•Operate in broad daylight, attack trucks at night
•Known trouble spots in Lagos
•Why they target phones
• As Police arrest 127 suspected traffic robbers in three months
By Evelyn Usman
They lurk around areas prone to traffic in Lagos and sometimes at bad spots , waiting for their prey. Sometimes, they pretend to be beggars and at other times hawkers or commuters.
They are between ages 16 and 40, all males. Some of them are homeless. They sleep in markets , bus-stops, open fields and uncompleted buildings after operation.
Formerly , they operated only under the cover of darkness, springing out from their hiding places, to dispossess their victims mainly of cash, phones and laptops.
But today, they brazenly display their acts of notoriety in broad daylight, without fear of being apprehended by security agents.
Traffic congestion in Lagos has become a recurring nightmare that seems to have overwhelmed relevant government agencies.
Although the Lagos State Police Command which is the lead agency in traffic management, has come out with many strategies to manage the situation, the continued influx of Nigerians from other parts of the country to Lagos, due to the state of insecurity there, has heightened the already tensed traffic situation in Lagos.
Daily, Lagosians go through harrowing experiences in gridlock. As if that is not enough, traffic robbers hijack the situation to carry out their nefarious activities, which have sent some Lagosians to early graves while others are left with scars of the ugly encounter.
Prone areas: Mile-Two/Badagry expressway
Areas where these traffic robbers operate include Agboju/Alakija , Abule-Ado, Okokomaiko , Iyana-Oba, Oko-Afo and Magbon, all , along the Mile-Two/Badagry expressway.
On this axis, they operate in batches. A vehicle for instance can be attacked by different groups. One of the reasons of having an upper hand is majorly as a result of bad road, which keeps motorists at a spot for several hours.
At Alakija and Mile-Two, presence of articulated vehicles which usually take over the entire road, aid traffic robbery operations.
Few months ago, two suspected members of the gang that had been terrorizing commuters along Agboju/Alakija were arrested by policemen led by the then DPO Satelitte, CSP Chike Oti, in a hotel around Satellite Town.
The gang as gathered, converged in the hotel between 6pm and 7pm, on any given operation day to strategize on how and when to launch an attack on their victims that were trapped in traffic .And at the end of each operation, members of the gang would retire back to the hotel to share their loot and return again, between 12 midnight and 1am to continue from where they stopped. By that time, trucks would have taken over the ever busy expressway, leaving private motorists at the mercy of the gang.
Lagos/Ikorodu Express road
The Lagos /Ikorodu express road is another axis where traffic robbers hold sway, no thanks to the perennial gridlock in which motorists could be trapped for hours. Findings revealed that the gridlock at Ketu, Ojota and Mile 12 bus-stops is caused by commercial bus-drivers who park on the road to pick or drop passengers and traders who display their wares on the road especially in the evening, and hawkers who approach passengers trapped in traffic for patronage.
At Fadeyi, Maryland and other bus-stops along the expressway, traffic robbers take advantage of the build- up of traffic caused by traffic lights to operate.
Ogolonto and Ikorodu bus-stops inside Ikorodu, are a living hell, as operations of these dare devils are done without recourse to human life.
Sometime last year, a hawker had her life snuffed out by bullet of a traffic robber during operation.
These traffic robbers also operate with motorcycles , for easy escape and maneuverings.
Iddo, Eko bridge , Akpongbon, Ikoyi bridge, Idumota, Ijora Olopa, Eyin-Eyo and the Third Mainland bridge, all on Lagos Island, are not left out in the traffic robbery spree.
Traffic robbery at Oke-Afa, Isolo area of Lagos , dates back over a decade ago when a group of armed boys attacked motorists on daily basis , until policemen attached to the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad , SARS launched a manhunt which ended the group’s reign of terror.
However, another group of traffic robbers have resurfaced. This time around, they are emboldened as they come in a group of 30 to 50, from the Isolo end.
In their case, they operate mainly at night , cashing on the traffic snarl. They forcefully collect bags from ladies in tricycles, shuttle buses and private vehicles.
They attack commuters who alight at Pako bus-stop, by the morgue close to the Isolo General hospital, and those alighting at Mass burial and Oke-Afa bus-stops.
This set of traffic robbers most times station at the Oke-Afa-bus –stop, in front of Blue Seal pharmacy , where they extend their operations by attacking residents returning home from work and business places.
Their latest strategy is to stage a fight among themselves , just to cause uproar in the area. In the ensuing stampede , they attack at will. At other times, they announce their presence with sporadic gun shots. This usually happens on days when there are mild traffic jams.
At the approach of policemen , they would run into a dump site close to the Mass burial ground and escape.
Traffic robbers at Oshodi operate between Toyota bridge to Oshodi Isale. Most times, they vent their frustrations on commuters waiting to board commercial buses, especially on days when there are not much traffic.
Findings reveal that this group of robbers pose as load carriers and pick pockets in the day and traffic robbers at night.
They also operate in broad daylight, attacking private car owners whose glasses are wound down. They act within the speed of light by snatching phones from passengers who carelessly use their phones, especially those who sit beside the windows.
Attack trucks at midnight
At midnight, they attack owners of broken down vehicles, as the place is usually isolated then. Truck drivers who are unfortunate to experience this, are beaten and have their goods stolen.
Some members of the gang that were arrested recently by the Police, were discovered to have assisted owner of a 2016 Model Sienna to push his vehicle which was involved in a minor accident to a place near Charity bus-stop which was considered safe, with agreement to help the owner watch over it till the next day, only for them to move the vehicle to Coconut area of Apapa, where it was dismantled with the intention of selling it in parts.
For the second group of four boys, also arrested, they attacked a driver whose vehicle broke down at Toyota bus stops, in June, 2021.
While operating in traffic, they noticed a truck conveying refrigerators and other electronic gadgets broke down at Toyota bus-stop. They left the traffic robbery for the truck which they considered a bigger fish.
They vandalized the truck and made away with the refrigerators.
Other areas such as Ijora/7Up, Fagba, Mosalasi-Alaja, Oke-Koto, Ojodu/Berger, Ikotun, Ikeja, Ago\Okota, Gbagada/Oworoshoki, Oshodi-Iyana Isolo, Jibowu-Ojuelegba and Ile-Zik, Mangoro, Iyana-Ipaja, Alakuko, along the Lagos/Abeokuta expressway where gridlocks prevails, have also have a fair share of traffic robbers operations.
Vanguard staff attacked
Some Vanguard staff have fallen victim to traffic robbers. One of them was attacked on the Ijora Olopa bridge, inward Water Corporation , by 2.40 pm on June 8, 2021. He was attacked alongside six other motorists, by five armed youths.
In his case, several motorists rushed out of their vehicles in fear, abandoning them at the mercy of the street urchins who smashed their glasses and made away with their valuables, with ease.
In the ensuing stampede, some of the motorists had their cars crashed in their attempt to hurriedly drive out of the traffic.
Other Vanguard staff were also attacked at different times at Mile -2, Ebute Metta Ikeja and Ijesha areas of Lagos same day.
Why ATM, phones are main targets
Investigation on why traffic robbers target phones, ATM cards and laptops showed that it was mainly for the purpose of hacking into victims’ accounts.
Saturday Vanguard finding showed that these traffic robbers are mainly errand boys sent to get victims’ ATM for their bosses who are either vast in technology to hack into victims bank accounts, or have connivance with bank staff who assist them.
After operation, their bosses who usually wait for them at designated points, would collect the SIM cards while they (traffic robbers)take the stolen phones to either sell or use to gullible persons , at cheap prices. Stolen phones , especially sophisticated ones are dismantled and sold in bits.
In an earlier interview with one of the traffic robbers, he disclosed that they were paid between N2,500 and N5,000 for each SIM card taken to their bosses, depending on the amount in the account.
127 suspects arrested
Between the March and June 2021, 127 traffic robbers have reportedly been arrested by the Police in Lagos.
This is just as a special squad known as Anti-Traffic Robbery Squad was formed recently by the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, CP Hakeem Odumosu, to tackle traffic robbery in the state.
Odumosu assured that the fight against traffic robbery would be intensified, especially with the procurement of logistics such as motorbikes and other equipment by the Lagos State Government for the command.
While the command may be doing its best to address this frightening trend, one expects the judiciary to join hands in this fight, as Crime Guard observed that some of these arrested suspects return back to traffic robbery shortly after being arraigned in court.