*Hijack vehicles, abduct and extort ransoms from passengers
*Commuters, drivers want army intervention, say police overwhelmed
*We’ve intensified patrol — DSP Omoni, PPRO, Rivers Police Command
By Samuel Oyadongha, Egufe Yafugborhi & Davies Iheamnachor
YENAGOA—THE escalating armed attacks and abduction of commuters on the Elele-Emohua draw out of the East-West Road in Rivers State have provoked serious trepidation among travellers and transporters plying the route.
The yet-to-be completed road straddling Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states has been taken over by a band of hooligans, who abduct hapless passengers for ransom in spite of the numerous police checkpoints along the notorious stretch in Rivers State.
More than a few commuters had in recent times fallen prey to the rampaging hoodlums. While some victims survived the traumatising ordeal, others were unlucky as they lost their lives though their families were made to pay ransom.
A source who witnessed one of such vicious attacks, said the hoodlums hijacked a commercial bus and diverted some of the occupants after killing the driver and two other passengers of the bus to an unknown destination.
The sad turn of event on the route had forced drivers coming from the Delta and Bayelsa flank to time their movement by avoiding early morning and night journey.
“We have resorted to praying fervently whenever we are plying the route because of the recent upsurge in bandits’ attacks. Our passengers are not left out in the prayer for journey mercies during trips. It is risky leaving for Port Harcourt late,” a driver told NDV at one of the popular parks in Yenagoa.
We need army, not police checkpoints
However, drivers who spoke with NDV pleaded with the authorities to deploy soldiers to the troubled area instead of creating more police checkpoints.
Speaking, Abass who did not give his surname, said: “We heard the authorities want to create more police checkpoints to address the menace, but we do not need more police checkpoints. They will only be collecting money.”
“The boys operating on that road are disturbing too much. Before the boys operated night and morning, but they now come out in the afternoon. The police we see on the road are not helping the situation, they only collect N100, and so we do not need more of them,” he added.
Another driver, Taofiki Bello, asserted: “Instead of more police checkpoints, they should bring military checkpoints from Choba to Mbiama, the border town with Bayelsa State.
“They have attacked my bus around 3:05pm, they kidnapped 11 passengers, we just passed ‘Red Cap’ checking point before the boys came out. The issue is affecting our business. We are just helpless on that road,” he lamented.
We’ve increased security checks, patrolon East-West Road —Police
However, the Rivers State Police Command said it has intensified patrol on the East-West road.
Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, DSP Nnamdi Omoni noted that the police were doing more deployment on the said road to reduce attacks on travellers.
He said: “We are doing more in the area of redeployment on that road. We will increase police patrol on the road consistently. We will also deploy men of our Intelligence Unit to respective communities of the state to fish out these boys.
“They attack at night. We are doing our best to neutralise their activities on that road; but travellers should be conscious of the security situation on that road.
“It is not that the boys are overwhelming us, but citizens should avoid danger and be security-conscious. For now, people should be conscious until every criminal activity on that road is brought under control. Every criminal has a termination date. They have short life span,” DSP Omoni said.