Lagos intra-city commuters or passengers daily face myriads of problems. The recurrent heavy traffic which wastes several man and productive hours, accidents that had left many injured or maimed; challenges of poorly maintained publics buses that tear passengers’ clothes and bad roads are some of these challenges. But more importantly is the challenge of safety and security of public buses which had left many with injuries, loss of valuables, life’s savings or complete loss of lives.
The popular óne-chance’ robbery continue to be a recurring decimal with succeeding Lagos state government administrations unable to find a definite solution till date. This may be a signal to collapse of security or inadequacy of one in a metropolitan city of over 22 Million Population.
The phenomenon of óne-chance’ buses started in 90s, associated and commonly known with yellow buses (Molue or Danfo), but over time, as new means of transport were introduced into the public transportation system, motorcycle and Tricycles (Keke Marwa), unpainted or private vehicles and even Lagos state Operated BRT , Uber and bolt seem to be no longer safe.
No matter what we say, congestions and influx of more people into a metropolitan city like Lagos, some in search of supposed ‘greener pastures or opportunities, will continue to worsen the situation. Many of these settlers may not be able to afford a personal car on arrival. Public transportation will continue to be the easiest form of mobility. Finding a safety net for this therefore must become a necessity that must be be addressed by the state government.
Tell tales of Lagos Intra-city commuters
The challenge and experience of many Lagos intra-city passengers is everywhere. Even if a person has not been a victim, there are stories of others one can read in the media and of recent on the internet where passengers who were going for their daily bread suddenly became victims. Many who believe this ‘one-chance’ issue is associated with public transport only are shocked to read some of the escapades of so-called é-transport like Uber and Bolt passengers.
The focus of this is on public transport. A victim, Osas a lady lawyer, resident in Ikosi ketu, who works in a legal firm somewhere in Victoria island area of Lagos had this story to tell.
“I was going to office one of these days. I was quite late that fateful day, say around 6:00am at 7Up- Toll gate axis. The day was still a bit dark, When I saw this Sienna bus with a driver and a woman at the front seat calling Victoria Island I felt safe. So with about four other ladies I boarded the Sienna. I sat by the door as I noticed there were other three male passengers at the back. Not quite three minutes, just about to reach Alapere bus stop, the drama started. The three guys sprang into action, pushed me into the middle of the car and started beaten all us the four ladies that entered at Toll gate bus stop. We were told to cooperate or we might lose our lives. They immediately rob our eyes with ‘abonikin’(hot balm) and continued the torture. We were forced to bend our heads down while the bus continued movement towards Third Mainland bridge though I noticed the driver made a turn off the Third mainland bridge along the line.
All of us, the four ladies, were asked to bring out every valuable (cash, Jewelry and even our ATM cards) which we promptly did while the torture continued. Apparently the lady whom I saw sitting in front when I boarded was part of the gang. with the ongoing torture, we were forced to disclose our pins but unfortunately they could not see any cash dispensing ATM before they dropped us off. By the time we knew where were dropped, we later discovered we were somewhere in Ilupeju.
As soon they dropped us, I asked a passer-by who was helping to help me dialled my sister’s number. Somehow My ATM was blocked and they could not withdraw my money but the other victims were not that lucky. I called my office to take the day off and went to hospital for treatment. It took me like a week before I regained normal use of my sight.
Sam, another victim, a young man trying to make meaning out of life went to an evening service in his Church located around Oregun. After the service around 8pm, Sam boarded a public yellow bus at Oregun bus stop going to Ikeja. Just at the intersection of Awolowo way by Radio bus stop where the bus should turn to the left, the bus turned right and increased speed towards Lagos State Secretariat. The bus again turned towards Agidingbi, Ogba road. Everything happened like a movie. The guys at the back started beating three of us, asked that we brought out cash, valuables in our hands. The torture was much. They brought out something like guns, but no one wanted to confirm if it was a toy guy. The fear of death paralysed everyone.
After torture, injuries to our bodies and after collecting all our valuables, cash and phones, they pushed us out while the bus was still moving. We only thank God that we have life. Passer-byes/good Samaritans who cared to listen to us gave us transport fares to our various destinations.
The two victims above are considered lucky when compared with what happened to Osayuware Oronsaye, a young lady who lives in Agege Area and used to work as front desk officer in a fertility Clinic in Ikoyi Lagos. Apart from losing her job, she is battling with regaining full use of her sight as a result of being a ‘one-chance’ victim.
According to Osayuware, “I used to follow a relatively unknown Sienna bus driver and his wife that pick up passengers around my bus stop in Agege if one is there by 5:30am. Apparently the husband and wife work at Victoria Island and used the bus to add more income to theirs. So this particular day, I was there as usual and so came this sienna. As soon as I saw a man and a woman in front of the bus and the two shouted Victoria Island, I just jumped in. There were 3 other men so I believed they were other usual passengers. But within three minutes of driving, the woman in the front wound up the glass and my torture started. They used clubs and many other items on me. They hit my head and eyes consistently. One pulled up my clothes and started molesting me in my private part. The other guy tore the front of my blouse and started harassing my breast. At this time, I started crying and asked what they wanted. None said anything. I thought they were assassins sent to kill me. One choked my neck and I almost passed out. When they saw I was already weak, one now told me their mission.
“We are ‘one-chance’ who is ready to kill you if you do not cooperate” One of them applied ‘abonikin,(hot balm), on my face, which compound my woes. They then asked me to bring my money, phone, ATM card. They found all these in my handbag they took forcefully from me. They asked for my ATM pin code, which I gave. One of them used the phone to check my balance and discovered I only had thirty-Seven Thousand(N37.000=) balance. They tortured me the more for having such a low balance in my account. The bus driver stopped momentarily and I overheard one of them went to withdraw the money, which he did.
At this point, I was so weak and could not open my eyes anymore. Almost unconscious at a point, but was revived by one of them. They removed my wig and I was told they were about to throw me out of the bus and if I shout they could actually strangle me to death. They did throw me out gently and I fell. The whole operation would not have been less than a minimum of 30 minutes.
After they left, many who saw me by the road thought I was a mad woman because I had used the wig to cover my rough hair that I planned to do later. But as God would have it, the place was not far from a police check point. I later discovered I was at Dopemu. The Police after listening to my experience helped me to get a commercial motorcycle that took me home.
At home, my sister rushed me to the hospital but until six days later I could not open my eyes. When I actually did, I could not regain full use of the eyes till date. To make the matter worse, because of the emotional trauma, I lost coordination and once a while I jerked on my seat throughout the first month of the incidence. My employer despite my line manager’s plea terminated my appointment after one month and till date I am still receiving treatment on my eyes and looking for new job opportunities.
Government, relevant Agencies kick
Reaching out to Lagos Ministry of Transport, this reporter did not get to speak with the Commissioner of Transport or the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, but only speak to a very senior official who did not want to be named due to civil service protocol.
Asked if the Ministry is aware of ‘one-chance’ and challenges posed to the public. The official did affirm the Ministry was aware but in term of security, I should reach out to the state security outfit. Asked if the Ministry is doing anything to prevent this, this individual replied “We, the government at all levels, are doing everything to ensure security of passengers and that was why the state launched the state own buses(BRT), registered e-cars like Uber and Bolt. The introduction of recently ‘Lagos Ride’ is also a step towards curbing such” according to this official.
On all these state/public transport initiatives, government had installed security devices that can make easy tracking possible.” On public buses, the official claimed “the Ministry had also compelled e-body tag for both the drivers and conductors of public yellow buses so as to ensure easy identification and security”.
The same measures are applied on Water way transport services and it keeps improving on these. But for others, use of private cars and buses, Government had warned Lagos commuters to desist from patronizing such but many will not. On this, anyone who is not careful by boarding such unlicensed buses and cars does that at their own peril.
The General Manager of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, Bolaji Oreagba, on his own claimed the Agency had started a clamp down on all unpainted and unauthorized public buses.
Musliu Akinsanya, General Manager, Lagos state Parks and Garages also claimed “its Agency is using technology to help passengers identify public buses through a barcode each passenger can scan before boarding”. But how does this help early in the morning when there is usually a rush?
Role of government in the safety of life of public transport’ passengers
We all do know in every metropolitan city across the globe, public transportation comes with a higher risk of safety and security. The reason is obvious. there is always a possibility of more passengers than the public buses available. The challenge is often compounded in many developing countries, because of the lack of proper and integrated approaches toward handling the shortfall.
Government at the local and state level should guarantee safety from crime, by providing adequate police presence; lighting; visible monitoring; layout; identified help points.
Beyond this, adequate safety and security measures in a metropolitan city striving to achieve smart city, must appraise the possibility that passengers will be involved in an accident or theft, be it vehicular or otherwise. With precise data and infrastructure, most safety and security measures can be calculated and made provision for. Most cities, in the developed world which achieved this, go beyond ‘public/passengers should be more careful’ approach
In the face of government ineptitude, what should passengers know?
From every indication, the possibility of curbing ‘one-chance’ nuisance in Lagos is very narrow. So here are suggestions passengers must embrace. Never leave your instinct at home. Listen to your instinct especially if you always leave home early for work. If your mind says no, do not enter such vehicle.
As much as you can, try and board vehicles from designated bus stops/garages and parks. Always do a mental calculation of arrangement of how other passengers are seated within the bus. If it is an all-male passenger, apply caution. One other thing is if you are compelled to sit in the inner part of the bus where you cannot see outside or shout. You may want to decline. Especially if it is early in the morning hours.
Also if the transport fare charged is ridiculously low, do a rethink. If it is possble in any early morning route, beware of unlicensed, unpainted Sienna bus made in the 90s where only the front glasses can be wound down