They are not just ordinary Nigerians but young men who deck usually in jeans trousers, face cap match with t-shirt to frightened and steal from motorists trapped in traffic gridlock. CHARLES ADINGUPU captures how these villainous rogues encircled their victims.
Bogged down by domestic worries, Chike Nwogu has just closed from his workplace at Apapa but was so engrossed in his car on how to properly ration his meagre monthly income to accommodate all his pending family troubles.
He thought of giving proportionate amount of money to his younger sister to commence the burial rites of their aged mother who just passed on. But his house rent which was due at the time would not allow him. Trapped between these decisions, Chike got tensed up as he cascaded in his Honda Civic car and made an abrupt stop courtesy of the usual traffic gridlock at Cocoa-nut bus stop in Lagos.
At this point, Chike jettisoned the idea of toying with his backlog of family challenges to concentrate on his driving and the cool music from his car stereo. But as Chike approached Berger Yard bus stop, a young man who appeared ruffled, tapped lightly at the windscreen of his car. Amid the traffic jam, Chike couldn’t fathom what the guy wanted and so, ignored him.
Again came the knock, but this time harder. Out of irritation, Chike wound down the glass of his car to find out what this stranger wanted. “Before I could ask what he wants, this young man pulled out a jack knife from his tattered jeans trousers and ordered me to cooperate or he’d slash my throat with the knife and nothing will happen,”he said.
While he was negotiating with him on what to part with, two other young men emerged from nowhere to join him.
However, at the end of the unholy business, the young men made away with Chike’s wrist watch, one Blackberry phone and ten thousand naira cash.
“But my greatest disappointment was that other car owners who witnessed the incident tried effortlessly to wangle their ways out of the scene to avoid being attacked as well,” Chike lamented.
Unfortunately Clifford Effiong who works as a manager in one of the oil serving companies at Apapa was not that lucky.
“I was just ascending the bridge at Mile 2 to link the Oshodi expressway when three stern looking guys accosted me with brand new pistols and ordered me to disembark from my car.
I thought of putting up resistance but the gun would not allow me to do otherwise. So, I obeyed. They then bundled me into the boot of my own jeep and drove off.
“Eventually, they dumped me at Isolo and promised to abandon the car after their operations. They kept to their promise as I’ve already retrieved my car from the police who alerted me three days after that my car was found. Though, not without them removing my car stereo, hand sets and some amount of money I tucked inside my car,”he said.
On daily basis, unsuspecting motorists are attacked by these young gangsters who prowl Mile 2 with impunity. The on-going construction of the Apapa-Oshodi expressway has largely contributed to the traffic gridlock that road users experience on rush hours.
The first and last Fridays of every month seem to be the best days for operation by these notorious traffic thieves. Such days, the traffic is usually heavy and it’s easy for them to attack one motorist or the other without molestation from anybody,” said a commercial bus driver who proffers anonymity.
That was how Andy Okafor’s Danfo commercial bus was snatched from him by the dare-devil teenage thieves at Maza Maza. “My younger brother just brought the bus from Europe barely a month ago when these strange bed fellows ambushed me at Maza Maza and made away with the bus.
“First, they ordered all the passengers who were Oshodi bound to disembark and pushed me to the passengers’ side and sped off. My conductor has already ran for safety when he saw these young men. However, as we journeyed towards Oshodi, one of them touched my head, and said, “Small boy, you will find your bus. We only need it for this night assignment. They dropped me off at Toyota bus stop. A week afterwards, I found my bus parked close to my mechanical workshop at Abule Jiga at Iyana Isolo.”
However, narrating his own ordeal in the hands of these traffic thieves at Mile 2, Ebenezer, a driver in one of the firms at Apapa said he was attacked and dispossessed of some of his personal effects at the traffic.
“The traffic was moving at a snail pace when two small boys approached me for money to eat. I doled out five hundred naira from my breast pocket and handed over to them. But to my surprise, they insisted that the amount of money was too small. What turned out to be a kind gesture became robbery. They then took my two hand sets and the balance of two thousand naira left with me.”
Saturday Vanguard Editor, Chioma Gabriel was attacked recently by these traffic terrors at Mile 2. But she is already familiar with the modus operandi of their operations, and so, she lost nothing to them.
Narrating her experience, she said her driver was going along with the traffic pace when two of the boys banged the door of her car but she and her driver ignored them.They moved to the middle lane and the young men left them quietly after sometime when they refused to wound down the car glass.
Most motorists who ply the Apapa-Oshodi expressway complained of being attacked by these fearless teenage traffic thieves on daily basis especially when the traffic was heavy. One of such motorists who would not want his name mentioned, said he has been dispossessed of his handsets and wrist watches on three separate occasions.
“But my greatest worry remains with the on-lookers who watch helplessly when innocent people were being attacked at the traffic. Nobody seems ready to offer any help or make bold to put resistance to the activities of these hoodlums,”he said.
Another motorist who gave his name simply as Waheed laments that often times, the police patrol truck will be parked close to the place of operation. Yet, these boys go about their dirty business unmolested.
Saturday Vanguard investigations showed that these traffic thieves operate from Cococo-nut bus stop down to Mile 2 and from Maza Maza at Festac side to Mile 2 bus-stop as well.
At Ketu-Ojota bus stops, the traffic snarl at this axis begins usually at Maryland and stretches to Ketu bus-stop. Again these traffic terrors are always on the prowl looking for victims.
According to Babajide Emmanuel who works at the island, the boys are always at the Ojota end of Ikorodu road by Bata.
“You will see them pretending to be waiting for somebody only to swoop on unsuspecting motorists and dispossess them of their personal belongings,”he said.
Babajide disclosed to Saturday Vanguard that the traffic terrors began their operations from 8pm when the LASMA and Kick Against Indiscipline boys have closed. “A friend of mine was attacked at the foot of the pedestrian bridge at Ojota when he decided to follow the service lane to beat the heavy traffic at the express,”he said.
A banker, Pascal Igwebuike said he was attacked at Ketu bus stop. “The traffic was indeed heavy on this ill-fated day. We crawled all the way from Maryland to Ketu. I was just thinking of what to do next if the traffic persisted when one young boy accosted me with a brand new razor blade.
“Bros, either you give me money or I will tear your face with this blade. “Perhaps, noticing that I was frightened, he also demanded for my handset. I gave two thousand and my handset. The next minute, the young man dashed to the other side of the expressway with his loot smiling,”Pascal said.
A commercial bus driver who gave his name as Samuel Adeleke, said traffic robbery has become a ritual at the Ojota-Ketu axis. He, however, named Tipper bus stop, Ketu and Ojota by Bata as some of the hot spots for these fearless teenage traffic thieves.
The commercial bus driver lamented that inspite of the presence of a police station at Ketu bus-stop, these boys still engage in their illicit deals without any harassment. “At a time, the boys went into hiding when the policemen at Ketu attempted to send them packing. But it seems they are back on the road again,”he said.
However, several efforts by Saturday Vanguard to reach the Lagos State Police Command spokesperson, Mrs Ngozi Braide to comment on the issue proved abortive.
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