By Emma Amaize & Simon Ebegbulem
BENIN CITY – Dare-devil armed bandits unleashed mayhem on passengers and motorists along the Sagamu-Benin-Lagos Expressway in the early hours of yesterday, killing at least one person and robbing several others. The attack occurred at about 1 a.m.
The situation created A traffic gridlock which lasted till about 3pm in the afternoon, prompting Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State to direct the state Commissioner of Police, Haliru Gwandu, the Director of the Department of State Services, DSS, Ibrahim Hiliu and Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Osarodion Ogie, to relocate to the scene around Okada junction.
The attack came on a day Delta State Police Commissioner, Mr. Zanna Ibrahim, said his men killed eight suspected kidnappers, apprehended 21 others and rescued seven victims from kidnappers’ dens without payment of ransom in the last three weeks.
Angered by the spate of armed robbery attacks in the area, drivers and youths blocked the expressway with vehicles, protesting incessant robbery and killing of people along the expressway.
They vowed that no vehicle would travel along the route unless they get firm commitment from the Police to provide protection along the expressway.
Consequently, motorists who left Benin for Lagos as early as 6am got stuck till the traffic was cleared at about 3pm.
The situation would have degenerated but for the prompt arrival of Edo State Police Commissioner, the SSG and DSS Director, who calmed frayed nerves and assisted in traffic control.
Driver of a The Young Shall Grow bus, with registration number Lagos AAA 283 XM, Mr Obika Orakwe, who took the officers round his luxury bus that was riddled with bullets, identified his deceased conductor as Onyekwere.
“We left Onitsha around 10:30pm. By the time we got to Okada around 1a.m., robbers attacked us, spraying the vehicle with bullets.
‘’We managed to escape and now decided to park somewhere because the shooting was too much. We discovered that the conductor of the bus had been killed. The robbers also robbed several vehicles close to where we parked, including Ezenwata bus, and some other small buses. There was shooting everywhere.”
Secretary to Edo State Government, Osarodion Ogie, who disclosed that the governor was worried about the situation, said: “We received reports this morning about the traffic jam that occurred around Okada junction as a result of an armed robbery incident.
‘’We got in touch with the Director of DSS and the Commissioner of Police. We saw thousands of stranded passengers and drivers. But I can assure you now that security agencies are going to increase their presence around here and across the state.
‘’We have a responsibility to ensure our state is safe and that everybody that passes here does that safely. We are going to increase security on all the major roads, involving members of the communities, the Army, Police and others.’’
Situation under control— Edo CP
Reacting to the incident, Edo State Police Commissioner, Haliru Gwandu, said: “We were given this information in the morning that there was a total gridlock from Benin to Lagos and when I contacted our DPO and commanders, the report was that there was robbery attack around 1 a.m. Thank God the distress call was able to rescue all the passengers.
“However, the hoodlums who came from the bush shot the windscreen of the bus, wounded the conductor who later died in the hospital.
“Apart from the conductor who lost his life, others are hail and hearty. I will say kudos to my men who attended to the distress call. The command is battle ready to ensure that such hoodlums are brought to justice. We will apprehend them.
‘’Not only that, proactive strategy will be deployed. The government has promised to provide containers for the Police to prevent hoodlums from taking advantage of heavy downpour to attack motorists and passengers.
“You will recall that it rained throughout Wednesday and that may have given the robbers an edge. But as far as I am concerned, as far as I am the Commissioner of Police here, there is no sacred cow. Whoever is the perpetrator of this crime will be brought to justice.
“Only last two months, the command was supported by the state government to deploy more than 67 vehicles along this road. For some time, we have been having respite, we have not been recording robbery attacks.
“But I can assure the general public that this incident will be busted and we are going to make sure that situations like this do not occur any more in the state.
“We have the Federal Highway patrol; we have Operation Thunderstorm; we have the Rapid Response Squad. The main aim of all these commanders is to secure our highways and they will continue to do that. The general public should not be scared of this situation, it is under control.
“Let me mention here that those drivers who constituted the gridlock I am happy that they did not take the law into their hands, after they saw the effort made by the Police. The area is calm and things are normal.
“Miscreants should not take advantage of this kind of situation. This challenge is not above our control, the command is ready to battle anybody who wants to use this situation to cause trouble.’’
8 suspected kidnappers killed in Delta
Meanwhile, Delta State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Zanna Ibrahim, said, yesterday that his men have in the past three weeks killed eight suspected kidnappers, apprehended 21 others and rescued seven victims from kidnappers’ dens without payment of ransom.
Speaking to Vanguard in Asaba, the commissioner said five confessed kidnappers, including Charles Ighomaye, Lucky Umunerie, Sunday Chibuzor, Roy Marere and Wilson Ajeje, were shot dead by the police while trying to escape after other members of their syndicate laid ambush for a Police team within Ebrumede/Ughelli area.
Ibrahim asserted that in another successful operation, operatives of the State Anti-Kidnapping and Cyber Crime Squad, SAKCCS, arrested a notorious kidnap kingpin, a.k.a. Awilo, who is on the wanted list of Delta and Edo states commands and seven members of his gang.
He disclosed: “Eagle-Net team first located the hideouts and arrested two suspects, one of who admitted being the main personal assistant to Awilo, and following his useful information, detectives visited the hideout of the kingpin and custodian of the gang’s weaponry.
“Five other suspects were subsequently arrested. They all confessed to various kidnappings within Warri, Udu, Agbarho, Ughelli and environs.
“Three of the suspects, including Lucky, Charles and Augustine, sustained various degrees of gunshot injuries while attempting to escape.
“A teacher at Owe Grammar School, Otor-Owhe, was kidnapped by four armed men at Ala Square and driven away in her RAV-4 vehicle towards Kwale and the security details of the chairman of Isoko North local government area, Police patrol and Army teams chased the bandits.
“Dragon patrol teams 26/27 and vigilantes along the route also joined in the chase and forced the gang to a halt at Aradhe village where the gangsters escaped into the bush with bullet wounds. Victim was safely rescued with her vehicle and cash of N774,000 intact.’’
In yet another successful rescue operation, he said: “Intelligence received from Ekpan Police Division revealed that suspected persons, Otebela, Jacob and Joseph, were seen hovering around one Promise Oko’s house at Uberete, Ekpan and police personnel from Ekpan Division and Ekpan youths mobilized to the scene, where the victim, 50-year-old Paul Okokoro, was rescued with his hands and legs tied.
“The suspects were arrested, while Promise and the owner of the house where victims and guns were kept escaped. Arrested suspects revealed their ring leader as one Felix, who lured the victim from Lagos that he is a director in Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Warri, and has vessels on the high sea for sale.
“The victim, on reaching Effurun roundabout, was kidnapped and taken to the kidnappers’ hideout. Intelligence revealed that the ring leader always search for high profile persons on the internet and entices his victims with business proposals of vessels and crude oil for sale, as well as by products of petroleum. The case is under investigation.’’