“Suddenly, I found myself in an unfamiliar location. They compelled me to promise in the blink of an eye that I would tell nobody about what had happened. I provided them with my father’s and my bank accounts. When I returned home, I realised I had lost my admission and acceptance fees. ” These were the words of Emerentiana Njoku, a 23-year-old woman who was entangled in the web of Lagos’ one-chance fraudsters.
As daylight wanes in Lagos, people hasten their movements to avoid being caught in the criminal activities that greet the night. With the rate of unemployment in recent times, ‘one-chance’ crime has become widespread in Lagos, with ‘Aboniki Balm’ becoming a common tool for dispersing victims after they have been dealt with. ‘One Chance’ is the use of commercial vehicles to rob passengers of belongings such as mobile phones and jewellery.
Njoku had her share of the experience in April 2021. She had boarded a taxi from Aguda, Ogba, to Grammar School, Berger. Although she did not realise that she had boarded a vehicle belonging to criminals, when the driver would not stop talking about his hatred for the Police, she felt something was odd.
“He said he wanted to take another route so the police officers on the road wouldn’t extort money from him. That was how I got to an unknown destination, ” she told FIJ.
Njoku had met two other ladies in the vehicle. As they approached their bus stop, the driver asked who owned the luggage in the boot, angrily. When no one said anything, the driver threatened to go to a nearby police station to hand the bag over.
“Immediately, a woman broke down in tears, pleading with other passengers to intervene on her behalf. I began begging with a pitiful expression, and others joined me. When the driver inquired about the contents of the bag, she said that it included money she had stolen from her employer in the Benin Republic. She then said that she would do everything to avoid going to the police station, even dividing the money among all the passengers in the vehicle.
Njoku says even though she didn’t agree to collect any part of the lady’s money, she only told the driver to hasten up. Thereafter, he drove them to another destination under the guise of avoiding the police.
The driver drove them to a remote area without good roads. That was when she thought death had knocked on her door. She said she saw a priest, a Muslim cleric, and some four men, aside from the driver and two passersby, who, according to her, told her to her face she had entered one chance.
“The priest asked me to swear before a deity that I would never tell anyone about what had happened. By that time, I had already given them my ATM and my password. I lost my N150,000 to them. But I was lucky that they showed me my way out. From Berger, I found myself in Fagba,” she said.
Unlike Njoku’s case, many people are not lucky and therefore became victims of the terrible nature of one chance. Many lose their life savings and parts of their bodies after being victims of this menace, leaving them traumatized.
A THREAT TO STAB, RAPE AND SELL BODY PARTS
For Ese Omah, her heartbeat changes every morning at the thought of going to work. Sometime in June 2020, she boarded a Sienna at Iyana-Oworo on her way to work, only to spend the rest of her stay in the car fighting for her life.
As the last person to enter the car, she comfortably plugged her earpiece into her ears to enjoy the ride, but what would follow was life-threatening.
“I was slapped so many times. The driver was taking an unfamiliar route, but because I asked where to see where the driver was taking us to. Immediately, the men collected my bag forcefully, checked my phone, and read my messages and mail. I would have shouted, but when one of them brought out a knife, threatening to stab, rape, and sell my body parts for rituals if I attempted to shout, I kept my mouth shut.
“After much pleading, one of the people who heard me pray in my dialect asked that others collect my wristwatch and use their POS to withdraw all the money in my account,” she said.
When the men had emptied her account, they sprinkled Aboniki balm on her face and kicked her out of the running vehicle. People who saw her fall off the vehicle rushed to her aid. At the time, she was in Costain, a very distant route from Iyana-Oworo.
“Till date, I have never used a private vehicle again. From the bus stop to my office, I get scared when boarding buses and even on my way home, fear accompanies my every move,” she said.
‘THEY DIDN’T SAY THEY WERE ROBBERS; THE BEATING DID!’
Even though the gentlemen of the highway are known for being active at night, in Lagos, with their Sienna, all they need to do is to prey on unsuspecting people who leave for work very early. Justin Okeke’s case was worse because he did not expect that one chance men would operate as early as 5am in a developed area like 7 Up, Motor Ways in Ikeja.
Okeke was on his way to Victoria Island when a one-chance man subjected him to trauma. When he got to the Ogudu bus stop, the driver picked someone along the way, locked the door firmly, and asked that his men begin the operation.
“The man the driver picked up at Ogudu and I had no time to explain before they beat the hell out of us with an iron rod. I was made to lie down in the middle. One guy strangled my neck and another guy held my legs. The one on my neck slapped me repeatedly and the one that held my legs hit me with an iron rod continuously.
“The one that sat in front of me instructed me to transfer money to their account. They didn’t need to tell the other guy and me that they were robbers. The beating did, “Okeke said.
To save himself from possible murder, he transferred all the N40,000 to his account and offered them his office laptop worth N600,000 alongside his phones. According to him, the other victims paid roughly N60,000 before they could be freed.
“But we were not freed easily. After they had beaten us to their satisfaction, despite that we paid, they rubbed Aboniki deep into our eyes, instructing us not to shout or else they would silence us with their guns.
“We were kicked out of the car after some time. Only well-meaning passersby saved us, as many people stigmatized us. Luckily for me, GT Bank reversed the N40,000. But I used it to treat myself as my hand was fractured,” Okeke explained.
ONE-CHANCE ROBBERS DRESSED LIKE CORPORATE STAFF
Folashade Ojolowo’s experience proves that one can hardly avoid ‘one chance’ in Lagos. As a well-meaning lady, like other people, her ordeal started at about 5:30 am on a Saturday in 2018 on her way to work.
She boarded a bus at the notorious Charlie Boy bus stop, infamous for one-chance activities, supposedly heading towards Berger Tollgate, to drop off at the next bus stop before her ordeal began.
The men, in their mid-thirties and well dressed as though they were heading to their respective offices, were the passengers on the bus. When she told the driver she wanted to alight at the next bus stop, the men began to rough her up.
“Immediately the bus didn’t stop at my bus stop, I knew I had fallen victim,” she said. “And unfortunately, they went with my N600,000. After searching through my bag, they got my ATM cards, went through my phone for any other information, and asked that I behave or I would be raped and probably killed if I did not act accordingly with them.”
Ojolowo advised that to avoid one-chance men in Lagos, people who work in the same organisations should meet at a spot before boarding a bus, as the violence involved is limited when many non-members of a one-chance group are on a bus.
Oreoluwa Beckley, a victim of one chance in 2020, advised that one has to avoid Sienna and private vehicles in the morning in Lagos. “It is better to use a Danfo bus that will wait for passengers to fill the bus at the bus stop than to use Sienna,” she said.
If one chance is to end in Lagos, the Lagos State Government, the Police in Lagos, and the staff of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) must work together to tackle this menace, according to Fatima Adewusi. She said the NURTW particularly has to introduce something to their system that will indicate that a particular bus belongs to their union.
When FIJ contacted CSP Ade Ajisebutu, the new Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, to know if there were any plans in place to fight the menace of one chance in the state, the PPRO did not respond.
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