic congestion to rob motorists and other members of the public of their valuables such as laptops, cell phones and money.
He said three suspects namely 19-year old Daniel Ani; 17-year old Akinbode Muiz, and 24-year old Oluwasegun Emmanuel were arrested, and they confessed to being responsible for traffic robbery along Mushin and its environs.
They also confessed to have stolen numerous phones and bags from different victims as well as a bag containing the sum of N25,000 belonging to one Oyebanji Ibukun of No 14, Waheed Ologunju Street, Oke-Afa Isolo before they were apprehended by the Police.
In addition, two other suspected traffic robbers, 20-year old Samson Oluwa, 22-year old and Michael Amodu Adamu, were also arrested in an all-night sting operation in the CMS area of the state.
In a different incident, a 38-year-old taxi driver, who gave his name as Obot narrated his ordeal with traffic robbers while driving along Ikorodu Road to pick up a passenger that had called for his service at Ojota.
Obot on getting to Iyana-School/Ile-Ile area met two young men in traffic. The guys stole from him using a simple trick.
“As I headed towards Ketu from Mile 12 to connect Ojota where a passenger that had called earlier was waiting for me, I encountered traffic around Kosofe bus stop that morning. On getting to Ile-Ile, a guy waved me down, telling me my vehicle had slightly hit someone’s car.
“While talking to him through the window of the driver’s side and wondering how I could hit somebody’s car without knowing, one of his accomplices stole my two phones from the front passenger seat. Before I understood what was happening, two of them had disappeared. They crossed to the other side of the road and left with a waiting motorcycle. There was nothing I could do at that point,” he added.
Also, a 27-year-old banker in the Yaba area of Lagos, who gave her name as Betty Iroha, had a sad encounter with traffic robbers when she was trapped in traffic around the Onipanu axis of Ikorodu Road at about 6.00am in the morning on her way to the office.
She said the hoodlums smashed the rear seat window of her car and made away with her handbag, laptop, mobile phones and shoes. She added that they could have caused her more harm if not for some other motorists, who mustered the courage to confront them, which made them to flee the area.
Jide Abogunde, a businessman based in the Iyana-Ipaja area of the state, suffered injuries inflicted on him by robbers while in traffic at Oshodi.
He said he was heading home after the close of business at his shop in Anthony Village when he encountered heavy traffic that built up due to a fallen petrol tanker.
It was said that Abogunde tried to struggle with his attackers, which led to his receiving three stabs on his neck and hand.
Pending when the state government is able to address the issue of bad roads, the men of Nigerian Police, especially the Operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS), should move, in addition to mounting checking points on these crime hot spots, to also carry out regular patrol on these heavy traffic areas in order to scare away the hoodlums.
A cleric advice to government
Speaking on the rising cases of traffic robbery across the cities in Nigeria, a cleric, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the same reasons that were responsible for the upsurge in banditry and kidnapping are also to blame for the “minor crimes” in society.
“First, we must look at the family system in the country. A lot of families are having issues. We now have many divorce cases in the cities and when these happen, the children bear the brunt. Before they know it, they join bad gangs and become street boys. Again, the economy is not helping matters. There are no jobs and governments at all levels are neither creating employments nor creating the environment for the private sector to create jobs. The resultant effect is that those who ordinarily should have been involved in meaningful activities now channel their energy to criminality. Nature abhors a vacuum,” the cleric said.
According to him, “That people need food, shelter and clothing is not in doubt; so, people seek out ways to meet these needs, particularly in a society where government is almost non-existent. It is not just about police or security agencies scaling up their game, there must be a conscious effort on the part of government to create jobs or the right environment for people to fend for themselves in legitimate ways.