It was reported that residents of Port Harcourt have cried out over the unending robbery incidents under the popular Mile One Flyover in the Rivers State capital. The residents said snatching of bags, mobile phones, necklaces and other personal effects under the bridge has become a commonplace.
They explained that while reports of robberies around the place were no more news to them, the proximity of the place to the Abali Police Station, makes the situation even more shocking to victims.
The robbers, according to Mrs. Stella, were always operating around 6am and 10pm, to dispossess unsuspecting pedestrians of their cash and other belongings.
Stella expressed worry that while victims often struggle with the robbers when they are being robbed, help never comes from the Abali Police Station, which is less than 50 meters from the area.
While the Abali Police Station is on the left hand side of the road linking the Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway, this area, which has now become a regular crime scene,is on the other side of the road where Isaac Boro Park and the Rivers State Fire Service are located.
The police station is also close to a market. It could take policemen on duty at the station not less than two minutes to get to the crime scene and apprehend criminals, who regularly harass pedestrians and dispossess them of their valuables.
Narrating her ordeal, Stella told Southern City News how she lost her cash, gold necklace, wristwatch and two mobile phones to the hoodlums, who suddenly appeared to her around 6.30am on a day she was rushing to collect some goods from a businessman. According to her, she decided to leave her house in Eliozu early in order to meet him.
“It happened about three months ago on a Monday. I had the sum of N120,000on me to pay the man that was to sell clothes to me because I operate a boutique somewhere in Port Harcourt. When I got under the flyover and decided to cross to the other side of the road, three young men suddenly ambushed me.
“At first, I thought they wanted to rape me. But on a second thought, I realised that it might not be possible because it was already 6.30 am and vehicles were moving. These boys grabbed my purse and took away all the money I wanted to use to buy my merchandise. I screamed because I knew I was close to the police station, but nobody came to my rescue,” Stella recalled.
A victim, who gave his name as Bala, said he also lost his two phones and money to criminals under the Mile One Flyover.
Bala explained that since he relocated to Port Harcourt five years ago, stories of how hoodlums attack innocent people under or by the side of the bridge have always been told by helpless victims.
He recalled how a businessman from the North, who took a night bus from Kaduna State to Port Harcourt stopped at Mile One at about 5.45 am, and was robbed of N200,000. The victim, according to Bala, was advised by the driver of the bus he boarded against alighting under the Mile One Flyover.
“It did not take the thieves two minutes to pounce on him. Even when the Mallam was shouting, no policeman came to his rescue. People here are worried that the snatching of handbags, money and mobile phones occurs every time and the police cannot stop it. The truth is that the criminals believe that the police cannot do anything to them,” Bala said.
However, Bala’s friend, who preferred anonymity, described the Abali Police Station as a mere building that occupies a space.
Bala’s friend, who sells goods under the bridge expressed surprise that criminals could operate confidently in an environment with a police station. According to him, “Apart from the police station at Abali Park, there are other police stations around here. These thieves steal whatever they want and still come back for another operation.”
He, however, said he was suspecting the wheel barrow pushers, who help people to move their loads in the afternoon, operate as criminals between 5am to 6am and between 10pm and 11pm.
However, a police officer at the Abali Police Station, told newsmen that the other side of the road where incidents of robbery usually occur is under the control of the GRA Police Station.
The officer, who was at the counter when our correspondent visited the place on Thursday, said though the police had always rushed to the place to stop crime because of the nearness of the crime scene to the police station, the other side of the road was not within Abali Police Station’s control.
“We are aware of it (crimes) and we have always rushed there to fight crime because of the proximity of the place to this police station. But that spot where crime usually takes place is under Old GRA’s control,” the officer, who was in mufti told newsmen.
However, efforts made to reach the State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ahmad Mohammad, to speak on the robbery incidents was not successful as his phone was switched off when newsmen called.