By Lawrence Enyoghasu
In other environments, bridges are monuments – places that citizens and foreigners like to visit for sightseeing! Sometimes they serve as nests for lovers. But in Nigeria, especially in Lagos, that appears not to be the case, these days. Lagos bridges rather emit fear, horror, panic, and trepidation as they act as abodes for hoodlums.
If that were their intention, to find a place where they can just lay their heads and catch some sleep, perhaps nobody will have any cause to worry. But to constitute a big menace to saner minds after taking some substances is what Lagosians are not prepared to live with.
Hardly would a day pass without you hearing stories of unsuspecting people who were robbed, attacked, harassed or swindled while passing some of the Lagos bridges. Saturday Sun findings show that the most notorious are: Eko, Empire, Ojuelegba, Carter, Apapa, Ikeja, and Oshodi bridges. While some of the attacks take place in the day, especially in lonely places and during lonely hours, others take place at night when workers or travellers are on their way home.
A guided tour of some of these bridges will show that underneath them are dirty sights characterized by littered plastics and disused packs and packets. Some of them look dingy with odours of dead rats, Indian hemp and other substances oozing from there. Sometimes you see madmen and women strolling around the places.
It is one of the three bridges connecting Lagos Island to the Mainland. Said to be the second busier bridge in Lagos, it starts from Ijora on the mainland and ends at the Apongbon end of Lagos Island. On both ends, terror walks on all fours. The lagoon section of the bridge that spans a distance of about 500 metres provides the hoodlums with an escape route after operations. Because it serves as the preferred access point for vehicular traffic approaching Lagos Island from the Apapa and Surulere areas of Lagos, it has become one of the most dangerous spots for residents, pedestrians, and commuters, especially those heading to Eko Market.
At Ijora, the roads are covered in black oily and dirty soot discharged from tankers and trailers. Even the drainages are filled with it. The uneven bad roads are made worse by potholes. A dark spot dominates the leftover space from the parked tankers and trailers. On a good day, commercial motorcycle operators fondly called “okada” can be seen meandering their ways through the trailers and shanties erected under the bridge.
Sometimes, they pass too close to pedestrians as to almost touch their bodies. It is here that the hoodlums position themselves to strike. If you are a car owner, pray that your car never has a problem here, for then you are likely to find yourself in the den of lions.
Ask Jim Chukwuemeka who owns a 2006 Corolla. He told Saturday Sun the story of how he was savagely robbed on the day he had a flat tyre at the Apongbon end of Eko Bridge.
His narrative: Four boys had approached him from the other end of the bridge as his car stalled on the exit lane. Initially, he thought they were coming to help him out but he became alarmed when he saw them approach with knives, cudgels and other dangerous weapons. That was when it dawned on him that they were robbers out to see what fortune they could make for themselves out of other people’s misfortunes. Despite throwing some of their belongings into the car boot, they (he and other occupants of the car) were mercilessly beaten and robbed of their valuables. It is not an experience he would want to relieve, he said. But he is, all the same, grateful to God, for sparing their lives.
Underneath the bridge, at the Apongbon end, are a group of guys who specialise, sources said, in extorting money from people. On one of the days, they waylaid a well-to-do businessman who was about to offload his goods and extorted some cash from him which they used to buy illicit drugs. It is their way of making money when they are not robbing innocent passersby, someone said. There, they turned some container shops into their makeshift homes. Their clothes could be seen hanging on the black wires that connect the shops. And, may God save you if you are caught passing through that place in lonely afternoons or dark nights.
Tin Can Bridge
On the Tin Can Island Bridge, the fear of boys riding motorbikes, it was gathered, is the beginning of wisdom. The okada riders form a colony under the supervision of one Shehu, a smooth Yoruba-speaking young man. The newly built bridge has become an abode for these okada riders and their concubines. Shehu coordinates the activities going on under the bridge – from the parking of the motorcycles to pimping. Everyone seems to bow to his demands and obey his laws.
Some female teenagers pretend to sell food but at night they turn into prostitutes. They are taken to different corners in the environs for quick sex as long as Shehu has sanctioned it. Male patrons are not allowed to bring them into the open. Sometimes, some of them wait till midnight to have their turns. They carry out their operation in groups. But when Chief Daniel Ezeobi, a clearing, and forwarding agent, drove through the area recently, he was not looking for some fun to catch with any of the girls. All the same, he found himself robbed of all the money in his wallet, even though the robbery was not at gunpoint.
His ordeal started when he had an accident with one of the okada riders. Whether it was stage-managed or not, he couldn’t tell. But the man who was driving his car through the area said an okada rider had run into his car, and one or two people got injured. All of a sudden, he found himself surrounded by the boys as he ran to his car. In his wallet, he had his phone and some money.
“Another rider caused the accident because he was trying to overtake his brother but I was held responsible for it,” Ezeobi said. “My wallet was held because it fell off my hand. This they picked and took all the money in it, with the claim that they were going to treat the Okada boy’s injuries with it. I tried to argue that it was not my fault that he ran into my car. But when it occurred to me that my life was more important than the money, I left them.”
Mile 2 Bridge
One of the busiest bridges in Lagos, it connects Oshodi Expressway to Berger, Orile, and Iba Express. The bridge which starts from Jakande Estate Extension near Mile 2 serves as a good hideout for hoodlums. This is because, not having a floodlight, it is always dark in the evening. Ask anybody. Mile 2 under-bridge is one of the scariest and perhaps deadliest places to be at night in Lagos.
Recently, some hoodlums operating around the area attacked a petrol tanker driver conveying petroleum products to somewhere outside the vicinity. In an attempt to force him to spill some of the content for their scooping, they reportedly hit him multiple times with metal bars until they were able to have their way. Rita Oyedepo, a nurse who resides in Ibadan but who found herself in Lagos in the course of attending a social function, narrated how the hoodlums operating in the same area robbed her of her phone and money, in a twinkle of an eye.
“The guys pretended to be fighting,” she said. “I didn’t go close because I had heard tales of their atrocities. At a point, they began to move closer to me but the closer they came, the farther I moved away until someone bumped into me from behind as I was trying to steer clear of the fighting boys. While we were busy apologizing to each other, I didn’t know when the boys made away with my purse containing my phone and money. It was someone who drew my attention to it but by then it was already too late. It was a painful experience. It is still painful as I am talking to you.
Ojuelegba Bridge is located at a crossroads in Surulere Local Government Area, Lagos. The crowded setting of the area, it was gathered, provides hoodlums with an opportunity to loiter around the bridge connecting the three surrounding districts of Yaba, Mushin, and Surulere. The bridge also connects the National Stadium axis to Mushin. At night, the bridge underbelly serves as a home for hoodlums. This is because all the commercial buses parked close to Royal Mass Transit serve as sleeping beds for them.
In the day, they look innocent and harmless, but at night they turn into dangerous creatures. They operate in groups by causing confusion and chaos and then rob as many people as possible. Saturday Sun gathered that the boys are a terror to women coming back home late from work. They harass, rob and rape the unfortunate ones among them without qualms.
Located some distance away from Ojuelegba is the Empire Bridge, it connects Jibowu to Ojuelegba. Though less busy, traffic-wise, it is nevertheless a home to hoodlums who commit atrocities just like their counterparts residing under other bridges. An investigation by Saturday Sun would show that they are united by a similar criminal enterprise. Enquiries indicate that they operate from an abandoned red-coloured mass transit bus. The broken windows are covered with blinds to stop one from seeing the inside. But sources said the floor is littered with used condoms and empty sachets of aphrodisiacs and alcoholic drinks. The hoodlums, said to be touts from Mushin, a nearby community, serve as security for a bus station located under the bridge. But most times, at night, they turn into something else while they wreak havoc on unsuspecting passersby, especially ladies.
Police angle to the story: We’re ready for them
When the reporter tried to find out from Ajisebutu Adekunle, the Lagos Police Public Relations Officer what the Command is doing to rid these places of criminal elements he did not reply to several text messages sent to his phone nor pick his calls. But a police source who does not want his name in print because he is not authorized to speak for the police on official matters noted that operatives have raided dark spots in Lagos from time to time when the need arose. He asserted that the cases mentioned here would not, in any way, turn out something different.
He gave an instance with the raid, in November 2020, of various dark spots in Lagos, and in which 720 suspects were arrested with dangerous weapons and substances suspected to be Indian hemp and cocaine. Others include the raids conducted in Okota, Canal Axis, and Ebute Meta areas of Lagos, in July and August 2021, by the Lagos State Task Force, and in which 103 and 28 suspects were nabbed respectively. He also pointed the reporter’s attention to the one carried out in the Oshodi area of the metropolis in September 2019, and in which 72 suspects were nabbed. Out of the number, 13 were later released for want of any incriminating evidence.
He informed that the police have been receiving intelligence on the activities of criminals in different black spots and assured that they would sustain the ongoing raid until the state was completely rid of undesirable elements.