Two survivors of the gory robbery incident along Lokoja- Abuja Road, Joshua Chucks and Reuben Ezerem, yesterday narrated how they escaped death by the whiskers in the early hours of Tuesday.
Chuks, Ezerem and other survivors who are still receiving treatment at the Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja, Kogi State, told LEADERSHIP in an exclusive interview that it was only by sheer miracle that they survived the incident.
Chuks, who spoke from his hospital bed with pains, stated that the incident happened at about 5am when some armed hoodlums accosted the luxury bus (Chisco Transport) in which he and other passengers were travelling as they approached the Kogi State capital.
He said, ‘The hoodlums ordered us to come down and directed us to lie down, facing the ground on the highway. They thereafter dispossessed us of our valuables, including cash and handsets.
“While we were being searched, one after the other, two luxury buses approached the scene of the incident.
“But rather than stopping as ordered by the robbers, the drivers of the buses increased their speed, which resulted in the unfortunate crushing of some of us who were lying down on the highway.
He further disclosed to our correspondent that he only escaped death by miracle, saying the driver of the first vehicle had while trying to escape from the robbers, maneuvered his bus to where we were lying. ‘One of the buses ran over me in a middle position while the second one crushed one of my leg,” he added .
In his own account of the incident, Ezerem stated that he was not feeling fine, saying that his son, Stanley Ezerem, who worked in Government House, Owerri, decided to take him for treatment at Abuja.
He added that when they were accosted by the robbers few kilometres from Lokoja, he came down as they ordered but told them he was not feeling fine.
Ezerem said, “The robbers allowed me to rest in the bush and that was how I survived.
But I lost something dear to me and I can tell you that the memory can never be wiped away. My invaluable son, Stanley, was killed by one of the vehicles before my very eyes. Oh my God, it was as if I was watching a make-belief horror film. But this was a true life event. The scene of the incident was unbelievable and devastating. My son is gone. I don’t know how I am going to handle the effect of his death.”
But Ezerem blamed the driver of their bus for being timid, saying that other vehicles refused to stop because no object was used by the robbers to block the road. He wondered why the driver had to stop.
He disclosed that after the entire episode, he and other survivors counted 14 bodies at the scene before they were evacuated to hospitals in the metropolis.
Meanwhile, the Kogi State sector commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission, (FRSC), Mr. Sunday Maku , has said that contrary to media reports, only 14 people lost their lives during the incident.
Speaking in an interview with LEADERSHIP in Lokoja, Maku disclosed that three females and 11 males, including a small boy lost their lives during the ugly incident.
He therefore urged those whose relatives travelled on the fateful night but were yet to return to visit the Federal Medical Centre and Specialist Hospital in Lokoja metropolis, where the remains of the passengers were deposited.
The sector commander advised Nigerians to avoid night journeys on the grounds of its hazards, saying it was better to embark on journeys in the daytime.
In his reaction, the police public relations officer of the state command, Ajayi Okasanmi, told our correspondent in a telephone interview that 14 people actually died in the tragic incident.
He added that nobody had been arrested in connection with the incident, saying, however, that those behind the dastardly act would be apprehended.
He stated that the matter was under full investigation, adding that the police had spread their dragnet to bring the perpetrators to book.
Meanwhile, Governor Ibrahim Idris has promised that the state government will handle the medical expenses of those that survived the incident.
The governor, who stated this when he visited the survivors in the hospital in Lokoja, disclosed that security would be beefed up on the major highway in the state. He pointed out that joint military-police patrol would be carried out to tackle the menace of armed robbery.