By Job Osazuwa
“My phone, my phone!” Those were the agonising screams from a young lady that night.
Time was about 8.30pm sometime in August 2020. And venue was Fagba Bus Stop in Ifako Ijaiye Local Government Area (LGA) of Lagos State.
Before anyone could raise the alarm, a young man had crossed the major road and disappeared into the dark. He had just snatched the lady’s Android phone.
Those who witnessed the incident said that the victim was walking slowly on the walkway while checking messages on her phone at the same time. As a thief in the night, the robber came from the blues, grabbed the phone and kept moving with speed.
One of the eyewitnesses told the reporter that it was a smart and neat operation that lasted a few seconds. It happened in the open, even in the presence of other pedestrians, who were shocked that such an incident took place before their very eyes.
Snatching of handsets, laptops, women’s bags, purses and other valuables are rampant in different parts of Lagos. But Iyana-Iba Bus Stop and its environs are said to have taken the lead for years.
One of the eyewitnesses of the many of such instances at Iyana-Iba, Ogechukwu Agwu, posted an incident on his Facebook page on December 18, 2020. He said: “The phone snatching I witnessed this morning. I swear, it was like rapture. Everyone that witnessed it was like, wow, such finesse!”
The lady also recalled how her phone was stolen at that same spot some months ago. She said that the trouble the loss caused her could not be forgotten in a hurry.
Another resident of the area, Sonko Amidu, said that one of the robbers smartly removed his phone from his pocket, but he was lucky to have swiftly noticed it and raised the alarm.
“I felt the phone leaving my pocket. It was a crowded place so I didn’t know who exactly took it. I just held three people and kept shouting that they should provide my phone. I was already giving up when someone that saw who took it pointed at the person. The thief quickly dropped the phone and ran away.”
Responding to Agwu’s post, a victim, who resides in Lagos, Ekwutosinam Ada Nsukka, said: “Similar thing also happened to me. It was on my way to work one early morning, at my bus stop. I was trying to drop a chat on our ‘group’ to let my colleagues know my location. The next thing, I saw a bike drive past me as if the rider and passengers wanted to enter my estate gate. They turned back with such speed and got to the spot I was typing and snatched the phone from me. It took me five minutes to process what happened. I couldn’t even shout.”
A trader at Idumota Market, Ekene Chinonso, once told the reporter that he quivered the day he witnessed how a pickpocket used razor to cut the buttock of his victim. He said that the crook had sighted a wallet in the back pocket of the young man and he began to trail him. For him to steal the wallet unnoticed, he needed to cut the trousers, but the razor went straight to the unsuspecting victim’s buttock and blood began to gush out.
“Sadly, the robber still took the wallet. They are very fast. They are heartless,” Chinonso said.
No matter how much one hates it, stealing has become a way of life in the bustling city of Lagos, and it appears every resident has accepted it and has learnt to live with it. Surviving in the city means everyone is usually alert. Navigating different parts of Lagos safely usually involves recognising the signs and subtle cues that one is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In short, many people have ugly tales on how they were waylaid and dispossessed of their valuables. Windows of cars have been smashed, especially in traffic, and the victims left with physical, psychological and emotional injuries. The modes of the operations vary. Sometimes, a motorcycle zooms past and someone grabs the phone out of their hands. Other times, a random arm dips through the car window and grabs the phone.
Every day, the perpetrators keep re-strategising their notorious techniques to inflict pain on more victims. They are usually young men who are into this dishonourable act. The criminals often leave their targets with sad memories to live with for long.
At Ikeja Under Bridge Bus Stop, a young man was listening to music from his phone using the earpiece. All of a sudden, his music stopped playing while the earpiece was still firmly fixed in his ears. What could have happened? He must have thought aloud.
Dipping his hand into his pocket to check what went wrong with the music he was enjoying, he discovered that his phone had vanished. He stood at the bus stop for several minutes, explaining to everyone who cared to hear what had befallen him.
Apart from Iyana-Iba, Orile, Mushin, Mile 2, Ajah Roundabout, Stadium Bus Stop, Ketu, Mile 12, Iyana-Ipaja, Agege, Ikorodu, Bariga, Ikeja, Ikotun, Ojuelegba, Oshodi, Ajegunle, Ijora, Obalende and many other areas have become notorious for crime, even broad daylight robbery.
This reporter had his own fair share in 2018 at Oshodi. It was around 9pm on his way home from work. While crossing the median to where he would take the commercial bus to the Abule-Egba axis, a young haggard-looking man shoved him and started accusing the unsuspicious reporter of wanting to push him into an oncoming vehicle. The scenario looked confusing to the reporter, umaware that it was well plotted.
As the crook bumped into him and zoomed off, some instinct spurred the reporter to check for his phone and the reporter realised that his phone and wallet were gone from both pockets. It appeared like magic. Without wasting time, the victim ran after him with shouts of “ole, ole”, the popular Yoruba war chant meaning ‘thief!’. Thanks to a mobile policeman nearby who joined in the chase, both stolen items were recovered, since the robber saw that the game was over for him.
Despite efforts by successive governments to sanitise it, the busiest bus stop in Lagos with inter-state parks scattered everywhere still retains its notoriety. There are scammers, fraudsters, pickpockets and bag snatchers everywhere. When you are in Oshodi, never allow a stranger you don’t know hug you or get too close to you. In Oshodi, one must not waste his time talking to anyone claiming he just returned from Benin Republic or Togo with goods looking for direction or buyers.
Iyana-Ipaja in Alimosho Local Government Area is a major transit point into and outside Lagos and the major gateway into neighbouring Ogun State and Lagos suburbs. The major bus stop is blessed with motor parks scattered everywhere with routes to different parts of Nigeria.
There is incessant pickpocketing, gunfights, gang wars and cultism in the area. Any time of the day, hooligans hang around the area like roaring lions looking for whom to devour. Those who are familiar with the area are extremely cautious when passing the bus stop.
Another dreaded area is Agege. The axis has been notorious for years and its notoriety continues to heighten due to the frequent fallouts between cult groups. There are many homeless street urchins in the area who really don’t have anything to lose.
Places in Ojuelegba such as Empire, Alhaji Masha, Kilo, Lawanson Road, Under Bridge, Stadium, Barracks and Shitta need not much introduction. It is said that even the police and other security agents avoid going to the axis to make arrests. People who frequent the area have said that it is not uncommon to see fights between conductors and drivers, passengers or officials of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). Visitors are advised to always hold their pockets well when walking around Ojuelebga.
The mere mention of Mushin evokes fear in the heart of many people. Robbery, fights, scams and fraud are in abundance. There was a time that hardly would a day go by without residents hearing gunshots or witnessing gunfights even in broad daylight.
It is said that hoodlums in Mushin dare their victims to report their atrocity to the police and they boast that nothing would happen to them at the end of the day.
As the criminals device new ways to rob residents, many people have had to adapt to outsmart the thieves.
“They stole my new phone eight years ago at Mile 2. It taught me a bitter lesson. Ever since, I don’t rush with the crowd while boarding a commercial vehicle. I am always vigilant of every passenger seating close to me in a bus. I keep my valuables where my eyes will steadily be on them. I don’t think that I will ever fall victim again except when faced with a gun,” a correspondent with a Lagos-based national newspaper told the reporter.