Lately, bag-snatching has taken a different dimension on the streets of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with many ladies falling prey to the heart-breaking incident. CHIKA OKEKE recounts the latest scenario.
Looking dejected and worn out, Miss Peace Akubueze could not control her tears that cascaded freely from her eyes down to her cheeks. She was seriously casting spell on whoever turned her day into sorrow as passers-by gathered to console her.
The lady who appeared to be in her early twenties is a student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Anambra State and was on a visit to Abuja when she was attacked by the dare-devil criminals.
“May death never be far from him? He will remain a criminal and will finally end up in jail all the days of his life”, were the words of Akubueze when LEADERSHIP SUNDAY bumped into her. She wept uncontrollably but managed to recount her ordeal in the hands of the bag-snatching syndicate.
She said: “It was exactly 9 pm when I arrived Area 3 junction to board a taxi to Lugbe. Since it was night, the only one available was a grey Mercedes Benz which the driver converted to a commercial taxi. As the driver was shouting ‘Lugbe by car’! Lugbe by car’! I rushed to secure a space in the front seatof the cab.
Soon, other three men and a girl joined us in the cab. The driver took off and since I didn`t suspect any foul play, I placed my bag on my lap while the other girl that sat at the back of the car also placed hers on her lap.
Akubueze continued: “As the driver was approaching Games Village, the two guys informed him that they would want to alight after the village junction. As the driver got into the bushy and lonely pathway, they asked him to stop. I was still not mindful of the danger ahead but sat freely in the cab. Thereafter the two guys alighted from the cab and pretended to pay the driver the taxi fare only for them to grab our bags and enter the bush.
“It was like one of the home movie scenes as I watched my bag disappear. The other man inside the taxi rushed out from the vehicle to give the robbers a hot chase but the driver said: “If you don’t come back now, I will start this car and leave you here.
The man entered the car and the driver continued his journey. Meanwhile, he started sympathizing with us and the man challenged him on why he did not stop so that he could assist us to recover our bags. Instead of making a positive response, it turned to a heated argument to such an extent that when the driver got to Galadimawa roundabout, he refused to take us to Lugbe as we bargained for and put off the car.
“Since there was no policeman on the road, he succeeded with his plan of not taking us to Lugbe but decided to give me and the other girl N100 each to find an alternative taxi that would take us to Lugbe. I stood there for sometime before I could regain myself because I thought I was dreaming.
“Do you know that; she informed LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, “I had N100, 000, cash, a blackberry phone, ID card, ATM card and other items in the bag? As soon as we got another taxi, we all until we got to Lugbe where we parted.
Akubueze however, frowned at the inability of the police to checkmate the activities of such crminals, but rather choose to molest innocent citizens at every slightest provocation.
“My experience in the hands of the bag-snatching syndicate was devastating and frustrating but above all, I still thank God for sustaining me,” Miss Yemi Onabanjo, another victim who shared her experience with this reporter.
Though hers was quite similar to that of Akubueze, but she was made to pay up the stolen money.
Narrating her ordeal, she added, “I was at Berger roundabout at 11 pm to board a bus to Lugbe. It was already late and there was no bus again except the small cabs. So, I sat in the front with my hand bag on my lap while 3 guys and a lady sat at the back of the car.
The cab was painted with Abuja colour (green and white) and I hardly suspected any foul play. The driver took off and as we approached Karonmajiji, a slum settlement along Airport road, a guy told the driver that he would alight at Karonmajiji, so he stopped.
According to her, “as the guy was about to alight from the car, a voice told me to hold my bag tight but before I could say Jack Robinson, he had snatched the bag and fled into the bush. I started screaming but there was nobody around to give him a hot chase because the area was deserted.
The other passengers inside the car told the driver to speed off the car immediately because there may be more members of his gang hiding inside the bush.
“I was like a sheep without shepherd but the incident reminded me that the city was no longer safe again. While I was screaming and crying, the driver told me that I should not shout too much that would attract people`s attention. Before I got to Berger yard in Lugbe, two passengers alighted from the car.
My cry drew the attention of the mobile police men at the junction who demanded to know my problem. As I narrated the incident, one of them wanted to trace the guy but his colleague said that since it happened few miles away from the bus stop, they may not see them again.
Right there, the driver collected money from the remaining passengers and gave me N100 to pay the cyclist that would take me home. That was how the driver left the bus stop and I left to my fate.
Onabanjo said: “The Mobile policemen flagged down a cyclist and told him certain things in Hausa which he accepted but refused to collect the dirty money that the driver gave to me. I had the sum of N20, 000 inside the bag, my phone, ID card, ATM card and other valuables. I even passed the night in a neighbour’s house since my key was also inside the bag.
“The next day, I reported the case to the police station where the incident happened and I never heard anything from them again. I paid for the lost money because it belonged to a friend.” she further narrated.
A taxi driver who pleaded anonymity said that, “ladies were the target of the robbers because they carry unnecessary items inside their bags. Apart from that, they should stop entering unpainted taxis and even the painted ones without taxi number engraved on the body of the car.
A police man who gave his name as Sergeant Ibrahim said: You can’t say that the police are not doing their work; being the reason that bag snatching is increasing every day in FCT. The truth of the matter is that the CCTV camera which the federal government spent billions of naira to install would still reveal the culprit. The cameras are recording every cases of bag snatching crime and soon all the culprits would be exposed.”