By Mike Ebonugwo
No one could have expected what happened. In the first place most of the motorists and passengers in commuter buses were preoccupied with thoughts of how to get out of the slow-moving, bumper-to-bumper traffic between Ago Junction in Okota and Pako in Oke-Afa.
The situation was worsened by some impatient motorists who chose to drive against the traffic, forming multiple lanes in the process. It was a very frustrating situation which only favoured the ubiquitous go-slow hawkers of sundry items.
People were still helplessly contemplating their options when the seeming peace of the night was shattered by a quick succession of gun shots close to the Gideon Private Schools.Â The initial thought among some passengers in a bus heading for Ikotun was that it was the back-firing of a heavy duty vehicle.
But that thought was almost immediately banished by loud explosions of more gun shots that sent everyone scampering for safety. As if prompted by an alarm bell, there were shouts of: â€œRun, armed robbers!â€ Most motorists did no hesitate in bolting out of their vehicles and seeking cover wherever they thought they could find it.
Many of the passengers in the Ikotun-bound bus also joined in the general stampede as they panicked and began a frenzied struggle to hop out of the bus. A few others, however, preferred to hide inside the bus, squeezing and almost suffocating themselves under the cramped seats.
A police man who was in the front row seat almost incurred the wrath of the passengers as he struggled to remove his uniform. In their panic, two of the passengers almost tore the uniform off him, with one of them berating him thus: â€œWhatâ€™s wrong with you sef?
Whyâ€™s it taking you so long to remove your uniform? Do you want those robbers to notice you in your uniform and open fire on us, thinking that this is a police vehicle? Abeg remove the thing O jare!â€ The police man was probably too overwhelmed by what was happening to respond. And having succeeded in removing the uniform, he crawled under the seats like everyone else.
By this time the robbers seemed to have finished venting their spleen on their victim(s) and disappeared almost the way they came, shooting sporadically as they made their exit. Incidentally, their operation worsened the traffic jam and the bus passengers soon found out why. Before the shooting started, some traffic police men were controlling the traffic at the Pako junction. But the appearance of the robbers also sent them fleeing for safety and abandoning their duty post.
An aggrieved passenger had cause to complain about this, saying: â€œNo wonder the traffic has not been moving. So those police men that usually control traffic here ran away as soon as the robbers came. Imagine that kind of thing. Instead of them to mobilise their people to stop the robbers, they decided to run away. Cowards!â€ But another passenger quickly reprimanded him thus: â€œWhat do you mean by that? If youâ€™re the one, will you stay and wait for the robbers to come and shoot you for nothing?â€ Other passengers also shared in this sentiment.
However, it was a different ball game when the bus arrived at a spot where a team of police men was busy extorting money from commercial bus drivers and Okada riders.
â€œLook at them,â€ hissed one angry passenger by name Dolapo. â€œShameless things. Imagine armed robbers are robbing people not far from here and they are busy collecting N50 and N100 from Okada and danfo peopleâ€. Another passenger by name Roland quickly concurred, saying: â€œDonâ€™t mind them. The fact is that we donâ€™t have a credible police force in this country.
In fact, thereâ€™s little difference between armed robbers and these people in uniform who call themselves police men. That is why a robbery operation will be going on in one place, while 100 metres away police men will be busy doing their own thing, which is harassing motorists and extorting money from themâ€.
To this a passenger by name Ifeanyi said: â€œI heard the new police IG said he was going to tackle corruption in the forceâ€. Rolandâ€™s immediate response was: â€œThatâ€™s what every new IG says. But we all know it will not work because Nigeria Police is like the leopard that can never change its spotâ€.