Nigeria: In Lagos, Traffic Robbers Run Amok in Broad Daylight

LAGBUS BRT Lagos

According to various reports by the police, over 100 traffic robbers have been nabbed in the state between January and March this year.

One of the major attributes of Lagos is its endless traffic which road users endure daily. Many Lagosians have on several occasions shared stories of how tiresome and frustrating this could be.

Apart from the unpleasant nature of the traffic, many commuters in Nigeria's commercial capital are living in fear following the upsurge in the operation of traffic robbers.

According to various reports by the police, over 100 traffic robbers were arrested in the state between January and March.

PREMIUM TIMES findings revealed that these robberies are not limited to nights but also occur in broad daylight.

The common areas where these crimes occur are CMS, Costain Bridge, Maryland, Ikorodu road, Gbagada, Mile 2, Mushin, Orile, Oshodi bridge and other heavy traffic routes within the state.

According to those who have witnessed the activities of the robbers, they accost road users with weapons by tapping the side windows of their cars. They then rob them of their properties that they can easily carry. Failure to wind down sometimes lead to smashing the side window or windscreen of the vehicle after which the victim would be attacked.

Victims, witnesses share experience

A witness of the illegal act of the robbers, Jerry White, narrated how some road users were robbed on their way to work on February 23.

Mr White, who lives in the Yaba axis of the state, was going to his office at Victoria Island when he witnessed a robbery around 7:30 a.m.

"The robbery happened when I was going to work. It was on the third mainland bridge, just before the point where it links to the Muson Center area at around 7:30 a. m. or thereabouts.

"There was heavy traffic as usual. So, I suddenly noticed a man with a gun in his right hand and a bag in the other hand. He was walking away from the traffic. Apparently, he had just robbed the vehicle in front of mine.

"The victim tried defending himself by unwisely chasing the robber with an umbrella but the armed robber paused and threatened to shoot him. After collecting the victim's phone, he got into a waiting getaway bike."

Mr White told our reporter that since the day he witnessed the robbery, he has been getting to work late to avoid being a victim.

"It affects my movement badly because I don't even get to work as early as expected anymore. I stay back until the day fully breaks. Before then, I get tempted to leave my house earlier than usual because of traffic.

"But I now use my common sense and I don't get to work as early as I should. This leaves me with less time to settle in to work before the day's work commences. For late nights, I have a self-imposed curfew as I don't leave my house after 8:00 p.m. if I can help it."

Speaking of her encounter with the robbers, a victim who simply identified herself as Precious, a banker, said she begged for transport fare at the point of the incident before she could get home after her bag was snatched in the traffic.

"I had my encounter with traffic robbers in early March along Iyana Oworo. I was on public transport around 7:00 p.m. I had my bag on my lap and all of a sudden, I saw somebody who ran through the window and snatched my bag.

"I tried struggling but the robber hit my hand with an armful object which forced me to leave the bag for him. I was afraid and confused at the same time. The people in the vehicle acted like nothing happened because they were already used to the criminality in the traffic."

Ms Precious told PREMIUM TIMES that a lady in the vehicle gave her N500, so she could get to her house in the Mowe/Ibafo axis.

"Aside from the lady, there was a guy in front who asked where I was going to and he voluntarily paid for my transport fare because we were going to the same route. He paid for my transport for the rest of the journey."

For Ajayi Oluseyi, he was able to escape the traffic robbers in late February when he was accosted. He told our reporter that although they got his car damaged, they could not steal any of his properties nor attack him.

He told our reporter that the incident occurred around 8:00 p.m. at Abiola Garden area.

"I was coming from Lekki where I went to visit my friend and was going to my house in Berger. I got attacked at Abiola Gardens - inwards Motorways. I noticed two guys crossed to the passenger's side of my car and they were hitting my window until they brought it down with their cutlass

"My instinct was that they wanted to snatch the phone of my friend sitting beside me because he was doing a video call. Immediately I noticed that, I was driving zig-zag with my car. People were there but they could not help. It was after the guys left my car that people were hailing me as a good driver. I felt bad they could not help."

'Security operatives not helping'

In Lagos, it is common to see police officers, whether those stationed at strategic positions or men of the Rapid Response Squad on their patrol bikes, during traffic gridlocks. But robbery victims told PREMIUM TIMES that the security operatives have not done enough.

"One might be tempted to say that increased security personnel on our roads might be a solution but I disagree," Mr White said. "You see, a couple of metres after the scene of the robbery that day, I saw two policemen who were loitering, looking for 'traffic offenders' to extort.

"The police have added no single extra security on that road. So, increased security personnel might not be an answer."

Ms Precious also told our correspondent that after her own case, many other incidents have happened to people close to her.

"The security situation in Lagos is terrible. Even though I have not been robbed again, I hear stories of people being robbed on a daily basis. In fact, a lady said she was robbed recently with cutlass at Herbert Macaulay Way. These are places I pass every day.

"There is a notorious Panti police station in Yaba but traffic robberies continue to happen in the area. We are in a country where we know what to do but we fail to do. Our security operatives need to be more responsible and be proactive in their engagements."

Mr Oluseyi told our reporter when he reported his travails to the police, he was devastated by the response he got.

"By the time I drove forward a bit, I saw two police officers and we told them that they just robbed us. One of them responded saying 'no be una say make them end SARS'. I was devastated by their response.

"Police have been showing nonchalant attitudes to the security challenges in Lagos. Up till today, the guys are still there carrying out the robbery. I can point those guys to the police if they will not rope me and say I am one of them. I know the guys in that location because that's where I pass every day," he said.

PREMIUM TIMES contacted the state police spokesperson, Muyiwa Adejobi, on concerns of the citizens in the state but for weeks, he refused to respond to enquiries.

Apart from not answering calls, Mr Adejobi did not reply to text messages and WhatsApp messages even after reading.

Speaking on the way forward, Mr White told PREMIUM TIMES that there must be a willingness by the police to take their responsibilities seriously.

"There is a need for employment opportunities because if these urchins and street robbers are gainfully occupied, there'd be a reduction in incidents like this. The police may also need to be restrained to understand their core duty."

SIDEBAR: How to keep safe in traffic/during a robbery

To assist our readers to keep safe, PREMIUM TIMES put some safety tips together and they are as follows:

Keep your property safe: To avoid drawing the attention of the robbers, road users are expected to keep their properties safe, preferably on the floor (if you are driving or a passenger in a personal car).

Avoid unnecessary phone calls/use: Many commuters have had their phones snatched while making calls or using the phone for other purposes. Unless you have to, avoid using your phones on traffic, whether you are the driver or passenger. Keep your phone in your pocket or bag. When using your phone, ensure you pay attention to what is happening around you.

Never act familiar: There are times you encounter folks you know during traffic robbery. Pretend! Don't show any form of familiarity so that you don't get attacked.

Avoid eye contact: Lower your gaze anytime your vehicle is being robbed. It won't be wrong to address the robbers as 'Sir or Ma'. Respecting the robbers may change their mind from hurting you to just carting away your property.

Don't speak grammar: Do not argue with traffic robbers to avoid being injured. Not too much grammar, respond to their questions as briefly as possible.

Don't retaliate: Do not try to retaliate when they hit you. Allow them to go and then report the crime or shout for help.

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