From KASSIDY UCHENDU, Nsukka
For Mr. Sunday Odenyi, principal of Ezimo Uno Community Secondary School, Udenu, Enugu State, it was a narrow escape. He could have been dead when heavily armed bandits snatched the school bus he was driving and kept him in the bus while they engaged in a number of robbery operations in the area. It was more like a scene in a Hollywood movie, only that it was very real. On Wednesday, December 13, the robbers seized the bus being driven by the principal.
They then forced him to lie on the floor while they commenced a series of operations. Only the bandits and their victim knew that the principal was lying prostrate on the floor of the bus. They snatched the bus at Umundu Junction in the same local government area after shooting indiscriminately in the air. They then drove with breakneck speed into their destination – Nsukka depot of a popular transport company, Peace Mass Transit, for their operation.
Odenyi told Daily Sun that he had just dropped one of his teachers at the junction when a young man rushed at him and snatched the ignition key from him. He said almost immediately, another young man rushed in and brandished a gun.
The armed bandit reportedly shouted at him: “come down, come down, or I shoot you dead.” Odenyi said he obeyed and they pushed him into the back of the vehicle even as two other boys jumped inside. The school principal said he was asked to lie face down on the vehicle floor within the booth area. He was to stay in that position for several hours, moving from one robbery scene to the other without knowing where he was. “I only heard that they robbed Peace Park after I regained freedom”, Odenyi told Daily Sun. The school principal escaped being killed by a hair’s breath. He was warned by the robbers that if the vehicle was tracked, they would shoot him dead.
But Odenyi’s friends were not aware of that warning, so they were busy calling the company that sold the vehicle to track it. Luckily for the principal, nobody picked the call at the company. Odenyi said the armed robbers also barely escaped being caught by soldiers and policemen. Said he: “I left my school, Ezimo Uno Community Secondary School, Udenu Local Government Area, Enugu State. I was driving myself because the driver was just returning from the burial of his father and his health was not too good. I left the school at about 1.30pm.
Because some of my teachers used to come to school on commercial motorbikes, I decided to give them a ride as the driver would normally do. I dropped the last female teacher at the Umundu Junction along Old Orba Road and was about to take off when a young man emerged from nowhere and snatched the ignition key from me. As I tried to question the man, another young man rushed in through the passenger seat of the vehicle and pulled a gun. He then ordered me to come down from the vehicle or risk being shot dead.
That was about 1.30pm. He shouted, “This is the man!” I came down and he ordered me to enter the back of the vehicle, pointing his gun at me. I obeyed and he ordered me to lie prostrate on the vehicle floor within the booth area. T
he one that snatched the key drove the vehicle and they were busy discussing the logistics of their operation. After driving for a distance, they stopped and I guessed they branched off to a gas station. They shouted, ‘fill the tank quickly! Fill the tank!’ When we left the place, I overheard a female voice screaming: ‘O my money, my money!” It was then that it dawned on me that they wanted to use my vehicle for an operation. The way they were talking suggested they had robbed someone. Their dialect did not sound like people from Nsukka. Instead, they were speaking central Ibo. “If they robbed at Peace Park, I did not even know because I was lying face down on the floor of the bus. As we moved, I noticed that one of the tyres was going down. They continued moving until the tyre became too bad, but they continued managing it because they were aware that they were being chased by security agents. But after they branched off at a junction, I heard them saying, ‘we can now fix the tyre. You know whenever we branch off like this, they (security operatives) will be afraid to continue the chase.’ They then stopped and replaced the tyre with the spare one in the vehicle. Not quite long after that, they noticed that they were still being chased. They stopped and asked me to go down and enter the bush. I did and they continued. Few minutes later, the policemen arrived, followed by soldiers. I then told them I was the one the robbers abducted. They continued their chase and later came back with the vehicle. They told me that the robbers had abandoned it and fled into the bush. It was a narrow escape for the robbers and I, because the soldiers could have met them where they were fixing the tyre. If they had met them, I would have been a dead man because they would have opened fire on the vehicle, not knowing that I was inside. “The robbers did not beat me. They even gave me N1, 000 to transport myself back and told me to come to Onitsha the following day to pick my bus. I heard them making calls to someone saying, ‘wait for us at Olo. Make no mistake.’ “The prompt arrival of the soldiers and policemen showed me that our security operatives still do their work with dispatch. I thank them and I am very grateful to God. But for God and our efficient soldiers and the policemen, I could have been a dead man today.”