Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Inset: Some of the victims
With cases of kidnapping, rape and murder rising on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway,MOTUNRAYO ABODERIN narrates victims’ ordeal on the highway
Textile merchant, John Eze, returned from a social engagement with his family on the night of the last Eid–el–Kabir and was opening the gate to his house in Surulere, Lagos State, when three gunmen suddenly appeared and ordered him back into his Infiniti Jeep.
They drove him off in the car after his wife and three kids were allowed to leave. About five hours after the kidnap, Eze was brought back to the house by a taxi driver who picked him up on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway naked.
Narrating his ordeal, the father of three, said through the conversation of his kidnappers, he realised that the expressway was their escape route.
“On the way, they told me that they were going to kill me and throw my body into a ditch along the expressway. They were young boys of around 20 and 23 years. They were speaking yoruba language, they thought I did not understand the language but I do. They talked about a place around Sagamu intersection. Then one of them asked the driver to stop when we got to the old toll gate. It was around 12 midnight; he asked me to join him on the back seat and held a gun to my head. He asked for my phone number and I told him that I had three lines.
“He said I should give him the number I used as the car security code. I was shocked because when I bought the car three weeks earlier, I was told to change the code to any number of my choice, so I decided to use my phone number,” he said.
At the Sagamu interchange, Eze was stripped naked and was told to jump into the bush while the bandits drove off. He said they also told him that they would come to his house and kill his family if the car’s engine stopped working on the way.
“I had to beg them not to shoot me because they were drunk. I was walking naked in the night and nobody was ready to give me help on the expressway because they thought I was mad. But a taxi driver, who drove past me decided to stop a few meters away from me. I ran to him and explained what happened. He said he had helped someone in similar condition on the expressway in the past,” he said.
Eze’s car is yet to be found.
If Eze was lucky to return home, Folashade Odumola wasn’t. She left her Egbeda home on March 3 to attend the Holy Ghost Service at the Redeemed Camp which is located along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. But she disappeared on her way home and the whereabouts of the 33-year-old woman is still unknown. Her sister, Opeyemi, said her sudden disappearance has left the family sad.
“I think of my sister’s disappearance every day. It has left a void in my life. I wish she had not left the house to attend the service, maybe she would still be with us today. Different thoughts run through my mind and I wonder what could have happened to my sister. Without her, my life is incomplete. But as a Christian, I have the faith that God will bring her home soon,” Opeyemi said.
Folashade’s mother is still in a state of shock as all efforts to locate her daughter have yielded no result. Opeyemi said their mother now cries every day because of her daughter’s disappearance.
“My mother has searched everywhere for Folashade, she is depressed and confused. She cries all the time, praying for her daughter’s return,”she said.
Odumola is one of the many that have gone missing on the expresway.
Babatope Odewole who worked for Punch Nigeria Limited got missing four years ago. His wife said her husband left home for the office located along the expressway but did not return home. Odewole was not seen in the office on the day of his disappearance either.
“I miss him so much. I am his wife and it’s painful that we don’t have him around us. I’m just trying to keep my emotions calm, but it hurts. It even hurts more when the children ask about their father. They think he has travelled. Anytime their birthdays are approaching, they would start persuading me to call him and that I should tell him to come home.
“I know he is alive and my prayer partners have confirmed this. God is on our side. He will bring my husband back to me one day,” said Mrs. Odewole, a school teacher.
Apart from kidnapping, rape cases are also on the increase on the road and many of the victims have been murdered in cold blood. Two weeks ago, Sade Onabanjo (not real name) was raped and killed at the junction leading to one of the churches on the expressway.
High profile citizens have also fallen victims on the expresway. A retired Brig. Gen. Sylvester Iruh was murdered on July 10, 2012.
Iruh’s wife, Christiana, said her husband had a flat tyre and on the long bridge and he was shot with an arrow while trying to escape from his attackers.
“My husband had stopped on the long bridge to change his car tyre after it went flat. Other motorists warned him that the place was a dangerous spot on the expressway as robbers hide under the bridge, waiting for their victims. He then asked the other occupants of the car to get into the vehicle quickly so that they could leave the place. But before my husband could join them, two men came out from under the bridge and immediately shot him with an arrow. They also injured the other people with him. Witnesses said my husband died on the spot because of his injury,” Christiana said.
About one month after the General’s death, a foiled robbery incident led to the death of commercial bus driver at Sapade on the expressway while passengers in the bus were also injured.
Two weeks after the driver was killed on the expressway, a popular businessman in Ikorodu, Mr. Johnson, was murdered on the highway. The 47-year-old had gone to pick his wife at the Ibeshe Jetty but unknown to him, robbers were lurking just outside his house. After robbing him of all valuables, including cash, phones and a computer, he was driven to a hideout in the bush along the expressway where he was murdered.
Adebusola Odunaya is one of the lucky few. She was abducted on September 21, 2012 while she was on her way to the market. The 37-year-old was taken to a secret location in the bush on the expressway where she spent six days. Adebusola, who is the women leader in her church, said her release was a miracle.
“On the day I was kidnapped, I boarded a bus from Agege to Idumota. I remember that the conductor of the bus touched me with his handkerchief and I fell asleep. I woke up five days later in the forest along the expressway. When I woke up, I realised that my hair was cut and the sum of N500,000 that I was to use to pay for the goods I wanted to buy had been taken,” Adebusola said.
“Two men among the kidnappers ordered me to call my family. As I called my brother, they were telling me what to say. When I looked in front of me, I saw a horrible looking hut. There were two women lying unconscious near it. I don’t know if the women were alive or dead. The whole place looked scary.
“They later led me through the jungle to the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and left me there. That was how I was freed from the kidnappers,” she added.
Another lucky victim was Mrs. Muibat Salam. On October 10, 2012, the wife of the Speaker of the Osun State House of Assembly, was kidnapped in Osun State and transferred to Ogun State by her kidnappers. She was later rescued by members of the Ogun State Vigilante Service.
The rescue operation occurred around Ogunmakin, a village located in Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State, along the expressway. Two of her abductors were killed during the operation while three others were arrested by the vigilance group. The group said a tip-off by residents of the area led to Salam’s rescue.
For Mr. Johnson Duru, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is one route he would always try to avoid. On January 4, 2013, his family was attacked by armed robbers while they were returning to Lagos from Nkpologwu, Anambra State.
Duru said, “Plying the expressway both at daytime and night is fraught with danger. A lot of people have been attacked on the long bridge, by hoodlums who lay siege to it. It was a frightening experience that I would not forget for a long time.”
The Public Relations Officer, Ogun State Police, Mr. Olumuyiwa Adejobi, however said he was not aware of frequent cases of kidnapping, rape and murder on the expressway.
“If people don’t come to us, we won’t know their problems. However, I would advise people to board a bus from authorised government motor parks instead of looking for free ride on the road,” he said.
Adejobi added that the Ogun State police had tightened security on the expressway.
He said, “We now have patrol vans on the expressway. These vans also monitor the Sagamu-Ijebu axis. We realised that parking the patrol vehicle on one spot will be of no use because these robbers spend about five minutes carrying out their operation, so it is better we move around the highway.
“However, we urge people to be sensitive to their environment. If they notice any strange occurrence on the expressway or within their neighbourhoods, they should call us.”
The chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Ogun State chapter, Mr. Akeem Adeosun, also urged travellers to always patronise motor parks.
“We keep telling our people to board buses at the motor parks but some still stand by the road looking for free rides to their destination. A large percentage of motorists that pick up passengers on the bridge have ulterior motives. We now have a task force group at specific bus stops on the expressway to prevent people from boarding vehicles on the road,” he said.
The chairman also urged passengers to ensure that they get the telephone number of the driver and the number plate of the vehicle they travel in.
“These details are essential especially for persons travelling long distances. They should also send these details to at least one relative,” he stated.
Adeosun added that most drivers keep a record of passengers in the buses and advised passengers to always provide accurate information about themselves and their next of kins.