By Kingsley OmonobiÂ & Evelyn Usman
ABUJAâ€”THE drivers at the centre of controversy over the armed robbery attack on passengers of a luxury bus on theÂ Ijebu-Ode/Sagamu expressway, Ogun State, during which 19 persons were reportedly crushed to death have been re-arrested by the Police in Abuja.
They have consequently confirmed that the incident occurred last July 31, contrary to reports that it occurred this year.
One of them is the driver of the luxury bus (Young Shall Grow Motors), with number-plateÂ XF 285 AKD, which conveyed 41 passengers on the ill-fated journey.
Police arrest drivers
The luxury bus driver identified as Mr. OkechukwukereÂ Okafor who hails from Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State was arrested alongside another driver who confessed to have rammed into the passengers, following recent actions of the Ministry of Police Affairs and the Senate which erroneously imputed that the incident happened last month and as such is a sign that the Police High Command has lost the capacity to tackle crime situations in the country.
However, a Police report detailing the date and how the incident occurred shows that â€œOn the 31st of July 2009, at about 11. 30 a.m, a luxurious bus with registration above, loaded with passengers travelling from Enugu to Lagos were attacked by a gang of armed bandits at a spot between Federal Government College, Odogbolu and Babcock University along Ijebu-Ode/Sagamu expressway.
Robbers order to passengers
â€œThat during the attack, the suspected armed robbers ordered the passengers of the luxury bus out of the vehicle and made them to lie face down on the expressway.
â€œThat an on-coming truck with reg. XN 808 BEN, driven by one Osayinde Idahosa of Ewetube Egbe Estate, Benin City, who refused to be stopped by the hoodlums, crushed some of the passengers to death.â€
Continuing, the report with SR: 3000/OGS/V.T/547 states, â€œThat a total of 19 passengers of the luxury bus which includes 6 females and 13 males were crushed to death by the truck and that there was no Police escort attached to the luxury bus as confirmed by the driver, Oke Okafor who survived the incident.
â€œThat some of the ten corpses have been collected by their relations for burial after proper identification and documentation and that some of the corpses were crushed beyond recognition and yet to be identified or collected by their relations or kinsmen.â€
While noting that, â€œThe case of robbery was transferred to State CID; Abeokuta for discreet investigation and the Motor Traffic Division, Obalende, handled the traffic aspect of the case diary No. RRA/49/09 opened for the case, the report said â€œThat the case file in respect of the traffic aspect has been duplicated and forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), for legal advice.
Drivers at the centre of controversy, spokeÂ with Crime Reporters, weekend, revealing that the operation was carried out by over 30 robbers and lasted for several hours.
HowÂ driver ran over passengers
Osayande Idahosa, claimed he unknowingly, rammed over the passengers whom he said, he mistook for barricade used to block the road. Giving a vivid account of how it all happened that fateful night, Osayande said he was driving a truck loaded with foodstuff which he was taking to Lagos, when suddenly on approaching the Ijebu-Ode/Sagamu road, he heard gun shots.
â€œAt that point, my conductor and another female passengerÂ bent down and I slowed down in an attempt to reverse. But, when I looked behind, I sighted over 10 armed gunmen.Â I also noticed that theÂ barricade they used to block the road in front was not high.Â So, IÂ decided to take the risk.Â I accelerated and climbed the barricade but in my confusion, I swerved into the bush from where I came out and ran for dear life, with deafening sounds ofÂ gun shots behind me,â€ he stated.
Police vow to prevent a recurrence
Osayande said he remained inside the bush all through the night before the arrival of some police men the next day, where to his shock, he realised the supposed barricade he climbedÂ were human beings.
The Police High Command, however, said that dragnets have been spread all over the nooks and crannies of the state for possible arrest of the suspected armed bandits, adding thatÂ adequate police presence had been maintained on the Sagamu/Ijebu-Ode and Sagamu/Ibadan expressway to forestall a recurrence of such incident.