The narration could only have been from a Nollwood or Bollywood thriller. It involved guns, bullets, cutlasses, machetes, knives and blood. But it was more than a film affair. It was from a real life near death experience on the expressway. As the 47-year-old woman narrated her ordeal in the hands of the gang from the underworld, she shivered and unwittingly started to cry.
Her vehicle drove into the path of armed robbers as they were in operation near the Sagamu-Ore junction of the Lagos-Benin Expressway. She explained that the driver had stopped and they had alighted from the car when the armed robbers fired shots into the air. In the ensuing panic, she and other passengers including the driver fled into the nearby bush for their lives. But by the time they returned to the road a little while later, their vehicle had been emptied of all valuables and possessions. On the road was blood but no trace of the bandits.
The writer’s own experience on the Lagos-Ibadan Exxpressway has been described as ‘breeze’ as opposed to the ‘wind’. The writer was en route Ibadan when she had to turn around because drivers in front were turning around. Armed robbers were in clear operation just yards away. It was a very dangerous ordeal (facing oncoming traffic on an expressway). Too many tragic tales abound of encounters with highway robbers and armed robbers in general. It is surreal. People who dine with daylight robbers are not always fortunate. Thousands have lost their lives, many have been maimed and women have been raped. It used to be that homes were burgled in the night, but not so anymore. Most attacks now occur in broad daylight. Many people live their lives in anxiety over an armed attack. Those who have dined with these devils, usually suffer physical ailment and/or psychological trauma years after.
A couple of weeks ago, newspapers reported how students of a secondary school were raped when their bus was ambushed by high way villains on the Sagamu-Ore section of the Lagos-Benin Expressway.
Every day, we read and hear about tales of Nigeria’s insecurity. From Boko Haram, kidnaps, assassination attempts, robbers, it seems that men and women of the underworld have no fear of Nigerian laws. Most bizarrely, the newspapers reported in the past week about five armed robbers who escaped to freedom at the magistrate court. The men butchered the prosecutor with weapons brought in as evidence of their crimes and sped away in his car. Tragically, for almost three weeks in Ogun State, banks refused to operate because they were scared of the relentless assault on their safety by these daredevils. It is unclear whether Governor Amosun is winning the war against these devils.
Even though our society is rife with insecurity, the answers to these problems seem elusive and strangely enough out of reach of our leaders. This is in spite of the many conferences and seminars organised on ‘Security in Nigeria’. With over 40 per cent of unemployment in the country, armed robbery has become a lucrative career path for wannabes. Armed robbers have been known to attack banks, restaurants, churches, shops, clinics, mechanic workshops and so on. Tragically, the longer the federal government prevaricates on dealing with insecurity in the country, the greater the loss Nigeria would experience as insecurity is a deterrent to the foreign investment this country needs.
Obviously, Nigeria is not the most insecure place on the planet. In the United Kingdom for example, motorists can travel by road or rail at any time of the day or night without fear of armed robbers. The only irritant in the early hours is road works. Even then Transport for London installed CCTV on its buses and trains. In England, people do not live their lives in active consciousness that they could be the next victims of armed robbers.
In Nigeria people sleep with an eye open. To be safe, many people arm themselves with anointing oil, prayers and occultic charms (voodoo or juju) for protection. It ought not to be so. In many neighbourhoods, housing estates across Nigeria, vigilante groups and landlord associations have dealt with armed robbers head on. They have employed the services of private security firms, used real guns (as opposed to the local/traditional arm fire) and in many times exchanged shots with these armed robbers. The question is what more can we (private people) do to help ourselves as Nigerians at war with criminals?
Other than organising ‘Enough is Enough’ marches and rallies, it is submitted that private sector have done more than enough to protect their own lives and property from these rascals. It is about time the government did more than pay lip service to the protection of lives and property. For starters, the inspector general of police could do more than ask its officers to patrol motorways (especially the Sagamu-Ore junction) and dangerous neighbourhoods.
Secondly, the government could make the judiciary more functional such that speedy sentences are meted out to criminals. Criminality must no longer be perceived as lucrative. Thirdly the police must be strengthened to fight these criminals with sophisticated weapons. The nation is at war with armed robbers sadly, like everything else it appears this government is on vacation.