With nearly all victims of recent robberies and deceit coming to such grief around bridges in Lagos, the duo of BOLA BADMUS and CHUKWUMA OKPARAOCHA searched out all the bridges in the state for the ones to avoid, especially at night, in the new year.
The battle for safety on and under Lagos bridges does not appear to be a winning one for security agencies and the state government. Raids by security agencies, particularly at midnight, have not deterred miscreants who have made bridges their operational base. The miscreants are back on and under the bridges, including the pedestrian ones.
With over 20 million inhabitants comprising the naive, the gullible and the greedy, the criminally-minded have enough potential victims but Saturday Tribune’s findings showed that some residents were mere victims of circumstance.
An age-long expression about the accommodating nature of the state even acknowledges the place of these hoodlums. “Eko gbole, o gbole,” which literally means, Lagos is home to both hard-working people and the lazy lot, is acceptable to all but the activities of the lazy half of the population are now a source of worry for a lot of residents.
The miscreants, described in the expression, look for every opportunity to fleece the hard-working members of the society of their money or property. Based on Saturday Tribune’s investigations, one of the places to locate the miscreants now is underneath some of the bridges in the state.
Third Mainland Bridge
This bridge is, no doubt, one of the architectural wonders of not just Lagos State but the nation as a whole.
Automobiles moving at breath-taking speed perhaps sums up what this bridge was made for – life on the fast lane. But there have been countless cases of people getting robbed on this architectural masterpiece over the years. Anyone unfortunate enough to have his car break down on this bridge stands the risk of attack by thugs who are usually armed with dangerous weapons. There have been cases of drivers getting robbed in this fashion.
Drivers are often advised to wind up their windows when caught in gridlocks on this bridge. There have also been instances of drivers and other occupants of vehicles being robbed simply because they failed to take this precaution. However, patrolling security personnel and illumination on the bridge have reduced this negative trend in the past few months.
“One must always be very prayerful when plying the bridge at night, especially when one’s vehicle breaks down or when one has a flat tyre. These are some of the opportunities criminals look out for on the bridge. To carry out their nefarious activities, these criminals usually make use of the exit and the entrance links at the Ebute-Meta end of the bridge, mostly at sundown,” said a resident simply identified as AY, who claimed to have fallen victim to such a robbery after he had a flat tyre, recently.
Saturday Tribune recalls an incident that occurred at the Iyana Oworo area of the bridge two years ago wherein a lady’s handbag was snatched by a thief who immediately darted across the busy road. The distraught lady ran after the guy but they were both were hit by an oncoming vehicle. They died on the spot.
Obalende may not be what it used to be – a new mega terminus having replaced a once notorious car park where anything was possible – but despite its aesthetics and improved organisation, the area is still regarded in some quarters as a red zone with a significant number of street urchins who engage in pickpocketing, gangsterism and harassment of road users, in the early morning and in the night.
The major areas of interest on this historic infrastructure may fall within the borders of the neighbouring Ogun State. Nevertheless, this bridge is worth considering because it leads to the popular Ojodu Berger Bus Stop in Lagos State, which also has its own share of crime.
The bridge also has in its stretch the Kara Cattle Market and settlement as well as a major depot for all mobile toilets in Lagos State.
This particular bridge is known to be fraught with criminal activities, including robbing of pedestrians around the bridge at odd periods. Motorists whose vehicles break down become easy targets for criminals hiding in various spots around the bridge at night.
Like Obalende, Oshodi is not what it used to be. The community was infamous for its chaotic nature a few years back.
However, despite its impressive and growing aesthetics, the under-bridge of this historic community shows a semblance of what the situation used to be. Commuters are still known to be cautious when hanging around the bridge’s surroundings at night. At night, a lot of people, mostly young men, could be seen gathering in groups under the bridge, especially at the railway end, smoking.
A young woman, Mrs Funke Peters, claimed that she almost lost her phone after a rough-looking young man attempted to snatch it from her hand while everyone was trapped in a gridlock.
“I had barely taken my phone out of my bag when the rough-looking fellow dashed across the express road and tried to snatch the phone from my hand. He didn’t succeed but his finger nails gave me some bruises in the process”, she noted.
The Cele flyover is one of the newest of such bridges in Lagos State. It was constructed during the tenure of the immediate past governor of the state and current Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola.
Its construction was greeted with applause by residents of Isolo and Okota and, indeed, users of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, as it was expected to go a long way in reducing gridlocks on the expressway. But a few years after, a section of the bridge has emerged as a den of Indian hemp smokers. Saturday Tribune saw recently how a certain spot under the bridge at the Cele Bus Stop end of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway had been turned into a den of Indian hemp smokers.
Our correspondent, who monitored activities under the bridge, observed that with a measure of secrecy provided by the walls of the bridge, miscreants were using the opportunity of the bustling at the place, including trading and the operation of a mini-garage for tricycles, to engage in the sale and consumption of Indian hemp.
Some residents who spoke to Saturday Tribune were generally of the view that the presence of Indian hemp smokers might be the beginning of bigger crimes in the area if the situation was not nipped in the bud.
“That was how it began under the Isolo under-bridge where miscreants often gathered to smoke cigarettes and Indian hemp. Before we knew what was happening, the bridge had become a training ground for robbers. We all know the kind of people that engage in Indian hemp consumption, therefore, we do not want them under the Cele Bridge,” a respondent”, Mrs Chichi Aganbi, said.
Anthony and Gbagada under-bridge
The axis may be one of the most beautiful places on the mainland but it has been discovered to be one of the most dangerous at night. There have been cases of residents getting mugged at night at various spots close to the two bridges in these two places, which are just a few meters apart.
A journalist with a radio station, Mr Abayomi Lagada, narrated how he was robbed by two men at the Anthony area meters away from the Anthony Bridge. Lagada’s itinerary on the fateful day had ensured that he found himself at the spot when it was already dark – around 10.00 p.m. He said as he approached a certain junction full of flowers and shrubs a few meters away from the flyover at Anthony, two men jumped him and dragged him into the bushes nearby.
“I tried to fight them off but I was soon overpowered. I saw myself in the bushes just meters away from the bridge at Anthony. The two men who were armed with knives robbed me of the sum of N7,000 I had on me. I was also robbed of my phone. After pleading with them, one of them threw my SIM card at me and handed me a N100 note to take a bus home. I was then ordered to run. But as I ran, I saw the thieves run towards the under-bridge area”, he said.
Ojodu Berger Bridge
The pedestrian bridge in Ojodu-Berger, along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, is one of the additional bridges in the state being put in place by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration. But as new as the bridge is, it seems to be breeding trouble already.
A young woman who identified herself simply as Aina, who trades at the Ojodu-Berger area, told Saturday Tribune of how she was attacked by a miscreant under the newly constructed bridge. Apparently still angry about her ordeal, Aina said: “As you see them on top, under and around the bridge, they are all thieves. You just have to be very careful”.
According to her, she was coming from Idumota where she had gone to get stocks and by the time she got to the new Berger bridge area, it was already late and everywhere was dark.
Aina recalled that as she was moving along the bridge, an individual she thought was asleep suddenly jumped to his fleet to attack her and was intent on snatching the goods she was carrying on her head.
“From the front or behind, nobody was approaching. I was alone and the place was dark. I struggled to free myself in order to prove that I was not in any way a pushover, having grown up in Lagos”, she said. She added while the encounter lasted, policemen were on the other side of the road minding commercial motorists.
“There is the need to have policemen stationed at both ends of the bridge to guarantee security”, she said, noting that even lighting on the bridge needed to be improved to discourage criminal elements.
Another respondent, Baba Idris, told Saturday Tribune that although the construction of the bridge was a welcome development, it had provided an avenue for carrying out nefarious activities.
Recently, two young men posing as spiritualists were said to have dispossessed a woman of the sum of N300,000 under the guise of helping her to avert a situation where she would be confronted with news of the death of her child when she got home that day.
The woman, it was gathered, was asked by the ‘spiritualists’ to buy an egg, on which they must pray to avert the “looming danger”. She was said to have got the egg quickly and handed it to them. It was learnt that once they completed the ‘ritual’, the conmen asked the woman to remove her wrapper and her igbanu (local purse made from fabrics), confident that the desperate mother was in possession of a huge sum of money.
Once that was done, it was gathered that the men gave the egg back to the woman and asked her to go to the uncompleted bridge and throw the egg at it, without looking back. She obeyed. But by the time the woman came back, the men had disappeared and nobody could trace them. The woman was jolted back to her senses and then began to throw herself to the ground, cry for help and lament her loss. But there was nothing anybody could do but to console her.
Aina corroborated this sad encounter, even as Baba Idris, who is a worker at Ojodu-Berger, shared his own personal experience at the hands of another conman who had wanted to fleece him of N40,000 he had just gone to withdraw from a bank in the area.
According to him, the conman had called him aside that he wanted to see him, saying he saw a vision.
Idris, who already knew what was going on, threatened to deal with the fraudster who, he said, became transfixed but soon bolted away.
For Ejemeh, who sells second-hand phones, it may be more problem for her as the pedestrian bridge is extended currently to terminate very near where she displays her wares.
Ejemeh said she had lost a lot of phones to thieves who falsely parade themselves as genuine buyers.
She explained that as one of such people would be engaging her like a genuine buyer, the other would be busy searching for which phone to pilfer.
Some time ago, Saturday Tribune learned that one of such thieves was caught after stealing from Ejemeh and passersby were said to have descended on him.
Among those who vented their anger on the suspect was one Wale who, strangely, a few days later learned his lesson the hard way, as he came up with a swollen hand after the said encounter.
Wale’s confession came when Saturday Tribune was a part of those who witnessed a scene at the same Berger area. A mob had dealt with a miscreant who had reportedly stolen a lady’s i-phone. The suspected thief initially escaped after running to the other side of the bridge, just meters away from the Ojodu Motor Park. But he soon ran out of luck as he was identified and arrested.
“If it were in the past, I would have joined them in beating him silly, but I can’t do that anymore because it was God who saved this hand (showing his right arm, which he injured in his encounter with a thief), doctors would have amputated it. Maggots were coming out of it until I was advised to go back to my village to seek alternative therapy”, Wale said.
Luck soon smiled on the accused thief as those beating him somehow unanimously agreed that since the stolen phone had been retrieved from him and handed to the owner, he should be set free.
No sooner had the beatings stopped than the ‘lucky’ phone-snatcher jumped to his feet and ran away, possibly to try his luck another day.
The state government, however, stated that it placed high premium on security of lives and property of the residents of the state. In a recent interview with Saturday Tribune, the Commissioner for Information, Steve Ayorinde, pointed out that the state government was working towards returning nightlife to Lagos, acknowledging that such could only be achieved through effective security system being in place.
“In the constitution, the first responsibility of the government is to secure the lives and property of its citizens and the governor is saying that ‘you will know me and appreciate me, because I will keep you safe’. In the first six months of his administration, the police declared that crime went down by 65 per cent. As laudable as that is, that is not where we are going. We are entering an era where you will begin to see all over power bikes like we see abroad; power bikes with police officers using communication gadgets and public announce system, whereby they can flag you down and you will be hearing them announcing to you to pull over”, he noted.
During the presentation of the 2017 budget to the state House of Assembly, Governor Ambode had also declared his intention to continue to invest and improve on the state’s security system.
He promised to, among other projects, boost security, equip the newly established Neighbourhood Safety Agency adequately. “We will remain steadfast in our responsibility to make the State safe and secure for all our citizens. We will continue to invest in security. The Neighbourhood Safety Agency will become fully operational by 2017 with presence in all our local governments and LCDAs”, he had pointed out.
As this report was being pieced together, Saturday Tribune learnt that dozens of new operational vehicles had been procured for the neighbourhood security personnel.
The Speaker of the House of Assembly, Honourable Mudashiru Obasa, also urged Lagosians to remain vigilant and report strange persons or activities to security agents so that crimes could be nipped in the bud. “Maintaining security is a collective duty for all of us and we must not shy away from playing our roles”, he said.