Traffic robbers are unleashing terror on commuters along major roads within Nigeria’s foremost commercial cities of Lagos and Kano, leaving their victims in pains agony and even death, findings by Daily Trust have shown.
Our correspondents report that the criminal gangs take advantage of the endless and frustrating traffic situation in these cities to dispossess innocent residents of their belongings including phones, handbags, laptops, and other valuables.
In both cities, the attackers are said to be teenagers and others in their 20’s who reportedly operate under the influence of drugs.
Experts have warned that apart from residents of these cities, the traffic robbers who are now on a rampage are posing a security threat to law enforcement agents nationwide.
Major roads in these metropolises have been taken over by traffic robbers who do not hesitate to maim or kill their victims at the slightest hesitation. Most of the hoodlums operate in broad daylight and in the full glare of other motorists trapped in traffic gridlock in different parts of the cities.
In Lagos, it was gathered that this act, which is said to have witnessed an upsurge since the violence that trailed the #EndSARS protest, is no longer limited to routes on the Lagos Mainland area as motorists are also attacked in highbrow areas such as Lekki and Ikoyi, among others.
Among the heavy traffic routes targeted by traffic robbers within Lagos, according to our findings, are; Third Mainland Bridge, CMS, Costain Bridge, Gbagada-Oworonshoki-Ketu, Maryland, Ikorodu Road, Mile Two-Badagry Expressway, Mushin, Orile, Oshodi bridge, Oshodi-Iyana Isolo expressway, Jibowu-Ojuelegba, Ojota and Berger.
How they operate
Some victims and residents told Daily Trust that the pattern adopted in the Ketu area for instance is that the criminals, who in most cases emerge from Olusosun and Ketu market, take advantage of the traffic build-up at Tipper and Ojota bus stop to rob unsuspecting motorists and passengers in commercial vehicles.
The story is the same at Mile 12 as Jesu Oyingbo and Ajelogo are the dark spots where the assailants wait for the build-up of traffic about 9.30 pm and 10 pm to strike.
Investigation revealed that the Orile-Mile 2 and Badagry Expressway are now safe havens for marauders who also double as errand boys for truck drivers.
Due to the poor state of the road, leading to heavy traffic in the area, the boys, pretending to help, would direct cars to a point where they are stuck in-between trucks before attacking their victims.
Victims narrate ordeals
Our correspondents gathered that two people in a car were attacked by traffic robbers around the Ojodu-Berger bus stop area last Sunday at about 9.30 pm while a male occupant of a Toyota Corolla almost had his car snatched by the marauders at Ojota on the same day.
The victim at Ojota who identified himself as Emmanuel Abuchi was lucky to escape with his car, but not before his phones and some cash were taken away from him.
He said he was driving alone from Motorways inward Ojota when a young man, possibly in his early 20s approached him from the passenger’s side begging for money. He said the young man kept following him until he got to the foot of the pedestrian bridge at Ojota when a second person approached him from the driver’s side.
“He rolled up his dirty T-shirt, to show me what looks like a gun. I was trapped in between vehicles as we were moving slowly. The one with the gun requested for my wallet and phones, while the other tried to open the passenger’s door, in a bid to force himself into my car,” he said.
Luckily for him, the traffic eased up and he was able to zoom off before they could gain access into the car.
In April, the life of 39-year-old Ahamefula Monday was cut short by bullets fired by a group of traffic robbers, who took over the Costain area, moving from one vehicle to another, smashing windscreens and snatching bags, phones, cash, and other valuables at gunpoint.
His colleague, Chigozie, said Ahamefula, a member of the Surgical/Scientific Instruments Dealers Association of Nigeria was driving home after the close of work on Lagos Island. He is survived by an aged mother, wife and children.
In the same month, a mother of three, Oluwakemi Odugbesan was stabbed to death by some hoodlums while trying to rob her of her phone and handbag at the Oduntan area of Ketu. She was said to have been attacked while returning home from a vigil around 6:00 am.
Another victim of such attack narrated that she was on her way to Ikorodu from Mowe when the boys caught up with her while descending the Ojota Bridge close to Fawehinmi part. “They allowed me to get to a stop, then they broke my side door screen, which gave them access to rob me as they pointed a dagger at me,” she said.
Similar incidents are also reported on the highbrow Victoria Island, where commuters are often attacked by pistol-wielding traffic robbers at traffic stops.
Daily Trust observed that it has become increasingly risky to stop for the traffic along Ozumba Mbadiwe.
US, India issue alert to citizens
The trend recently forced the two foreign missions to issue security alerts to their citizens in Lagos.
In an alert issued in April, the US Consulate office in Lagos said robberies/smashes and grab on the roads by armed men have increased significantly on both Ikoyi and Victoria Island. It added that typically, men on motorcycles will follow a vehicle until it stops at a traffic light or intersection then approach the vehicle present a weapon and rob the occupants.
“Although most of those incidents happen at night, the US Consulate General in Lagos has received reports of robberies taking place during daylight,” the US statement containing the alert reads.
The High Commission of India also issued a similar one in June, urging all Indian nationals to be extra vigilant, after three Indians and their driver were robbed at a junction in the city.
In Kano, traffic robbers now invading homes
Daily Trust gathered that the situation in Kano has now grown to the level that the snatchers now operate in the daytime and invade houses in various communities, a departure from their usual modus operandi of snatching phones on the main roads and at night.
Residents say the miscreants are becoming bolder and deadlier by the day.
It was gathered that the robbers have devised a new way of attacking people, which is to block main roads, flyovers, and underpass in large numbers to launch their attacks without fear.
‘How my friend was robbed, stabbed to death’
In the latest reported attack, a group of yet to be identified phone snatchers stabbed one Umar Muhammad Ahmad to death on Saturday.
An associate of the deceased in Fagge said Umar met his untimely death while strolling home through an uncompleted flyover at Kantin Kwari market when the phone snatchers appeared from nowhere, overwhelmed and pierced him to death with an object believed to be a sharp knife.
“Late Umar Ahmad slumped at the spot gasping for breath, and droplets of blood oozing from the wounded part of his body, while the suspected thieves disappeared into thin air along with the snatched phone,” the source said.
It was gathered that late Umar who was in his late forties was rushed to Kofar Wambai Police station while still unconscious to lodged the case and later taken to Abdullahi Wase Specialist Hospital where he was confirmed dead.
Before his demise, late Umar Muhammad was a staffer of the National Commission for Museum and Monument Kaduna office.
The victim, who was buried on Sunday evening in Kano, is survived by a wife and three children.
Dahiru Shitu, a resident of Gwammaja Yankosai said recently he and others were attacked by a number of thugs who blocked the main Gwammaja road and snatched phones.
“I was inside my car around 6:30 pm when I saw a group of thugs approaching. Immediately they arrived at the junction in Gwammaja, they started snatching phones in tricycles and stabbing people. People began to run and later they started raiding cars. I was very lucky to stay close to a corner from where I escaped” he narrated.
Shuaibu Muhammad Kurna said he was attacked in the afternoon while he was inside a commercial tricycle along Katsina road at the Kofar Ruwa Underpass.
“Now, any tricycle rider that insists he must follow through the underpass must drop me before going in,” Shuaibu said.
871 suspects arrested in Kano, Lagos
Daily Trust findings reveal that at least 871 suspected traffic robbers were arrested in Lagos and Kano states within the last six months.
A breakdown of the figure indicates that 469 were nabbed by the Kano State Police Command while 402 were apprehended in Lagos.
The spokesman of the Kano State Police Command, DSP Abdullahi Haruna Kiyawa said within the same period, 243 mobile phones and 718 SIM cards were recovered from the suspects. He added that various weapons including 317 knives as well large quantity of drugs were also recovered.
“35 drug dealers, 998 packets of Tramadol valued at N28.5million; 13 bags and 217 parcels of dried leaves suspected to be Indian Hemp valued N12.1million were also arrested and recovered within this period,” he said, adding that the impact of illicit drugs on crime was manifest.
Similarly, the Lagos State Police Command disclosed that 402 related traffic robbers have been arrested in the state from January to June, adding that the arrests were made through raids carried out on different locations.
Expert, activist speak
Reacting to the increasing insecurity and attacks on residents of Lagos, the Chief Executive Officer of Life Shield Security Limited, Agbodemu Ishola Musbau identified vigilance as key, saying many innocent citizens in Lagos are oblivious of the many daily happenings that could potentially negatively affect their well-being, their family and their community members.
“In recent times even the powerful and rich are crying. Security is a collective matter we need to work together in our communities to nip potential security issues in the bud. When you see something, say something. The question is who is next and when is the next rampage, looting, and destruction of properties going to happen? As such, all hands must be on deck to checkmate elements like this,” he said.
He, therefore, noted that community policing, in its ideal implementation, will take a lot of pressure off the police and allow them to focus their energy and resources where it matters most.
Similarly, activists and social media users in Kano have taken to their various accounts on social media to condemn the incessant attack by the phone snatchers in the state, demanding that it should be proactively addressed before the situation gets out of control.
One of them, Musa Muhammad Dona said “The Kano State Police Command is really trying but the issue of phone snatching is gathering momentum; they are becoming bolder and deadlier by the day.”
Abiodun Alade, Eugene Agha, Christiana T. Alabi (Lagos), Clement Oloyede & Zahraddeen Y. Shu’aibu (Kano)