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•Bandits operating on okada target women, as police warn hoodlums
By Cosmas Omegoh
Handbag snatchers are on the rampage again in Lagos. They prowl busy and lonely streets, targeting ladies’ handbags,which they believe contain money, cell phones and other valuables.
According to Daily Sun’s investigations, the robbers operate in pairs on motorcycles. While one rides the bike, the other snatches the bags of victims.
Once the duo sights a target, they swoop on her. The rider simply edges closer to the victim to give his partner striking advantage. The latter deftly grabs the victim’s bag with a simple, practised finish. The drama plays out without the victim expecting it. Once the thief grabs the bag, the robbers escape, leaving the victim and bystanders watching their figures fading in the distance.
Some of these handbag thieves operate on foot while some go solo. The two categories operate mostly on lonely streets at dawn or dusk when human traffic is thin.
In the morning, the thieves target women hurrying to the market to buy wares, fish, second-hand clothing, fruits and foodstuff. They do not spare office workers either. At night, they prey on women returning from markets and offices, targeting their cash.
On sighting their victim, they quietly draw near and show them a gun, toy or real, or jack knife, belching threats.
Days ago, the correspondent witnessed a drive-by bag-snatching episode at Ijesha Bus Stop, along the Mile 2-Oshodi Expressway at 8pm.
I had arrived at the bus stop on my way home when I sighted Christine, a female colleague, and hailed her. She had just alighted from the company’s staff bus a little earlier and was making purchases. Ten seconds into the exchange of pleasantries, a motorcycle closed in at terrible speed. Then its passenger grabbed her handbag and yanked it off her.
As she screamed for her bag, everybody thought that she was hit by the riders whose dark figures were already fading as they escaped.
The robbers had expertly snatched her bag, taking everything it held. Everyone around was rooted to the spot. A crowd soon formed to listen to her but she was clearly distraught.
Then, a middle-aged woman spoke up. She appeared to be returning from her petty-trading business.
“This incident is now becoming rampant. In the past one month, they have done this to me twice,” she said.
“The first time I was returning from Aguda (in Surulere). All of a sudden, two lads riding on a bike grabbed my bag and fled. I screamed and cursed to no avail. They made off with everything. It was such a traumatic experience.
“Two weeks ago, they snatched my bag again. I was returning from the market, just as I’m doing now, with a little load on my head. They thought I had the whole world inside it. They snatched it and sped off on a motorcycle.
“Since then, I have learnt to sling my bag on my neck and allow it rest freely on my tummy like this,” she said, showing off the bag.
She had hardly ended her story when a young lady cut in.
“It is a surprise that you did not know that this Ijesha is a flashpoint,” she said to Christine. “Last week, at this same bus stop, a lady’s handbag was snatched by robbers on okada.
“My sister, everyone is careful these days, especially in the evenings. Some of the okada riders you see now at night are robbers.”
Other sympathisers who spoke that evening declared the Mile 2-Oshodi Expressway unsafe for anyone walking alone at night. They revealed that the Ijesha and Cele axis was becoming dangerous, at dawn, there was a gang of robbers, some on motor bikes, some on foot, terrorising people.
“Twice, robbers have snatched my handbag at Cele Bus Stop,” revealed Merit, a journalist working with Daily Sun. “First time, I had gone to welcome my mother after she returned from her travel. I had lots of chocolate in my bag, money and other valuables.
“It was about 10:30pm. As I stood waiting to catch a bus to Ikotun, a passenger on an okada grabbed my bag. I watched in disbelief as they escaped.
“Months later, I fell victim again at the same spot. I was heading home after office hours when two young men circled me. One snatched my bag and fled. I was stranded,” said.
At Hostel Bus Stop on Cele-Ikotun road, in Ikotun area, a suburb of the city, Daily Sun a bike seized a lady’s handbag one evening. Days later, almost at the same spot, a lady was also attacked at the same time. The victim held tightly to her bag, one dragged her for a while before his colleague fired a shot, forcing her to let go.
A few weeks ago, Daily Sun equally learnt that a lady, Tolu, who works in Ikoyi, had her handbag snatched at dawn by an okada rider whose bike she ptronised at the popular CMS Bus Stop on Lagos Island.
“I was rushing to the office at about 6:25am because I wanted to tidy up a few things before resumption time,” Tolu said.
“From the bus stop, I hailed an okada for a ride. Right on the bridge leading to Ikoyi, he pulled up and whipped out a gun. Next, he grabbed my handbag and sped off with everything in it, my cellphones, money, everything,” she lamented.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Zone 2 Command, Dolapo Badmus, claimed that the police were unaware of the recent upsurge in crime. She, however, stressed that the police would do the needful, and urged residents to be watchful at all times.
“Now that the reports are coming to us, we will take necessary actions,” she said. “We will deploy plainclothes and regular policemen in those areas with a view to halting the trend.
“Meanwhile, Lagos residents should go about their businesses early in the morning and in the evening carefully. They should help us to stop crimes like these by promptly reporting suspicious persons or movements to the police.”