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Robbers on the prowl

Posted by Henry UMAHI (umaln@sunnewsonline.com) on 2008/07/30 | Views: 1548 |

Robbers on the prowl


Following the upsurge in the rate of armed banditry and accidents on the nations highways at night, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) has begun a campaign urging travellers to forgo night journeys because of the inherent dangers.

Following the upsurge in the rate of armed banditry and accidents on the nations highways at night, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) has begun a campaign urging travellers to forgo night journeys because of the inherent dangers.

In the same vein, some luxury bus operators put up measures to discourage night traveler from carrying huge amount of money when embarking on such journeys.

Reason prevailed and many travellers began to shun night trips. And those who couldn’t but make such risky venture did so with little cash on them. Also, with the advent of Automated Teller Machines (ATM) cash carrying has reduced.

This has caused a loss of revenue to the marauding wolves. In the face of the challenge as it were, the kings of the night restrategised as well and came out smoking in broad day light on the highways.

Robbers who are rarely challenged now exhibit uncommon audacity robbing, killing, destroying and raping female travellers in broad day light. And no part of the country is marginalized in this regard.

Why robbers are on rampage
Indeed, armed robbery has assumed a frightening dimension in the country now. Like a malignant cancer, it is one of the issues at the core of the Nigerian tragedy. The Enugu State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Bashiru Azeez, says: "Almost on daily basis we arrest and even kill robbers within and outside the Enugu metropolis".

Answers to why robbers are on rampage were provided by stakeholders at a forum recently. The responses painted an undeniably grave portrait.

Jobless party thugs
According to Azeez, some of these bad eggs constituting nuisance in the country are political thugs and many of the arms given to them by politicians during the elections are in wrong hands" adding: "Some of them have already cut some of the guns to size so that they can easily be concealed in the pocket. But we recover them almost everyday".

Indeed, the issue of proliferation of small and light arms in the country was brought to the fore, recently by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Luka Yusuf. At a workshop in Kaduna as part of the activities to mark this year’s Nigeria Army Day Celebrations, he volunteered that the indiscriminate acquisition of arms was threatening the country’s security.

The president of Association of Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (ASSON), Dr. Ona Ekhomu attributed the social malaise to drug abuse in the country.
"Psycho-active drugs alter the structure and function of the brain, including mood, perception or consciousness", he laments: "Increasingly, Nigeria is becoming a net consumer of hard drugs. Cocaine and amphetamines are being mixed with local gin nicknamed shake and monkey tail".

"These hard drugs when consumed by youths or by criminal elements give them a delusion which diminished human lives in their perception, thereby increasing the potential for violent attacks, communal violence, political violence and attacks on corporate assets".
Ekhomu regretted the lack of aggressiveness in enforcement initiatives even when Indian hemp and other substances are openly abused.

Lagos lawyer and public affairs analyst, Mr. Chukwuanugo Ejikeme, maintains that the deplorable state of the road network provide bandits the opportunity to perpetrate their atrocities, arguing that the situation would have been different if drivers were not compelled to crawl at some spots.
"Nigeria has some of the worst road network in the world. All over the country, deep craters and manholes dot the roads. But the roads in the South East are the worst. They are simply impassable. In fact, you would weep for the social inequities in the country if you take a trip to the east because the situation there is simply horrendous. It is at those bad spots that robbers choose to operate because you are forced to slow down totally".

Furthermore, Ejikeme says "there is also the problem of unemployment in the country. Some of these robbers are graduates and when they could not get employment, they choose the path of violence to make ends meet. However, there is no justification for crime whatsoever".
The head pastor of The Masters Royal Choice Revival Ministries, Alapere-Ketu, Lagos, Success Ibeakanma, views the increasing wave of armed robbery from two perspectives–spiritual and physical. According to him, "the Bible says that iniquity shall abound in the end-time. That’s what we are witnessing now".

He also bemoans the destructive spiral of unemployment and high cost of living in these parts. He argues that matters are made worse by the continuous demolition of shops and markets by the authorities without providing alternatives for the people involved.

"Some of such people displaced from their business premises may gravitate to robbery. Perhaps, our leaders do not really know the enormity of the unemployment situation. For instance, 195,000 people applied for the 3000 vacancies advertised by the Nigerian Immigration Services recently. And, according to reports, tens of the applicants died while going through the recruitment exercises in various parts of the federation. This shows that the alarming rate of unemployment in the land is a time bomb waiting to explode", the man of God volunteers.

The moral temperature of the nation and the craze for material acquisition are also identified as contributory factors.

This is the submission of Maxi Chuks Obini, president of Association of Igbo Youth in Badagry and Seme, who remarks: "Today, moral values have diminished. The quest for wealth at all costs and by all means has driven many to choose the service of crime. Also, government does not show interest in discouraging people from venturing into crime. The sustained injustices have direct bearing on the rising wave of crimes in the country. Unfortunately government treats it will characteristic insouciance".

Victims’ tales of woes
The gangsters have sent some of their victims to early graves. Others have survived albeit with physical, emotional or psychological scars. Some of them share their experiences:

They raped mum and I –Janet
On Sunday, June 15, this year, Janet, 16, her mother and others boarded a bus at Agbor, Delta State. Destination? Lagos. But mid way into the journey, tragedy struck. The vehicle in which Janet and other travellers boarded was hijacked by a gang of robbers at a failed portion of the highway at Ore, Ondo State.

According to Janet, the bandits drove the bus through a bush path to a safe distance before ordering the passengers to come out and lie face down. There, they frisked the them, ransacked their luggage and stole their money and other valuables. Thereafter, the eight women in the bus including Janet and her mother were gang-raped at gunpoint by the bandits. And Janet’s mother was pregnant.
Recalling her ordeal, Janet said: "I saw my pregnant mother being assaulted severally. I cried and cried but what would I have done? I was equally abused".

In a related development, a vehicle coming to Ibadan from Kogi State was intercepted by armed robbers. After dispossessing the passengers of their valuables, they took interest in a young school leaver, who had just finished writing her SSCE examinations. The gangsters ordered one of the male passengers to lie on the hard ground then put the girl on top of him and had several rounds of s-x with her.

My arm twisted –Uba
Mr. Uba a media practitioner, also walked through the valley of the shadow of robbers. "That fateful Tuesday, I was returning from Enugu where I had gone to cover a premier league match for my organization. The journey had been smooth until we got to a bad spot on the Lagos-Benin road - precisely at Ore, Ondo State, when suddenly a gang of armed robbers, about 20 pushed drums and woods into the road to block our bus. It was 1.30pm and the bus was slowly navigating through the potholes.

"The road was lonely at the time. One of the gangsters pulled the driver by the neck, forcing him out of the vehicle. Then they drove the vehicle into the bush, several meters out of the main road having forced the driver in. There, they robbed all the passengers of their valuables. As I was pulling out the stuff on me as ordered, my ID card fell on the ground.

Seeing that I am a journalist, the one closest to me barked at me: "so you are one of the stupid journalists who write stupid stories? Then he delivered a devastating blow on my left wrist with the butt of his gun. Then they started pulling me along with them but I pleaded with them, saying I only write sports news. I think that and the grace of God was what saved me. The gang comprised young boys, the oldest among them should not be more than 24 years".

They shot me, ruined my business –Eneh
For Chief Francis Eneh (alias Iron T), an Aba, Abia-based businessman, it was double tragedy. Armed robbers lodged hot lead in his stomach and made away with his life investment.
He told Saturday Sun that: "On three occasions within one month, in broad daylight, armed robbers came to my business premises on Aba-Owerri road where we sell telephone handsets and other communication gadgets because we were also into distributorship with two telecom companies. We lost over N28 million in cash and goods in those operations. In one of their operations, they shot me in the belly. It is by the grace of God that I’m alive today but what they stole was the loan we took from the bank. The bank is aware of our predicament because the incidents were in the afternoon". Chief Eneh therefore appealed to the authorities to take the issue of security in the country more seriously, warning that lives and properties are no longer safe.

I saw my ears –Promise
Promise Ade’s case offers new perspective in the sadistic tendencies of men of the under world. "I left Lagos on Monday June 9 for Port Harcourt. It was my first trip across Nigeria and I was thrilled naturally. But because of the deplorable state of the road, our bus got to Owerri, at 7.30 pm, that’s means spending 12 hours on the road. At Owerri, we got the news that armed robbers had taken over the road somewhere in the outskirts. After waiting for about two hours, some of the passengers made the driver to continue the journey.

"However, some of us decided to pass the night in Owerri. The following day, I called my uncle in Port Harcourt, telling him that we had a problem the previous night but it was all over. I boarded another bus for Aba at 7.00am and we took off. We had hardly driven for about 30 minutes, when a four-man gang of armed robbers blocked our vehicle and forced us to stop at a nearby petrol station. Actually, two young men in the bus had signalled their intention to alight and as the driver slowed down, a Mercedes Benz V-boot emerged from behind and blocked our bus.

"They dispossessed us of our valuables, threw our bags inside the booth of their car and zoomed off towards Owerri. There I was stranded. My diary, containing my uncles address, and my phone and everything were taken. How I came back was nothing short of a miracle because I couldn’t contact my uncle because they had taken my phone and my diary where I wrote his address. I’m yet to get over the shock. To be robbed on the highway around 7.30am was unthinkable".

Drivers’ lamentations
Drivers who ply the highways remain at the mercy of the criminal elements. Moving from one point to another is now "a matter of anything can happen", as one of them describes it.
The robbers design wicked tactics and strategies to entrap their victims. On account of their evil ingenuity, it is practically impossible to decode their modus next time.

Some of the drivers told Saturday Sun that the rate at which their colleagues are killed and maimed by the men of the under world is really alarming. For effect, some of them showed our reporter evidence (scars) of their encounter with them. They described the brutal murder of their colleagues, whose brains were shattered with AK 47 rifle along the Onitsha-Enugu expressway on Sunday, July 20.
According to Christopher Efezokhea, "the boys (robbers) operate at any time of the day". He said recently his bus was hijacked by a six-man gang at Umuika junction, near Aba at about 7.25pm.
"They drove the bus into a lonely spot where they robbed the passengers and myself. But that was not even the end. After dispossessing us of our valuables, they drove the bus to the road and used it to rob four other vehicles.

All along we were with them inside the bus. No one dared try anything smart or stupid because they were in a killer mood. There was no doubt about it. At the end of the harrowing experience, they left us stranded in the middle of nowhere in the dead of the night.

"To worsen the matter, they went away with a young lady going for her traditional marriage (Igbankwu). And to think that her husband was also with us was another trauma.

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