… Appeal to FG, IGP to mount 24-hour patrol on nation’s highways
From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
For years, they have endured unending and agonising physical and psychological ordeals. On many occasions, while conveying people to their destinations across the country, their drivers, bus assistants and passengers have been victims of daredevil robbers. Several passengers, drivers and other bus assistants have lost lives and limbs. Others have been dispossessed of cash and other valuable personal belongings by robbers. And now, owners and operators of luxury buses in Nigeria say they can no longer cope.
The operators, who are members of the Association of Luxury Bus Owners of Nigeria (ALBON), said the incessant armed robbery attacks on their vehicles were no longer tolerable. They regretted that many lives had been lost, millions of naira stolen, while many of their female passengers had been raped on the road over the years.
The group threatened to go on strike and withdraw their buses from the roads over the spate of robbery attacks on Nigeria’s highways if the security agencies don’t tackle the situation.
The Vice-President of the Association of Luxury Bus Owners (ALBON), who is also the Managing Director/CEO, Chiemezie Motors, Chief Sabastine Udemba, spoke on behalf of the luxury bus owners after the group’s recent general meeting in Onitsha, Anambra State.
He asserted that luxury bus owners had endured enough over the situation, lamenting that the insecurity on the highways had crippled their businesses.
He said armed robbers had been laying siege to the highways, attacking luxury buses from Onitsha to Lagos, Onitsha to Kano or Jos to Yola. He regretted that drivers and passengers had lost their lives and millions of naira, with passengers sustaining varying degrees of injury. Many buses had also been damaged, he noted.
Udemba noted that sometime this year, armed robbers blocked some major highways and robbed the buses for about eight hours. He noted that while the ordeal lasted, not a single security operative was sighted. He said the bandits successfully robbed about 40 vehicles without any interference from the security agencies.
He said: “We are calling on the Federal Government and the Inspector General of Police to come to our aid and declare a state of emergency on the highways. They should post security agents, especially police patrol teams and troops of the Nigerian Army on the road 24 hours to ensure that our roads are free of robbers. A situation where robbers will be robbing vehicles one after another and no policeman or soldier will come to rescue the passengers doesn’t speak good about our security.
“The 9th Mile, Enugu to Jos, Benin Bye-Pass to Ijebu-Ode to Sagamu, Lagos to Kano, Mokwa in Niger State, Inyi, Kaba Junction in Kogi and Gwagwalada in the FTC are major black spots where robbers attack our vehicles. Part of the reasons is that the roads are very bad in some of these places, and when the driver applies the brake by a pothole, the robbers will rush out from their hide-outs and rob the vehicle.”
He recalled that there was a time police escorts were approved for the luxury buses, noting, however, that the escorts were later withdrawn. He said that had again exposed the drivers and the passengers to more risks.
“Even at the time that we had police escorts, it was a tug of war. At that time, the robbers would open fire from afar on any luxury bus because they knew that we had police escorts. What we want now is for government to put more police patrol teams on the highways day and night and to have monitoring units to ensure that the police teams would actually patrol till day break,” he said.
Managing Director, Uchenna Motors, Mr. Uchenna Maduakor, also narrated his ordeal in the hands of armed robbers. He said the bandits robbed his luxury bus at about 11pm at the 9th Mile area of Enugu after the 7-UP Plant along the 9th Mile-Obollo Afor-Benue Road.
He disclosed that the hoodlums wore police and army uniforms and mounted checkpoints on the road. He said it was normal for vehicles to slow down after sighting security checkpoints. However, he regretted that as soon as his vehicle slowed down, the robbers, disguising as security men, promptly surrounded the vehicles and diverted it inside the bush where they robbed everybody.
His words: “They killed my driver four months ago while they wore army uniforms at Gbokoro in Benue State. It was at the same spot that they killed a driver of Chukwudubem Motors. The recent one was at the 9th Mile after the 7-UP Plant. As my vehicle was climbing the hill, the armed robbers blocked the road. But my driver saw it and started reversing. Unfortunately, he didn’t know that they had divided themselves into two groups. As the vehicle was reversing, the other group came out and one of them brought a dagger to stab my driver. He jumped out of the vehicle and the bus rolled on its own with the passengers and fell into a pit. But we thank God that nobody sustained injuries.
“But the armed robbers came to the bus and robbed the passengers. They also raped the women. Then after two days, we brought another bus to take the passengers. But as the bus came out to continue the journey, the same set of robbers came out again and robbed the second vehicle. As these things were happening, my driver rushed to the nearby police station. But the police said they must be given N50, 000 if we wanted them to rescue the passengers.
“I don’t know the type of government and country we are running now. If the business is not worth it again, we can stop it and look for something else to do. But I know that some people are eating through us on the road. We also contribute to revenue generation in the country. In short, after the aviation sector, it is land transportation that generates huge revenue for the country. We don’t have security on the road at all. If your vehicle breaks down close to a police checkpoint, you have to negotiate with the police there on how much you will pay them. If not, they will leave the place and relocate to another area. Then after some minutes, armed robbers will come and rob you there. It is alarming.
“We are calling on the IGP to talk to the Commissioners of Police in the various states to provide security along the highways. They should hold the divisional police officer (DPO) in charge of any area where a robbery takes place responsible. As we travel, we drop money and bottles of water at every police checkpoint, starting from wherever we take off to our last bus stop. It is not only the luxury buses that do this; it is every passenger bus along the highway.”
The vice chairman of the association in Anambra State, Chief Wilfred Ndibe also appealed to the passengers not to travel with cash, noting that the practice usually attracts armed robbers. He urged businessmen to always travel with cheque books and ATM cards with which they could withdraw cash at their destinations.
“This will help us to reduce the incessant attacks on luxury buses, because the hoodlums believe that the passengers travel with huge sums of money. So, with the help of the police on the highways, patrolling 24 hours, and our passengers too stopping travelling with cash, the incessant attacks will stop. If the robbers stop our vehicles one or two times without finding any cash with the passengers, they will stop attacking us,” he noted.
From DSVRT, succour for rape victims, others
By Tope Adeboboye
It is one hazardous breeze that persistently wafts across different states, inflicting physical and psychological trauma on many souls.
Each day, reports of domestic abuse and sexual violence against spouses and children pervade the Nigerian space. “Husband beats wife to death.” “Pastor chains son over theft.” “Wife stabs husband.” “Father rapes daughter.” Indeed, some of the headlines in the crime sections of many Nigerian newspapers would appear absolutely unbelievable. Yet they are real.
Government agencies as well as non-governmental organisations have launched initiatives aimed at curtailing these glaring acts of iniquity. However, just as a suspect is being arrested, another act is being perpetrated elsewhere.
On Thursday, September 8, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, led an all-male walk against sexual and gender-based violence in Lagos. During the walk, the governor averred that domestic violence could produce emotionally and psychologically damaged women in the society. “The effect could transcend to their children, who grow up in an environment, thinking this is the norm. Men as grandfathers, fathers, brothers, sons, husbands and public advocates have a pivotal role to play in condemning all forms of violence against women, girls and boys,” he added.
Earlier, on Saturday, August 20, management and staff of The Sun Publishing Limited, publishers of The Sun titles and Sporting Sun, had staged a walk against child abuse and domestic violence in Lagos. The event had in attendance popular Nigerian artistes, Nollywood personalities, top police officers and social activists.
At the event, the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the organisation, Mr. Eric Osagie, noted that domestic violence and sexual abuse had led to the death and permanent disability of many Nigerians, even as many dreams had been cut short. He said the situation was not acceptable and urged the people to report suspected cases of domestic violence and child abuse at the nearest police station.
Even though acts of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse have continued to fester, efforts to combat the social malady have not been in short supply in Lagos. And the Lagos State government, through the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT), has been providing succour to victims.
In September 2014, the state government set up the DSVRT as a response to the increase in incidents of rape, defilement, domestic violence, child abuse, neglect and maltreatment in the state.
In the team were top representatives of the Nigeria Police, Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Office of the Public Defender, Directorate for Citizens’ Rights, Mirabel Centre, Ministries of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Health, Education, and Youth and Social Development, the media and non-governmental organisations fighting against social ills.
Coordinator of DSVRT, Mrs. Titilola Vivour Adeniyi, condemned the activities of perpetrators of domestic violence, even as she noted that the Lagos State government had launched a massive offensive against such ungodly acts.
She noted that her team, since inception, had been working assiduously with relevant agencies in the state as well as other professionals to bring a total end to the menace across Lagos State.
While analysing the challenges being faced by victims of domestic and sexual violence, Mrs. Vivour Adeniyi said the agency had been responding to such challenges with zest.
She regretted that survivors of sexual assault, until May last year, had little access to medical care, especially at the grassroots. The situation has since improved, she noted.
“We launched the Lagos State Sexual Assault Standing Order, the first of its kind in Nigeria, to be used at all state health facilities. We also developed and launched the Rape Kit for primary health centres. And we have been training health officials on sexual assault management,” she said.
The Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team also conducted a research on sex convicts and others awaiting trial in all the prison facilities in Lagos. The research was to determine why people commit sexual violence. Over 80 per cent of the respondents said they were abused as children, 89 per cent said they were inspired by alcohol while 10.9 per cent admitted that they were under the influence of hard drugs at the time they committed the crime. But not a single one said he was aroused by what the victims wore.
Many victims have claimed that they had no clue on what to do after they were raped. DSVRT, it was gathered, had since developed a manual highlighting how a rape victim should respond after the act. The manual has been distributed to schools, churches, mosques, hospitals, police stations and other places, the reporter learnt. Such steps are also available on the DSVRT website.
To create more awareness on how to prevent rape or deal with its aftermath, members of the DSVRT have held rallies in places like Ikeja, Alimosho, Lagos Island and some other parts of the state. There are campaigns on radio, billboards and on other platforms, just as sensitisation rallies are being done in the rural areas.
She regretted that victims were hardly interested in getting justice through the legal process, adding that her team had engaged many victims on why they should get justice. She also informed that DSVRT officials had been engaging law enforcement agencies to conduct proper investigations and charge rape cases to court.
Mrs. Vivour-Adeniyi informed that over 220 police officers had been trained by DSVRT on tackling gender-based violence and sexual assaults, among others.
The reporter also learnt that DSVRT had been training primary and secondary school students on how to defend themselves from potential perpetrators, just as the team commenced a sexual assault prevention drive for higher institutions. The team also drafted the Lagos State Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy expected to be signed into law soon by Governor Ambode.
The DSVRT boss said victims of domestic and gender-based violence could lodge complaints online or call the team’s hotline on 08137960048.