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Robbers as Hawkers? Yes!

Posted by Webby on 7/10/2002 6:15:57 PM | Views: 229 |

Robbers as Hawkers? Yes!

Robbery suspects are often paraded before journalists

When Lawrence Semaka, a public servant in Lagos left his Ikoyi office for home after a successful day at work, June 18, he never suspected that danger was awaiting him on the way. He lost all he had in his possession to a group of hoodlums along Liverpool/Tin Can Island Road in Apapa, Lagos . Worse still, he had his car side glasses broken in traumatic experience of falling victim to the rising wave of robbery during traffic hold-ups in many parts of Lagos .

Trouble started for Semaka at about 8.30 p.m. that day when he was trapped in the usual Lagos traffic jam along the road. It had rained few hours earlier, and the road was flooded, thus hampering free flow of traffic. Suddenly, according to Semaka, a group of young men, armed with shot guns and dangerous weapons numbering about 15 stormed the scene as the traffic build-up thickened. “They unleashed terror freely on unsuspecting victims and dispossessed them of money and valuables,” Semaka told Newswatch.

According to him, when he heard an unusual screaming behind him, he turned back to see what was happening only to realise that the group of robbers were already by his car. He hurriedly wound up his car glass. And, as if his action infuriated the gangsters, they smashed the glasses with iron rod. He said it was then it dawned on him that he was in for the worst. He explained that the hoodlums never gave him any opportunity to utter a word or defend himself, as they rushed him immediately, ransacked his pocket and the car, carting away all he had on him including money, wrist watch and other valuables in the car.

Like Semaka, Agnes Otelagu, mother of four and a petty trader at Cele Bus Stop along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Lagos , also has a bitter tale to tell. She lost all she had toiled to get from her sales three weeks ago to ‘go-slow’ robbers at Toyota Bus-Stop near Isolo, Lagos .

She told Newswatch, June 22, that she was returning from work at a business centre that fateful day when the commercial bus which she boarded got caught in the traffic jam along that area. She said while the bus driver was managing to manoeuvre his way, suddenly a group of teenagers, about 10 in number, between the ages of 17 and 20 swooped on other vehicles, fired gun shots into the air to scare their victims and dispossessed them of money and properties. “As soon as I sensed trouble, I hurriedly smuggled the money I had (proceeds from the day’s sales) into a corner in the bus for safety. But I was unlucky. One of the hoodlums caught a glimpse of my trick and soon made straight for the money where I hid it,” she narrated.

Semaka and Otelagu are among the many victims of traffic-jam robbery who have lost money and valuables to the criminals, recently. Many of the victims who spoke to Newswatch revealed that they also suffered various forms of humiliation and torture in their hands.

Victor Chilaka, Lagos State police public relations officer told Newswatch, June 21 that the police was aware of the new trend of robbery along major roads in Lagos . He explained that the hoodlums who often disguise as hawkers, pretend to be selling their wares to motorists. According to him, this group always carries dangerous weapons in polythene bags, and that they study the terrain so well, knowing where and when the police would be keeping surveillance at any given time.

Young Arebamen, Lagos State commissioner of police told Newswatch last week that they were taking steps to arrest the ugly trend, and that it will amount to security risk to expose their strategy to the public