By Boniface Enekwechi
Most road travelers will remember with nostalgia the food delicacies they used to enjoy around the Ogbemudia farm axis on the Benin- Lagos Expressway. This nostalgic feeling has today melted into oblivion, sadness and melancholy, as the area has been turned into a nightmare for road travelers on account of armed robbery attacks.
Day and night, luxury and mini buses passengers are subjected to persistent armed robbery attacks, with their monies, goods and, sometimes, lives, lost at the spot, to dare-devil armed bandits, while the police patrol teams seem not to care. In fact, the story making the rounds is that the so-called policemen are responsible for the robbery attacks.
The people hinge this belief on the fact that despite mounting APC and patrol vehicles on the spot, the incessant armed robbery attacks leave so many trails to suspect their active involvement in robbing travelers of their goods at gunpoint.
To remember that this spot was once a beehive of economic activities with food vendors, fresh fruits and vegetable traders, and beer parlour operators, where passengers stopped to unwind on long journeys but has now become deserted, is a cause for regret.
Just recently, a luxury bus conveying passengers was ferociously attacked by “armed robbers” and they were all robbed of their monies and other precious items, while some sustained serious bullet injuries. In another incident involving a popular transport company, one passenger was killed on the spot.
This raises the question of whether the police are living up to their primary responsibility of protecting lives and properties of passengers on the road. A situation where innocent travelers are gunned down by “armed robbers” at a particular black spot, and the police fail to stop such nefarious acts, leaves much to be desired.
It raises questions of their commitment to the avowed duty of every responsible government to protect lives and properties of citizens. It is also worrisome that despite such incessant robbery attacks, not much effort is made by the Edo State Police Command to live up to its responsibility or track down the culprits.
At this period of dwindling oil revenues, it is expected that other sources of revenue like tourism can be enhanced, but this cannot be realised under an atmosphere of insecurity as being witnessed on the Benin –Ore expressway.
The security agencies must devise a strategy to ensure that our highways are safe, as they reflect the state of safety, or the absence of it, in the country. Perhaps, this accounts for the reluctance of most foreigners in Nigeria to embark on road travels, thereby denying the various states the benefits accruing from such tourism-related activities.
Time has, therefore, come for the Edo State Police to immediately swing into action and save road users on this route the harrowing experiences of armed robbery attacks. It is, indeed, disheartening that despite all the support being given to the security agencies by state governments across the country, their performance is not meeting the expectations of law-abiding citizens in this part of the country.
A situation where armed robbers will block a federal highway for hours, robbing passengers, without security agents swiftly confronting them, leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
Our security officials are infamous for always reporting to the scenes of armed robbery attacks after the evil perpetrators have escaped with their loot, and in some cases, left trails of the blood of their victims.
There is no doubt that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is focused on safeguarding lives and property of Nigerians, but the activities of some bad eggs in our security agencies appear to seriously undermine such efforts.
It is, therefore, incumbent on the Inspector General of Police to rein in these elements or else they will continue to hamper his efforts at ridding the country of crime and criminality.
Of course, the recent dismissal of four policemen who stole household items they were supposed to guard at former President Jonathan’s house is a clear testimony that criminal elements are in the employ of Nigeria Police.
Therefore, to save the majority of our policemen who are honest and dedicated, there is need to go the whole hog and restore the good image of the police by identifying the bad eggs and showing them the way out.
Enekwechi writes from Awka,