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Lagos Residents’ Ordeal As Traffic Robberies Surge

Motorists and commuters in Lagos are known to always battle traffic gridlocks. However, lately they have had to contend with robbery in traffic.

The first time Hassan Onike, a civil engineer, set out before the break of dawn for work in Lagos, he got robbed at gunpoint in traffic. The incident occurred around 5:45 a.m. at the Elediye area of Ikorodu, in the Southwest Nigeria state.

Onike had to part with his phone amid menacing threats in a commercial bus. “The robbers escaped with people’s money and other valuables as it was a Monday morning. I was on my way to work. They shot several times in the air afterwards,” he told HumAngle.

According to Lagos Transportation Commissioner, Mr Frederick Oladehinde, about 1.6 million vehicles ply Lagos roads daily. Also, according to former governor of Lagos State, Akinwumi Ambode, about 123,000 people move into the state every day. With no alternative means of transiting other than by road, vehicular movement becomes a highly daunting affair in most parts of the city.

As if stealing her IPhoneX was not enough, robbers also made an attempt, although futile, to snatch Khadija Olowoyo’s necklace in the Abule-egba area of Lagos. According to Olowoyo, who is a legal practitioner, she was driving around 7:45 p.m. with her windows rolled down because her car’s air conditioning unit had stopped working.

“As I was approaching Abattoir on Oko Oba road, I got into traffic. The traffic kept on dragging, and it was getting late; all along, my phone was charging inside my armrest compartment. When I approached the Abule Egba Bridge, in a flash a guy just came by the driver’s side and snatched the phone from me.”

“He tried to snatch my necklace, but thanks to its thickness, he was unable to as he was also in a hurry. As a result of that, he left several scratches on my neck which took days to heal.”

Afterwards, he crossed over to the other side of the road, which was completely free, hopped on the bike and zoomed off with his accomplice,” she narrated.

For Nathanael Bakare, a photojournalist, Ọbalende Bus Stop remains a place he passes with foreboding. However, unlike Onike, the incident took place late in the night at about 10 p.m.

“My Samsung tablet was stolen surreptitiously but I wasn’t injured. I had to forget reality momentarily.”

“I had gotten down from the bus, waiting to collect my change from the conductor. It was rowdy and I was surrounded. I felt something against my back then. On entering the next vehicle to my destination, I checked for my tab and didn’t find it,” he explained.

Lack of confidence in the police

“I didn’t report to any authority because I was convinced there was absolutely nothing they could do about it,” Olowoyo told Humangle.

“The incident made me lose the little interest I had in Lagos State. The incident could have been avoided only if the road was free,” she said. Unlike Olowoyo, Onike made a move by reporting the incident at the nearest police station, but according to him, he was very disappointed.

“No form of investigation was done. They didn’t offer to help me track my phone, and they didn’t get back to me. They even told me not to be coming out that early and if I needed to, that I shouldn’t pass that side of Ikorodu road as it’s notorious. It was really what made me see that security in Lagos is very low,” Onike lamented.

Bakare, however, pointed out: “I have never had confidence in the police. There is a certain police station in Obalende bus stop that is notorious for robbery and gang fights.”

Traffic robbery and its effect

Olowoyo told HumAngle that she experiences paranoia as a result of the incident. “I become extremely paranoid whenever I’m in traffic, regardless of the time of day or whether I roll up my window glasses or not. I can’t even receive phone calls even if there’s no traffic,” she said.

On the other hand, although Onike was lucky not to have sustained any injury, he developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) afterwards.

Onike emphasised that “I was robbed at gunpoint. A gun was pointed at my face and I peed on myself.  It was quite a horrible experience and it has affected my mental health, especially when I pass that same location or whenever the thought comes to mind or when I see a stranger running towards me.”

“I experience PTSD since being robbed, so I’m overly cautious and get occasional scare pangs when I can’t find my phone for a second,” Bakare told Humangle.

Any solution in sight?

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in response to the notoriety of traffic robberies in the state, advised Lagos motorists to always keep their car windows shut.

However, this doesn’t completely eradicate the problem, Gbolahan Olojede, a public analyst, pointed out.

“Although it is a necessary safety measure, such measures do not guarantee safety during an attack,” Olojede said.

“First, if the attacker is armed in stand-still traffic, he can make you unlock the car or wind down your windows. It is also important to know that not all vehicles plying Lagos roads are in good shape for the windows to be wound up or doors effectively locked, particularly some ‘yellow’ taxis and buses.”

“The implication for residents is the additional anxiety and stress associated with insecurity, as well as actual losses, such as damage to vehicles, sometimes physical harm to the victims, and in extreme situations, loss of lives,” he said.

Olojede admonished Lagosians to avoid driving alone at night, avoid notorious roads where possible, wind up windows and lock car doors when in traffic.

“Keep valuables such as telephones, handbags, and wallets, out of sight when in traffic. If possible, avoid making calls,” he added.

For security operatives, however, he advised that they should be available and visible along areas known to be notorious for such crimes.

“It appears the police need more men and recruitment should be part of what we must consider. Lagos State, through its Police Trust Fund initiative involving the private sector, has been replenishing its crime-fighting equipment and is well-positioned to deploy these assets to the security of the people,” Olojede pointed out.

Attempts to reach the Police Commissioner, Hakeem Odumosu, and the state’s Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Muyiwa Adejobi, were unsuccessful.

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