By Chioma Onuegbu
UYO—RESIDENTS of Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom State, have cried out over the invasion of the city by robbers, who masquerade as commuters, robbing their victims inside tricycles, popularly known as Keke NAPEP and mini buses, recently introduced in the state.
How I escaped: A public servant, who simply identified herself as Mrs. Evangeline, said, “Robbing people inside Keke is a thing of concern. In fact, I no longer go to any of the banks around Ibom Plaza to withdraw money because it is worse in that area. We know that there is crime everywhere in the country, but we have not witnessed this type of thing in Uyo before.
“Criminals are very smart and you know you may not be able to differentiate them from real passengers like you, that is the problem. So, one must be very careful when he wants to board a bus or keke. About two weeks ago, I entered a Keke at plaza going to Brooke’s Street and immediately two young men joined me. When they first came, they were acting funny and suspicious, but they did not know that I was observing them closely. Within one minute, the third person came and the way they greeted made me so uncomfortable. I immediately jumped down from that keke and joined another one.”
Strange robbery in keke and buses
“But I heard two days ago that the police arrested some criminals in their hideout in Uyo, that is good, I wish they do something to stop this strange robbery in keke and buses because people are really becoming worried and fearful about the situation. For me, it is strange because for the many years I have lived in Uyo, I have never heard of such a thing, we only hear about it in big cities like Lagos and Onitsha.”
They stole my money, two cellphones, laptop: If Mrs. Evangeline was lucky, a University of Uyo graduate, who did not want his name mentioned, was not. Narrating his experience, he told NDV: “I thank God I am alive today because I happened to be a victim. It happened on Sunday night when I was returning to Uyo from Eket because I was supposed to travel to Abuja, Monday for a job interview.
“And I left Eket about 6:30 pm on Sunday. By the time we arrived Uyo, it was almost 7:30 pm. So as the driver dropped us along the road since the park had already closed for the day, I decided to join a keke to town where my people live so that I can continue my journey the next morning. But I did not know that the two guys inside with me were criminals. One person sat in front with the keke operator.
“I am sure the criminals had collected all the money the keke man made throughout that day because of the way the man shouted after dropping them off at one street where they disappeared into. I cannot remember the name of the street again. My dear, it was a sad experience for me because apart from the little money I had on me that day. They collected my two cell phones and laptop.”
The job seeker called on security agencies to “make sure this kind of crime is curtailed before it gets out of control,” adding, “believe me, these bad boys have something else, even in Eket local government area, cases of robbery these days are frightening and I pray that something should be done to stem the tide immediately.”
I never knew my passenger is a criminal—Bus driver
A commercial mini bus operator, who ended up in police custody for a crime he was not involved in after he fell victim to a hoodlum that pretended to be a passenger, told NDV: “I did not know that one of the passengers that entered my bus was a criminal.
He further disclosed: “It was when I got to a police checkpoint around Itam and police asked me to stop and I stopped for them to search my car. And the criminal saw that there was no way he could escape, he dropped the gun he had with him on the floor of my bus.
It was the police that noticed it and arrested everybody in the bus. Only few passengers were in the bus when this thing happened. If not for God that saved me, maybe I would have been in jail by now. And I paid almost N30,000 before I was released on bail after police investigation showed that I was innocent.”
Police adopt pre-emptive approach – PPRO
Contacted, Police Public Relations Officer in the state, DSP, Chukwu Ikechukwu, said the police command has adopted proactive strategy to checkmate such hoodlums, saying that it was part of the effort to nip the crime in the bud that led to the arrest of about 24 criminals when a team of police operatives raided one of their hideouts at the University of Uyo ravine.
“We are aware of the situation and we are not relaxing over it. We are working. It has given us a lot of concern. Last week the Commissioner of Police invited and met with leaders and members of tricycle operators association in the state so that we can collaborate and tackle the crime,” he said.