BY YETUNDE AREBI
The Lekki-Epe Express Road has over the years become a notorious beehive of nefarious activities. So much so, it is almost becoming difficult to keep up with the number of hideous, heinous crimes being recorded on that axis of Lagos State.
It would appear as if the devil itself now resides on that fast developing stretch of the state. Kidnapping, Abductions, Obtaining, and One Chance activities are regular crimes there, beginning from 1st Roundabout at Admiralty junction all the way to Epe, most of them transportation related. Extortion, Snatching and Obtaining under duress are also commonly perpetrated by ‘Alright Sir Boys’, thugs and miscreants who operate from the numerous bus stops and shanties that litter the road.
The once vast land vegetation and coastal settlements has in the last two decades become home to thousands of middle/high income families attracted by the rapid economic growth resulting from the air and sea ports under construction by the government, as well as the activities of the Dangote group. The general belief is that most of these new settlers have deep pockets, a major reason for the onslaught.
On June 1st, 2013, the Police rescued two young men who were abducted at gunpoint two weeks earlier at Abraham Adesanya area of Lekki Express Road.
They were kidnapped by a seven man gang when they stopped to ease themselves. On October 16, 2019, a naked young woman who appeared rather emaciated and disoriented was thrown off a moving vehicle under the Jubilee Bridge at Ajah Bus Stop. She was believed to be a kidnap victim who had spent several months in captivity before she was let off. On November 11, 2020 shortly after midday, a violent armed robbery attack of a bank’s bullion van took place at popular Blenco Supermarket, Ajah. Three persons were left dead, while millions of Naira was carted away in several bags at the end of the incident. Sometime in May 2021, Social Media declared Lekki-Epe Express Road a hot spot for criminal activities when a young lady reported how she was abducted on Admiralty Road and forced to transfer all N110,000 in her account before being set free many hours later. On September 7, 2021, Retired Air Vice Marshal [AVM] Sikiru Smith, cousin to former Inspector General of Police, Musiliu Smith and current head, Police Service Commission was abducted at a work site around the same Blenco area by armed masked men at gunpoint. Mr. Smith regained his freedom after six days, though no mention was made of the price he might have paid. A similar incident was reported by locals to have occurred a few days earlier to an unidentified man in the same area. Recall that the celebrated murder case of Mr. Usifo Ataga by 21 year old 300 Level student of University of Lagos, Chidinma Ojukwu was carried out at an apartment in Lekki area.
These are just a few of the incidents that made it to the media, of the scores that occur daily on Lekki Road and environs. Sometime in May last year, I ran into an early morning road heist on Addo Road, my most frightening experience so far. I saw motorists abandoning their vehicles and running for dear life. I only managed to turn off the car ignition before taking to my heels. I never knew I could still run that fast. It was like seeing myself in one of those apocalypse movies. We were there for about 30 minutes before the Police arrived. My co-survivors were amazed at my innocence and took time to educate me that it is a regular occurrence on that road. The boys often take advantage of the traffic jams to raid vehicles , dispossessing people of their phones and money at gunpoint.
A recent report by a Nigerian newspaper wrote, “One-Chance robbers have invaded Sangotedo-Ajah road like a behemoth; with sundry attacks and loss of valuables”.
They are everywhere, from Sangotedo, Oko-Ado, Olokonla, Alashia, General Paint through to Abraham Adesanya Estate Roundabout, to Abijo, Awoyaya Lakowe, Bogije and even Eleko in Ibeju-Lekki. In fact, no longer are people safe in commercial transports on that road, especially the Suzuki mini buses also known as Korokpe. Even Napep tricycles and motorbikes [Okada} are forced to stop so their passengers can be robbed. One Napep driver told me they would be dealt with, if they refuse to cooperate with the hoodlums. [Hmm!] Unfortunately, there is no ‘Uniform’ that is not represented on this road, especially at Ajah Jubilee Bridge, each minding their own business. Coupled with the fact that the road, especially at Ajah, is in perpetual darkness every night. All these contributed to the popularity and trust bestowed on the Lagos State Government owned busses called the BRT.
Now that Bamise Ayanwole’s abduction and murder has happened on all of us, it further confirms how vulnerable we all are on the Lekki-Epe axis and indeed, Lagos State. Once taken for granted that you can leave your home and return safely without losing money or valuables, is now a miracle. Trust no one, stay vigilant, stay connected to your family and friends. Unfortunately, these were not enough to keep Bamishe safe and alive.
Thus in addition to the above, you must be able to use your intuition and be prepared to negotiate your way out of danger. The ability to do this was what saved the two young ladies who claimed to have had similar encounters with the alleged serial rapist, Nice Andrew, the BRT bus driver. While one escaped being raped by agreeing to hook up with him the next day, the other was not so lucky but she made it back home to the loving warm arms of her family. I hope these ladies would step up and have their testimonies taken to aid the quest for justice for young Bamishe. As the court tries to unravel what happened that fateful night, one knotty issue is the identity of the three passengers Nice picked along with Bamishe. Were they part of the plot or they alighted the bus before Nice unleashed the devil in him? One may ask why they have not stepped out to tell their part of the story. My guess is that, perhaps the twist about the crime being a ritual murder has frightened them into silence. I hope they get a breakthrough concerning the trio.
On Monday 21st March, 2022, the Lagos State Government returned the buses to the Lekki-Epe route. While we cannot stop the buses from returning to the roads, what we can do is take our precautions. Never board a BRT that’s picking passengers along the road. They only pick from their stations but can drop at regular bus stops. Never board one that offers you free or cheap rides, or accepts cash, payment is done strictly with your bus card. The BRT turns up its light at 7.00pm, if the driver doesn’t, demand it. That is the rule. May Bamise’s soul rest in perfect peace.
Do have a wonderful weekend!!