One-chance is a form of robbery in which unsuspecting passengers on board a particular commercial vehicle are dispossessed of their belongings.
Again, they are on the prowl on Lagos roads. Bandits operating in commercial buses, otherwise known as ‘one-chance,’ are back. And they are more deadly and vicious.
With the Christmas and New Year festivities over, the criminals now target holidaymakers returning to Lagos from other states, unleashing pain and trauma on unsuspecting victims.
One-chance is a form of robbery in which unsuspecting passengers on board a particular commercial vehicle are dispossessed of their belongings. Usually, gang members pretending to be passengers
and the conductor would be seated in the vehicle. Then during the journey, the gang members would brandish weapons and dispossess the passengers of their belongings.
Sometimes, those with ATM cards are held hostage and made to give up their PIN codes with which the gang makes massive withdrawals. After being robbed, the victims would often be pushed out of the moving vehicle.
These criminals are known to carry out their nefarious activities in the early hours of the morning or late in the evening. They have added another dimension to their enterprise. They now target the SIM cards of their victims, alongside ATM cards. It has been discovered that, with the SIM card, they can access their victim’s bank verification number (BVN) and have total access to other accounts linked to it.
Several Lagos residents returning from Christmas holiday who fell into the hands of the criminals have not only been relating tales of woe during the traumatic encounters but are also yet to recover from their losses.
Ndubuisi Ogbonna, a businessman who fell into the hands of the one-chance thieves, at Ojota Bus Stop, Lagos, said he arrived in Lagos from Onitsha at about 7.30pm and boarded a commercial bus that should have taken him to Oshodi, where he would get another bus to Cele Bus Stop.
The bus, with a capacity for 14 passengers, already had six passengers on board, including a woman. He was seated in the back with two others.
“The bus accelerated past Oshodi and was heading towards Mile 2. When I wanted to ask where we were headed, it was the woman among them that slapped me across the face. As I was screaming and begging them not to kill me, another of the gang members barked at me to shut my mouth up or he would shut it for me. When this was going on, two of them were already searching my box and scattered the contents all over the bus. The others were frantically going through my pockets and emptying its contents. They even dipped their hands into my inner wear in their search for valuables that could have been hidden there.
“Before Cele Bus Stop, they entered the service lane and parked, while one of them went to open the engine of the vehicle, pretending to be fixing something. This was while the others continued hitting me and searching through my things. They later discovered my wallet and brought out my ATM card, took my phone, and scrolled through the messages to know the alerts for financial transaction that I had made. I was forced to give up the password of my ATM card and was warned that if I tried to prove that I was a smart guy, they would throw me into the lagoon,” Ogbonna recalled.
He said the bus was parked at the spot for several minutes before one of them alighted and dashed out to the nearest bank. “After emptying my account and seizing my two phones, they dropped me at Coker Bus Stop. A commercial cyclist later gave me N400 to find my way back home after listening to my story. Days later, after I retrieved my two lines, I was shocked to discover that these men had emptied my two other bank accounts using my BVN. How they did that, I am yet to know. I went from travelling happily for the Christmas celebration to returning battered and broken,” he said.
Flora Odogwu, a resident of Moses Street, Oke-Afa, Isolo, is still nursing a battered face and ribs, a result of being flung out of a fast-moving vehicle by one-chance thieves. The housewife said she left Owerri that day and got to Ojota by 9pm. She opted for a commercial bus after several efforts to get a cab failed.
“Immediately this bus pulled up in my front, I did not feel like boarding, but already, the conductor had put my things in the booth. When I entered, I was forced to sit between two men on the second row. They all pretended to be passengers. While the vehicle was on motion, one of the passengers tapped me on the shoulder and told me to cooperate with them. They started searching through my box and handbag. Another one started pressing all over my body at the same time, hitting me across the face.”
Flora said the robbers took her ATM card and threatened to kill her if she didn’t provide the correct PIN. She recalled that they drove through Airport Road and parked a little distance from 7/8 Bus Stop.
“One of them alighted and hurriedly used an ATM in one of the banks located in the axis. He later returned and the driver zoomed off. As they were about to climb the bridge leading to Oshodi, they pushed me out of the bus. I was lucky no other vehicle was coming at the time, I could have been crushed to death.”
Flora lamented that she later lost N500,000, to the thieves as they used her SIM card to access her other bank accounts. She said the money was meant for her house rentm, which would be due in March.
Another lady, Ronke, urged the police to beef up security on major roads in Lagos. The staff of a new generation bank at Mazamaza said she was robbed after boarding a bus headed for Abule-Ado on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway.
“Not long after boarding the eight-seater mini bus in the middle lane. Someone attempted to strangle me from behind. The man’s grip was so strong that I almost passed out. It was during that time that they searched my handbag and took my two ATM cards, phones and the N10,000 in my pocket. They asked for my PIN and I didn’t hesitate to tell them. When the vehicle pulled over at a nearby ATM, two of them alighted and withdrew money from my account. After successfully operating unhindered, they dropped me before Barracks Bus Stop and warned me not to shout so that they wouldn’t be forced to shoot me,” she said.
Another victim, Mrs. Fisayo Atanda, a trader, said she was robbed of N500,000 in December while going to stock up her shop in preparation for the Yuletide sales.
She noted that after boarding a yellow-painted bus at First Gate Bus Stop along the Lagos-Badagry Expresway, five male occupants, who were already inside, pounced on her, beating her mercilessly. She, however, counted herself lucky for not leaving the house with her phone and ATM cards.
“I guess I would not have recovered at all from the incident because each time I hear about how people were robbed of their ATM cards and phones, I believe God really loves me. But I was badly beaten by those men,” she said.
Another victim of the one-chance gang, Veronica Aneke, said she fell victim while returning from work on December 26, 2018.
Aneke said she boarded a bus headed for First Gate Bus Stop at Mile 2, and immediately she entered the vehicle, she became suspicious as there were five male passengers already seated inside. She said her fears were confirmed as soon as the driver drove off. The gang members immediately asked her to open her bag and bring out all her money, phones and ATM cards.
“They passed my destination and parked at a secluded place where they beat me to stupor. I thought they would kill me that very day. If not that they got some money from me, they would have killed me. One of them even suggested that they should rape me. I am still traumatised,” she said.
On how not to fall victim to these criminals, a security expert, Adigun Ewegbemi, advised people not to board any unmarked taxi or bus. He said passengers must always observe and look closely inside a bus before boarding.
“If you suspect anything untoward, do not board. Observe the passengers before you board. The passengers inside a bus are critical to your boarding any vehicle. If you think they look suspicious, back off and look for another bus. Be careful of all-male passenger vehicles. Do not board unless you know the occupants well. Always trust and obey your instincts,” he advised.
Adigun further warned against boarding buses with curtains, noting that if they turn out to be criminals, no one would hear or see when a victim is shouting for help.
“Also avoid rushing into a commercial bus in a hurry. Always watch the driver and conductor closely. One-chance operators are experts at what they do. But their criminal intent can easily be detected. It may be just one glance that will give them away. So observe their body language and you may just have saved yourself from trouble.”