Israel a bank teller of one of the leading banks in Nigeria was recently deployed to one of the Victoria Island Branches. He lives in Akoka and has to navigate the Third Mainland Bridge (3MB) every day to get to the Island.
As a customer facing staff at the Bank, resume at 7:20 am every day, preceded by Branch Meetings thrice a week. To ensure that he gets to work early, he leaves his house very early in the morning and walks to Pako Bus stop where he takes a bus to Yaba or Sabo from where he can take a bus to Obalende or Eko Hotel in Victoria Island. Most of the bank tellers do not have their own cars so the daily travel by public transport is not expected for employees of his level.
On this fateful day, when he passed by the Yabatech Bus stop, he noticed the buses on the other side of the road from Sabo to Obalende and he decided to get off the bus he was on and cut the trip short because it was late he.
He quickly ran to what he saw as a rapidly filling Bus and discovered that there was a space left at the door. He sat down when the man near the door came down and motioned for him to sit inside. He gladly accepted the offer because the road ahead had puddles of water and he didn’t want the water to splash on him. Immediately he sat down, he felt a chill down his spine and knew he had boarded the wrong bus.
As the bus started, the man next to him gave him a heavy slap and the sound of the slaps could be heard in different corners of the bus by passengers who were not part of the gang resulting in a small riot. among them. A member of the gang brandished a gun and this led to a sudden halt in the bus. The Driver who seems to be the leader of the gang starts giving instructions and assures them that no one will get hurt if they follow his instructions. They were all robbed of their valuables including phones and money. A POS materialized and they all volunteered their PIN, and immediately all the accounts were emptied into another. When they arrived at the junction of St. Dominic, the bus turned right, and asked them all to jump while the Bus was still moving.
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Israel and his fellow travelers have fallen victim to a “one-off” phenomenon that is raging in the country’s metropolitan areas. This type of criminal activity is usually carried out by a gang made up of men and women who use a car, bus, or Keke to pick up unsuspecting members of the public in order to rob them of their valuables. This group is not kidnappers, ritualists, or terrorists, they aim to maim and strip unsuspecting members of the public of their valuables while using the city’s public transportation system.
A one time event
No one knows the exact origin of the term “one time”, but it is a popular pidgin English phrase that means that one has entered a situation from which they cannot immediately get out of themselves. The practice as it is now known became widespread in the late 90s in Lagos and spread to other parts of the country.
The most vulnerable passengers to this obscene act are those who board buses along the route, especially at points where there are no designated bus stops or where buses are not required to park before picking up passengers. These unscrupulous individuals and groups take advantage of the rush involved in boarding buses in Lagos and lure unsuspecting passengers onto the bus.
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The members of this robbery group placed themselves in “strategic” corners of the bus in such a way that non-members of the group were cornered with no place to escape. Anyone who lives in Lagos knows that buses hardly ever stop for you to get off or board if it is not a designated bus stop. Your ability to get on and off a moving bus is a special skill that only Lagosians have acquired over time from riding the ubiquitous “Molue” buses of the city variety.
In Lagos, the most vulnerable locations are Oshodi Oke, Charity, Toyota, Iyana Isolo to Mile 2, from Mile 2 to Okokomaiko, Lekki Epe expressway, Berger-Oke to Lagos Ibadan expressway, among others. Earlier, these incidents only happened late at night, but in recent times they have become more useless in broad daylight operations. The car chosen by the “one chance” syndicate was the Toyota Sienna, especially in the morning.
The unavailability of licensed commercial vehicles opens a window for unregistered vehicles to enter the space for passenger traffic. This space is exploited by criminals especially during rush hour to exploit the vulnerability of Lagosians at this time.
The role of transport unions
The National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) or its successor organization the Lagos State Parks and Garages Committee is perhaps one of the most hated and reviled Unions in Nigeria. From harassment, violent takeovers of garages, extortion, intimidation, etc., the list of humiliating acts associated with the Union is endless.
Despite this, there is a sense of security and assurance that you get from riding the buses in the designated parks where they are in charge. Through a network of personal interactions and years of dealing with Drivers and Conductors, they have formed relationships that allow them to vouch for Drivers.
New Drivers looking to join new parks are not only asked to pay fees, they are also required to be referenced by other reputable people or Drivers before they are allowed to ride. passenger. This semi-informal Guarantor system ensures that unknown persons with malicious intent do not use the park as a playground for their activities. Since they know the buses and their Owners or Drivers, you can return to report any incidents or cases of lost personal items to the local Chapter Chairman.
On October 5, 2022, the Lagos State Parks and Garages through its Chairman Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya popularly known as MC Oluomo announced the introduction of a barcode to be scanned by passengers to identify buses that are safe to board. The initiative according to him is to suppress the incidents of kidnapping, “one chance” and other bad activities that are done using the public transportation system.
The plan is that each vehicle will have a unique bar code that people are expected to scan before boarding, and upon scanning, it will show the vehicle number, driver details, and the unit in which the car is operating. This according to the proponents of the scheme will eliminate the incidents of kidnapping that are currently disrupting the transportation sector.
It is a laudable idea to instill much needed discipline into the transport sector in Lagos, but it has an obvious drawback, the plan assumes that passengers have the luxury of time and space to be able to scan the cars before they board. The rush to board a bus in Lagos as I said before leaves no room for such an undertaking. Also, passengers already have the convenience of boarding buses from designated bus stops, and requiring them to scan a QR Code will only provide more convenience.
How can you avoid a chance?
Therefore, the challenge for passengers is how to identify “one-time” “vehicles or what to do to reduce the risk of being exposed to such gangs:
We spoke to some security consultants and motor park drivers who advised caution and “common sense” observation when speeding. As much as you can, try to board vehicles from designated bus stops and parks. Do a quick mental scan of the car and its passengers. If you are a woman, don’t ride a bus with male passengers.
If the passengers are evenly distributed on the bus and you are encouraged to go further inside, do not board. Vehicles that offer ridiculous or reduced fares should also be avoided or approached with extreme caution. Follow your instinct. If something goes wrong, please do not ride.
Twice in November 2022, LASTMA Officers arrested 2 different “one time” gangs operating in the axis of Lekki and the mainland. On a Monday morning in early December, vehicles traveling on the Third Mainland Bridge were met with the sight of Police vehicles blocking some lanes to allow officers to scan and interview those who were not licensed commercial vehicles carrying more than 2 passengers.
This exercise is an attempt to capture any operations that may be ongoing. This shows that the Police and Law Enforcement are fully aware of the rise in this form of criminality and are trying to curb it.
The government has a responsibility
State Governments also have the responsibility to eliminate or regulate the activities of unlicensed individuals who use their vehicles for commercial purposes. Claiming that they provide a service and help alleviate the impact of the passenger car deficit, their activities have created a space that is being exploited by “one chance” operators.
In Lagos, the return to the assigned routes system where buses can only operate within the assigned routes and these routes are displayed can also help curb the risk. Law enforcement can also organize torture operations to trap these individuals, because everyone knows the hotspots where they operate. Some arrests that occur are due to the determination of passengers and not any action taken by law enforcement.
Public transportation is an essential part of the living experience in any city. The ability of people to move freely within a city or state helps the State’s economy. Workers must be able to move around without fear of harm, especially when using public transportation.
Tourists interested in immersing themselves in the life of locals often prefer to take public transportation. Issues around security or the lack of it in the public transportation system can create a negative perception of the city and its people, thus affecting tourism.