By Theodore Opara
INTER-state luxury bus operators have called on Nigerian security agencies to investigate sources of frequent fake online news reports about the false hijack of their vehicles and kidnap of passengers by armed bandits.
The transporters were reacting to the latest in a series of recent fake news which claimed that a “fully loaded” Abuja-bound luxury bus belonging to GUO Transport Co. Ltd was “intercepted” in Edo State by “bandits suspected to be Fulani” who allegedly kidnapped about 123 passengers on board, hours after departing Owerri.
Describing the abduction story which was widely publicised online as a mischievously fabricated falsehood, Managing Director of GUO, Maduabuchukwu Okeke, said that neither was any of his company’s buses hijacked, nor the passengers abducted.
He stated that since the middle of last week when the false report was posted, his company has been inundated with calls and visits by worried members of the travelling public trying to confirm the “news.” One of the publications went as far as claiming that the bandits were “armed with AK-47 rifles and machetes.”
The GUO managing director recalled that false stories of luxury bus hijack and kidnap of passengers have been recycled several times since banditry became a worrisome issue in the country.
He urged the Department of State Services, DSS, the Police and other law enforcement agencies, to track down perpetrators who were bent on scaring away innocent long distance road users, jeopardising luxury bus business and causing disaffection among sections of the society.
Okeke who vehemently debunked the story, said: “The mischief makers claimed that 123 passengers were abducted.
“But, what kind of luxury bus can accommodate 123 passengers even with the so-called ‘attachment’ seats which are totally prohibited in GUO as a matter of policy.
“Or, are we talking about pieces of wood here, and not human beings anymore? You do not need to think deep to know that the story is false.”
He stated that if there was any such incident involving GUO buses, the management would have officially issued a statement in addition to a confirmation by the Police.
Also speaking on the latest hijack and kidnap hoax, the recently elected National President of Association of Luxury Bus Owners of Nigeria, ALBON, Nonso Ubajaka, decried the frequent generation of falsehood about his members’ vehicles on the internet.
Ubajaka said he checked with the management of GUO and confirmed that none of their buses was attacked by bandits. “So, the question is: What is the motive behind the frequent fake news about luxury buses being “intercepted” and occupants abducted by the Fulani?
“All the transport owners are worried because there seems to be a secret plan to cause fear and disaffection which gives us cause for concern,” he said.
The ALBON President, therefore, echoed the appeal to the law enforcement agencies to swing into action and apprehend the mischief makers before they cause more damage through the internet.
Other luxury bus transporters and members of both ALBON and the bigger amalgam of transport bodies — Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association, PTONA — urged online news readers to always disregard such fake news, insisting that sometimes, they sound too unbelievable to be true.
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.