The Sun News

‘How police abandoned us in moment of distress’

Lagos residents say patrol team came hours after robbers left

Cosmas Omegoh

These are perilous times. In Nigeria, security threats stare at everyone in the face, No one is sure of what might happen in the next hour.

But whenever one is under threat, there are emergency numbers put out by the police. Some of such numbers are toll-free. In Lagos for instance, one can reach the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) on 112. For other emergencies, 767 is the number to dial. But how effective are those emergency police numbers? That is the big question.    

Indeed, there are bandits operating on virtually all roads and waterways. These are mostly gun-toting youths who simply show up without notice. For them, robbery has become a pastime. They dispossess passengers of their property and sometimes kill or maim the unyielding ones. Even the innocent are sometimes not spared.

On the streets of many urban and rural communities, some youths are on the rampage, unleashing mayhem, kidnapping and robbing people. They waylay their victims in the evening or early in the morning. Some operate at busy and popular bus stops, picking their victims’ pockets. Some simply snatch bags and handsets and even rape ladies in the process.

In gridlocks, there are youths harassing innocent motorists and their passengers. On one of those bad days, they move from vehicle to vehicle, frightening everyone, demanding money and other valuables. They grab computer laptops, tablets, phones, bags, cash and other valuables while the owners tremble with fear.          

At home, too, no one is safe anymore. Hardly do people sleep with both eyes closed. Sometimes, marauding youths come threatening the neighbourhood. In the wee hours of the night, they break into homes demanding valuables. In certain places, audacious hoodlums spend hours going from house to house unchallenged, eating their victims’ foods and quaffing the drinks in their refrigerators before strolling away with their loot.

Over the past few months, Alubarika and adjoining streets in Ijeshatedo area of Surulere, Lagos, have been under siege, with robbers and burglars holding the area by the jugular. Unfailingly, after an interval of about three weeks, they strike, visiting the residents with harm and horror.

In the last quarter of last year, the robbers visited one of the houses at about 2am. They broke into a home on the ground floor and carted away cash and other items, including laptop computers, which a resident had brought home after repairing them.  

Days after, they struck at a church on the street while service was in session. Then they visited a building next to the church, which housed a viewing centre. While some other youths were busy enjoying a football game on television, they broke into homes and carted away money and other valuables.             

Then a week to Christmas, they struck again, targeting a man whose wife just gave birth to their first child 17 years after their wedding. According to an account, no one could tell how they gained entrance into the home. When they demanded cash and were told there was none, the robbers had an idea. They threatened the man and his wife with the abduction of the baby lying down innocently in the cot. It worked. One of them had grabbed the baby and threatened to smash him on the floor. The woman dashed into the room and one of the robbers followed her. She produced N25,000, but the robbers turned it down. Then, they followed in the direction she went, dug into the same spot and fished out the rest of the money. Satisfied, they snatched the woman’s jewellery box. They grabbed the couple’s laptop computer sets and asked the husband to hand in his own money and he obeyed them. And they left.

Daily Sun learnt that, in their escape bid, the robbers bumped into the street’s night guard. It was approaching 4:30am. Then they told the man that robbers were operating in their home, and that they were fleeing from the robbers with as much property as they could salvage. The poor street security man believed their line and allowed them to go away quietly with their loot.

They struck again in broad daylight in the middle of January at a house at the end of a close. The occupants of the house were attending a Sunday service somewhere, so the bandits had a field day ransacking the home, stealing money, jewellery and other household items. They even went away with the family’s plasma television.

It is worse when the robbers strike and there is no police response. And when the police show up, many insist that such response is usually belated, coming long after the robbers have gone.

For instance, a few days before the end of January, some robbers staged another return to Alubarika Street. At 2.30am, this correspondent was woken up by a call for help from a neighbour on the street.

Almost in whispers, the voice came ringing through: “Do you have any police numbers? Robbers are right in our compound operating. It is urgent!”

Not knowing exactly what to do, the correspondent gave him a certain emergency number, which he rang. Moments later, he called back complaining that the number belonged to the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC). When this reporter tried the number, a voice volunteered these numbers: 07055462708, 08035963919, claiming that they were police emergency numbers.

When the reporter rang the first number, it was switched off. But the second number was active; for several moments, no one responded to the call.

In desperation, the reporter rang a colleague and the gentleman reminded of the police toll-free emergency line, 112. The lady that answered admitted that the force had earlier been notified of the crime and assured that some crime fighters were on their way to the crime scene. The reportr then told the neighbour that the police were on the way.

Later in the evening, the reporter dropped by the neighbour’s place to hear how the issue with the robbers went. This was his story.  

“The police did not show up all the while the robbery lasted,” he said. “The robbers stormed our compound by scaling the low fence belonging to a nearby church. When they got in, they brought down a neighbour’s door and began to rob. They visited a few apartments, stole what they could steal and fled.

“Then at about 9am, long after most people had gone to work, my younger brother said a team of policemen visited to ask whether ours was the house in which the robbers operated last night.”

He added that when the police team arrived, no one was willing to talk to them. They left after a short while, he said. 

The police public relations officer for the Lagos State command, Mr. Chike Oti, expressed surprise that no police team responded to the distress call, preferring to take it as an isolated case. He urged members of the public to have confidence in the police, urging them to call police emergency numbers whenever they were in distress.

“It is a surprise that no police team responded to the call. We are sorry about that.

“However, it is important to dial 112 or 767 whenever one is in distress. They are toll-free, alert numbers. Once the police receive the alert, a patrol team would be dispatched to the crime scene immediately. It is their job to do that because they are emergency responders,” he said.

In addition, he enjoined members of the public to observe certain security tips in order to safeguard themselves before the arrival of the police.

“If you are in distress, maintain absolute quietness,” he said. “Do not confront the robbers. In case there is shooting, lie flat on the floor. Do not peep through the windows and do not flash your torchlight at them in order not to give away your position.”

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Online Editor: Aderonke Bello
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