Saturday, July 2

‘One chance’ robbers devise new trick

‘One chance’ robbers devise new trick

Unrepentant criminals have followed the precept of Eneke the bird in late literary icon, Prof Chi­nua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

 Considering the hunters’ dexterity and marksmanship, the bird says, as “men have learnt to shoot with­out missing, it has also learnt to fly without perching”.

As the public and the law en­forcement agencies became famil­iar with the modus operandi of the ‘One chance’ robbery gangs, the criminals like Eneke the bird, have equally devised new means to con­tinue to ply their nefarious trade.

“One chance” is a name given to robbery gangs that operate with commercial buses, especially Volk­swagen Vanagon in the case of Lagos. They have members of the gang in the bus, usually painted in the normal Lagos commercial bus colours. Members pretend to be genuine passengers and drive around looking for victims.

They do not pick more than one or two victims at a time. Then they drive them to a remote place, where they are threatened with gun, cutlass, charms or other dangerous weap­ons and dispossess them of their money, handsets, and other valu­ables.

Sometimes after dispossessing the unsuspecting passengers of their valuables, they push them out of the moving vehicle, and if they are kind enough, they stop for their victim to alight before they zoom off. These gangs operate mostly during the early hours in the morn­ing and late in the evening.

However, with the advent of bank automated teller machine (ATM), which helps to reduce the volume of cash people carry on them, the gangs have devised new methods of robbing unsuspecting passengers.

They have realised that some people have their ATM cards in their bags or wallets, so, instead of robbing a passenger that falls prey to them and allow him or her to go, they search the passenger, take their ATM cards, take them to a particular destination and hold them hostage and demand for their ATM card pin number. Woe betide such victim if he should play smart by giving a wrong password, as he may not to come out of the place alive.

Having disclosed the security code, one of the gang members would rush to the bank to empty the victim’s account. They would thereafter blind fold the victim and drop him on the way and zoom off.

Tales of woe

Biodun Ahmed, the son of a re­tired police officer, left his Bariga home early in the morning some­times in March and boarded a com­mercial bus that should take him to Jibowu, Lagos where he would join an interstate bus going to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, when he got a job in one of the oil servicing companies after his national youths service programme last year.

Unknown to him, he had board­ed a ‘One chance’ bus. According to him, there were about eight pas­sengers already in the 14- passen­ger capacity bus. To him, he felt the bus would soon be full, but the driver didn’t wait for more passen­gers before it took off. According to him “I wanted to sit by the door side, but the conductor told me that it was his seat, so I had to go back and sat between two ‘passengers’.

“I knew that danger lurked around when instead of the bus to descend at Anthony to face Ojuelegba, it accelerated towards Oshodi, and when I wanted to ask where we were headed, one of the gang members whom I thought was my co-passenger, barked at me to shut up or he would shut it for me.

“They took me to a particular place that I cannot locate and they searched my bag and took my wal­let and brought out my three ATM cards. They also took my phone, and scrolled through the mes­sages to know the alerts for finan­cial transaction that I had made, thereafter, they asked me to write down the password of each of the ATM cards.

The one with gun turned, shook his head and warned that if I tried to prove that I was a smart guy that my family would not even see my corpse.

“I cooperated with them. One of them dashed out to the bank and in less than an hour he came back. They had emptied my three ac­counts in different banks.

“They blindfolded me and dropped me between Sanya and Coker on Oshodi- Apapa Express­way. They didn’t return the ATM cards, but gave me my bag.”

According to Ahmed, a good Nigerian, who cared to listen to his plight, gave him N500, which he used to pay for his fare back home.

It was when he went to the banks to block his ATM transactions that he realised that the gang had emp­tied his accounts. One account he said, has N148, 000, another one has N136, 000 and the third one has N47, 000.

Ngozi Uchendu, lives in Ojo area of lagos, she deals on sec­ond hand wears, popularly called Okirika, which she buys from Cot­onu, Benin Republic. One of the days in May, she left home early in the morning to board a bus going to Seme Border en route Cotonu. By the time they got to Iya Era on Badagry expressway, instead of continuing with the straight jour­ney, the driver turned and followed Ilogbo road, which leads to Alaba International market.

Somewhere along the Ilogbo road, the driver turned to a destina­tion she said she couldn’t remem­ber, and they started searching them. Ngozi said since the ATM became the safest mode of mov­ing cash, she had also opened an account with Ecobank and when­ever she goes to Cotonu she would make withdrawal there to pay for her goods.

That day, fate dealt a blow on her as the robbers took her ATM card and threatened to kill her if she didn’t provide the correct PIN. She said: “ I was scared and out of fear I couldn’t remember my PIN, and one of the gang members had already gone out with the card to the bank when I remembered that the PIN wasn’t correct. I had to tell them the correct number and they phoned the young man who was almost at the bank. I didn’t go free; this mistake resulted in a slap across my face that almost blinded me.

“ When the young man returned, the smiles on his face showed that he was successful, and they told me to enter the bus and they dropped me along the Ilogbo road. That was how the N125, 000 I was trading with vanished. It was the goodwill I had established with my customers in Cotonu that helped me to start business again, as they asked me to carry bales of wears on credit.”

The experience of a female jour­nalist with Television Continental, TVC in Lagos, Toyin Ibrahim also comes fresh over the new ploy by ‘One chance’ syndicate.

According to her, she boarded a bus on her way to work on March 9, at about 5:30am with four other commuters at the Ketu Bridge heading towards the Berger-Ma­godo axis of the Lagos-Ibadan Ex­pressway.

The bandits, who were also on board the vehicle, robbed her and the other commuters of their be­longings, assaulting them in the process.

The victim said the robbers at­tacked them barely two minutes after boarding the bus, collecting their phones and cash, adding that they were also taken to an Au­tomated Teller Machine, ATM, where their cards were used to withdraw money under duress.

“It was a 14-seater bus. I wanted to sit at the second seat at the back of the driver’s seat, but the conduc­tor said that was his seat so I had to go to the last seat. I and four other people were victims.

“Two minutes after the vehicle took off, one of the robbers began to hit me. He asked for my ATM pin number but I gave him a wrong number.

“When the vehicle pulled over at a nearby ATM, they tried the num­bers and discovered that the pin was a fake one, so they descended on me, hitting and booting me with their heavy shoes.

“They were stepping and march­ing me very hard. I would have died if they had succeeded in raping me. They injured me in the head.

“I am still spitting blood. They stole my three ATM cards, one phone and the N3, 000 in my pocket. They robbed other victims too and pushed two of them down while the vehicle was on motion. I had to tell them the truth, giving them the pin numbers of my GTB and Skye Bank cards. As they were beating me, I bit one of them and he became angry and tore my jeans trousers.

“He wanted to rape me. I was saved by one of them who warned that there was no time for that. The company just paid my salary and I was hoping to withdraw some money the day before the attack. The robbers have withdrawn all,” the journalist lamented.

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