Pains, anger of ‘one chance’ robbery victims

‘One chance’ robbery has continued to be a pain in the neck of residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) despite efforts by security agencies to arrest the situation. In this report, KEHINDE OSASONA relays experiences of some victims.

‘One chance’ robbery, which first reared its head in Lagos, Nigeria’s former capital city, has continued to thrive since it berthed in Abuja.

Their mode of operation is using commercial taxis or unbranded or private vehicles to pick unsuspecting victims, convey them to isolated places, ransack and rob them of money, phones, electronic gadgets and other valuables. This operation is mostly carried out at gun point or by brandishing other dangerous weapons to instill fears into the victim.

These robbers have no trouble harming stubborn or resistant victims resulting in some sustaining various degrees of injuring and in rare cases death of their victims.

The menace of these robbery gangs, coupled with activities of other criminals, has led to heightened fears and anxiety among residents of the FCT.

Blueprint Weekend reports that many residents, especially those who patronise commercial taxis, now move around in fear as they are suspicious of almost all motorists.

FCTA, Police efforts

Worried by the development, the immediate past Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Muhammad Bello, had summoned a meeting of the FCT Security Committee, comprising heads of Police, Military and Para Military formations in the territory as well as Area Council Chairmen and religious leaders, as a way of finding lasting solutions to the menace.

On its part, the FCT Police Command has made some arrests, commenced processes of prosecuting such suspects as well as confiscating their operational vehicles. Regrettably, these measures appear not have yielded the desired results.

Foiled operations

Last year, during one of its routine patrols, police operatives attached to the Wuye Divisional Headquarters of the FCT Police Command arrested a four-man suspected ‘one-chance’ criminal syndicate in the Wuye Area of Abuja.

The police operatives also rescued a victim, and recovered N200,000 from the suspects at the crime scene.

The suspects, according to a press statement, by the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for the Command, SP Josephine Adeh, were on the police watchlist and had been linked to masterminding and perpetrating a series of vehicular robberies in the Wuye axis and environs.

Similarly, last week, three residents including a Journalist narrated their ugly tales in the hands of the ‘one chance’ robbers amid anger and frustrations.

According to one of them, his own took place around 5pm along Wuse, a busy place and kept wondering why they were that audacious.

The journalist in question, however, encountered the robbers around 7pm on her way home from work.

The most pitiable was that of a trader who was driven around for almost one hour before she was finally disposed of her money.

Victims relate ordeal

Deborah Musa, a journalist, told Blueprint Weekend that although it was not her first-time encountering ‘one chance’ robbers, she was disturbed that the incident took place almost at the same spot and about the same time.

She said the incident kept her wondering if that spot had finally become a criminal abode, black spot, as well as the number of unsuspecting residents that would have fallen victims.

She said her first experience in the hands of the criminals was last year while returning from work.

“My first was along this same Area 11, Garki route, sometime last year. I thought I had learnt one or two lessons until this second one.

“During my first attack, I lost my phone and cash. I was not only traumatising; it was also painful. It took some time before I could recover from the nasty experience.

“What made this second one more painful was the fact that I got so engrossed with my remaining work which I was trying to do from my phone and before I knew it, the passenger in the front, who was their gang member, collapsed the seat and used it to press me down, while the other gang member struggled with me at the back.

“After some minutes, while the car was still in motion, I was becoming weak and with no hope of help from anywhere, I gave up and they took my bag, passed it to the front, removed my phone and money and returned my bag to me.

“Immediately after that, the driver slowed down and allowed me to come down without any injury, though,” she declared.

Speaking further she stated, “Nevertheless, I still find it difficult to believe that this incident happened around the same area. It is like they have turned the place to their regular abode or something?

“What are the police doing to arrest this situation? Are we going to continue to be at the mercy of these criminals?”

‘My experience was frightening’

Also lamenting his ordeal, Anas Muhammed, a resident of Lugbe, one of the suburbs of Abuja, told our correspondent that although it was his first time encountering the robbers, his experience was frightening.

Anas said the robbers had threatened to push her out of the vehicle while it was still on speed.

“I am a trader and one day, I mistakenly took an unmarked vehicle because I was in a hurry to meet a friend at the Lugbe Police Sign Board and he was already waiting. But unknown to me those guys had already seen through my ignorance and they took advantage of it.

“Sadly, I was not sensitive to their plans until we got to the express along Kuchingoro. It was in the night and they had to turn again and start carrying me around and for almost one hour we were on the express and its adjoining roads.

“To be candid, I do not have a deep knowledge of Abuja like that. So, it contributed to my falling into their hands. That day, I had N45,000 which I just cashed. I also had two phones which they took away.

“At a point, sensing danger and sitting among four dangerous looking men, I was ready to let go of my money for the sake of my life but not the phones, including an iPhone was hard to let go.

“At that point, they kept dragging and threatening to throw me out. In fact, one punched me hard in the stomach and chest and I became weak. In short, he was about to open the door of the vehicle and when I saw that they meant it I had to give up the fight. It was that bad. I mean, in the capital city?

“What this whole thing means to me is that these politicians’ only police themselves and not the citizens they claim to protect,” Anas lamented.

‘I was thrown off moving vehicle’

Relating his experience, Nnaemeka Prince said he was actually thrown out of the vehicle after being disposed of his phones and laptop.

“But for God, an oncoming vehicle would have crushed me,” he lamented.

According to him, “I boarded the vehicle in the night around 8pm going to Apo Bridge. I met three people at the back seat but we were two that fell victim eventually.

“When they wanted to rob us, they parked and warned us to cooperate or they will kill us and nothing will happen.

“We were rough handled so much that the only thing on my mind was be to just give them whatever they wanted and move on. I had just N3,500 and they asked for my ATM but I was not carrying it with me. Once I don’t have much money in my account, I don’t usually carry it. That was a saving grace for me. They collected the other guy’s ATM and forced him to give them pin number,” he stated.

Way forward

Speaking on how to curb the menace, a Security Expert, Mr Marcus Odia, advocated that FCT residents, especially commuters, should be vigilant at all times.

He said: “The problem with most people is that whenever they are on the road, they still carry other things in mind and so they are not concentrating or thinking straight.

“These criminals always take advantage of such situations and catch you unaware. More importantly, they should try as much as possible to avoid a vehicle without number plates.”

Effort to reach the FCT Police spokesperson to ascertain if additional measures had been in place to curb the ugly trend, proved abortive at the time of filing the report as her phone number was unreachable.

She did not also respond to messages sent to her phone by our correspondent.