Ayoola Olasupo examines the activities of ‘one- chance’ robbers posing as commercial vehicle drivers to rob unsuspecting victims of cash, valuables
Tears and loss of hope took over the heart of a 30-year-old woman, Promise Effiong, struggling to make ends meet as she narrated the ordeal of how she lost her life savings of N4.7m to disguised commercial vehicle drivers popularly called ‘one-chance’ robbers in Lagos State.
‘One-chance robber’ is a slang describing robbers who use various methods to rob unsuspecting passengers of their belongings under the guise of being commercial motorists. The activities of the robbers have become a threat to users of public vehicles. Effiong is one of the latest victims of the criminals.
On Tuesday, October 11, 2022 around 6am, while Effiong embarked on a trip to her workplace like every other day, little did she know that she would become a victim of ‘one chance’ robbers. The sales consultant narrated that she was robbed of her life savings when she unknowingly boarded the vehicle.
Effiong said that she boarded a Toyota Sienna going to Lekki at Alapere bus stop on that day with another lady, adding that she saw four passengers and the driver in the vehicle. She stated that the driver diverted the vehicle from the Third Mainland Bridge to a place where they were attacked and robbed by other passengers.
She said, “On Tuesday, October 11, 2022, I left home and got to the bus stop around 6am. I boarded a Sienna bus going to the Island. My office is at Lekki where I work as a sales consultant. I joined the bus from Alapere but the driver instead of driving through the Third Mainland Bridge to link the Island, diverted towards Anthony. He claimed that there was traffic on the route to the bridge. There were seven of us on the bus. A lady also joined them at Alapere, making it two women and five men in the vehicle. I sat in the middle seat while the other lady sat at the back. As the driver drove on, the person who sat beside the driver came towards me and the man who sat at the back concentrated on the other lady.”
The distraught 30-year-old lady said the man who attacked her gripped her neck to force her to release her belongings.
She added, “As he gripped my neck, the man said I should calm down and cooperate with them. I didn’t know what was going on until he ordered me to lie flat on the legs of his colleagues. They asked for my ATM card but I didn’t quickly remember that I forgot it at home. I searched my bag and didn’t find it there. They said I was lying but I begged them to allow me to check my bag again. It was then I remembered that I forgot it at home. I told them that. But they had taken my two phones; iphone X smart and a Nokia phone and searched my bag thoroughly.’’
She stated that the robbers refused to let her go after they noticed alerts on one of the phones showing she had N4.7m in her account and released the other lady who had only N15, 000 in her account.
The lady stated that the robbers eventually transferred the money into four accounts, adding that at the end of each transaction, the account holders were called to confirm the transaction.
She said, “They attacked the other lady too. She brought out an ATM card that didn’t have any money. She said she had only N15, 000 in account. After they searched my phone, they asked how much I had and I told them N4.8m. They kept torturing the lady at the back but after a few minutes’ drive, they stopped the vehicle and got her out of the vehicle. They said she didn’t have money and should go, so the journey continued with me.
“They used a bag to cover me so that nobody would suspect that there was someone trying to call for help. When they took the iPhone Xsmart, they wanted the password and I told them that it had a face ID. I told them to bring it closer to my face so that I could open it for them but they shouted that they didn’t want to hear that and that I should just unlock the phone. I couldn’t really place the number so I told them some letters to match the numbers and that was how they got the code to access the phone.’’
She stressed that the robbers rubbed a balm mixed with pepper on her eyes as they hit her legs with a spanner, adding that she could hardly see with her left eye.
Effiong added, “They went through the phone, launched the app of the bank account on my phone, opened it and asked for my log in details. They entered their account details and asked for my transfer pin. After they had succeeded with the transactions, they asked me to choose between acid and peppered balm for my eyes before they would let me out. I chose the peppered balm and they used it on my eyes. When they wanted to drop me, they heard a passing police van and they held me down again saying that I shouldn’t move. They also placed a bag on me in order not to draw any attention to them. When we got to the bus stop, they told me to sit properly as if nothing happened. I did as they ordered and they gave me my bag. They threatened to rape and shoot me if I shook or move. I didn’t see their guns but they had knives and other tools.’’
She noted that immediately she was dropped at Ikeja, Maryland, Effiong called for help after which a passer-by came to her aid. She said the woman helped her dial on her phone, some numbers which were called offhand and the owners were informed about the attack.
The Akwa-Ibom indigene added that after reaching out to her fiancé, they proceeded to a police station to report the case.
“I was continuously slapped, mercilessly assaulted and hit repeatedly with a wheel spanner on my two knees to force me to give them access to my bank app. This is too much a pain for me to bear. I tried to access my email and I realised it has been hacked. Right now I cannot see with my left eye,” she noted.
A document titled “A clearing transactions tracking system” which Effiong gave to Sunday LENTORLITENEWS showed N2.2m, N1m, N500, 000 and N1m were transferred respectively to the bank account details; Lawrence Clement Udo 1506749109 Access Bank, Olabode Alade Hamed 3010024081 ECO Bank, Adeniyi Olusanya 2007573497 Zenith Bank and Akinluwa Oluwabusayo 9443695012 FCMB.
Effiong’s younger brother, Marvelous said his sister had found it difficult to regain stability after the incident, adding that the family had been taking care of her.
Victims’ harrowing tales
A software engineer, Akinbiyi Gbolahan had yet to forget the distressing encounter on June 11, 2022 when he boarded a minibus on his way back home from work.
Gbolahan told our correspondent that he was not scared of taking the minibus as it was normal for him, unknowing that he had fallen into the hands of ‘one-chance’ robbers.
He said, “Regularly, a colleague of mine drops me off at Fadeyi Bus stop whenever we close late at work. Then he drives to Jibowu to link Yaba using the Jibowu under bridge and on my part, I take a bus or cab heading to Ojuelegba where I reside.’’
He stated that one day, when he got to Fadeyi at about 11.27 pm, he alighted and his colleague left, adding that as he used to do, he stood by the roadside to get a bus but for the next 15 to 20 minutes, he couldn’t get any bus, only the private vehicles that would not pick up a stranger at that time of the night.
He added that he did not suspect anything until one of the passengers alighted and the driver shouted “Ojuelegba” to call in another passenger.
“I didn’t know that it was a ploy. He asked me to enter with my exact fare but I told him I had N1, 000. He still told me to enter. I was not suspicious especially as a woman was the passenger who alighted and another lady sat beside the driver at the front, scrolling her phone.
“I sat on the empty first row close to the entrance because I envisaged that I would soon alight. Then, one of the men at the back row told me to move in a bit because he would soon alight. The bus was close to where he described as his bus stop and I moved inside at the front row. As I did that, the driver requested my fare. I opened my purse and handed him a N1000 note and he gave me a N900 change. I kept the money,’’ he said.
Shortly after he rested his back to settle in, Gbolahan noticed that a pistol rested gently beside him and he immediately complied with the order that he should drop his purse. As Gbolahan pretended to be Hausa, the gun-wielding man pleaded with the driver in Yoruba to drop him off the bus.
He further stated, “At that moment, the man told the driver in Yoruba that they should allow me to go. As he spoke with the driver, I pushed him away and jumped out of the bus. My trousers got torn and I sustained injuries. I thought of the N423,000 laptop, which I bought barely three months earlier and my phone which contained some important office files.”
He noted that after jumping out of the bus, he ran towards Fadeyi till he got to Under Bridge where he took the middle of houses until he reached the rail line linking Yaba and Oshodi after which he found his way through the Under Bridge of the road leading to Ojuelegba. The encounter however left him with a broken phone, scratched laptop and a wound on his left leg.
The encounter of an accountant at a construction company in the Victoria Island area of Lagos State, Saheed Ogungbenro, with ‘one chance’ robbers was disquieting to say the least. He was hospitalised after he was attacked by robbers along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
Narrating his encounter with the robbers, Ogungbenro said he met two other passengers in the vehicle and they proceeded with the journey. He added that he boarded a Sienna bus around 5am at the U-Turn along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, on his way to work but the situation suddenly changed when the driver of the vehicle picked another passenger at Abule-Egba area of Lagos State.
The accountant noted that he was beaten up by the robbers after which his valuables including; a laptop, two phones, ATM card, amongst others were collected. He added that money was transferred from his accounts by the robbers in Sienna.
Ogungbenro said, “One of the two men at the back held me in the neck while the other man that entered later punched me in the face. One of them hit my nails with a hammer. I was overpowered. They collected my phones, laptop, national identity card, driving licence and company ID card. They asked for my card pin and information about how to open my banking mobile app.
“I had to give them everything. I have N830, 000 in my Access Bank account. I don’t know how much they transferred from it though someone had gone to the bank on my behalf and they had blocked my account. I had my Diamond (Access) ATM card with me. They collected it and transferred money from my Access Bank account to the Diamond (Access) account.”
After the attack, Ogungbenro was left for dead in the Oke-Odo area before a commercial motorcycle rider assisted him to the hospital. He added that the rider informed him that he was the fourth person robbed and dumped at the same spot, adding that the case was eventually reported at the Oke-Odo Police Station. He added that it was usual for him to board a commercial Sienna bus to his office, noting that it was unfortunate that the incident happened.
The family of one Rosemary Obidinma, a resident of Ibafo, in the Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State, became distraught after the Divisional Police Officer of Ketu Police Station telephoned them on Friday, November 11, 2022, to identify the body of a victim of a one-chance robbery.
The victim was Obidinma. said to have been stabbed and bled to death after she went missing.
Obidinma, a shopkeeper in the Apapa area of Lagos, had gone missing about a week before. The police presented to the family the body of a female who bled to death from a stab wound.
Obidinma’s son, Daniel, said he immediately recognised the victim as his mother, when the picture was shown to the family by the police.
Findings by the police linked Obidinma’s death to ‘one-chance’ robbers.
Past incidents in FCT, arrests
In the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, a victim of ‘one-chance’ robbery, Chizoba Ede narrated how she struggled to raise some money from hawking snacks to start trading in second-hand clothes, only to fall victim of one-chance robbers, an encounter, which sent her back to square one, after which was dispossessed of her capital.
Ede recounted how in the evening of June 10, 2019 while she was returning home from the market, the three-man syndicate who pretended as driver and passengers in a car she boarded collected the cash of N100,000, forcefully obtained her ATM card and ensured the pin she gave to them was correct, after which they withdrew a total of N566, 000 from her accounts with their POS (Point of Sale) machine.
Eze added that they collected her phone and dropped her off around Wuse after their leader confirmed to have received the credit alerts. She said that she reported the incident at a police station but nothing came out of it.
Also, Micheal Ibebuogu met his untimely death when he fell into the hands of a five-man one-chance robbery gang on his way home from his brother’s house at Apo, Abuja for Suleja in Niger State. He did not arrive at his destination.
Ibebuogu was robbed by the gang in an army-green Volkswagen Passat Wagon and he was hit with a hammer on the shoulder, wrist and the head, while he tried to take control of the operational car from the driver. His lifeless body was abandoned under the Apo Bridge.
Some of the criminals had been arrested by the police in the past. In 2018, police operatives attached to the Federal Capital Territory Command Special Anti-Kidnapping Squad arrested five-man gang robbers who specialised in robbing unsuspecting passengers in their taxi. One of them confessed to have hit the victim with a hammer on his head when he tried to take control of their operational car from the driver. They noted that they left his body under Apo Bridge.
In August, 2022, the Lagos State Police Command arrested two members of a ‘one-chance’ gang notorious for operating along the Funsho Williams Avenue area of the state.
One-chance robbers’ modus operandi
The ‘one chance’ robbers have a distinct style of operations highlighted in the victims’ accounts to our correspondent. There are certain similarities in their modes of operation; they use different types of vehicles such as minibus, 14-Seater Hiace bus, Toyota Sienna and motorcycles to carry out their criminal acts. It was also observed that balm was rubbed in the eyes of their victims and subdued with hammers to ensure they couldn’t recognise them afterwards.
Commuters are often robbed of their life savings and belongings such as phones, ATM cards, gadgets and jewellery. They capitalise on transportation problems in an area to attract unsuspecting commuters.
Psychologists, security experts offer solutions
In his reaction to the issue, a professor of counselling psychologist at the University of Lagos, Mopelola Olusakin, said that the pain inflicted on the victims by the robbers could be compounded if their family members and the public failed to show compassion, adding that the situation could deteriorate to psychological problems.
She said, “The immediate family should help them to overcome the problem by talking to them, showing them love and caring for their emotions. It can affect their psychological, emotional and mental health resulting in depression sometimes and eventual suicide when the victim see him or herself as a failure.”
Olusakin added that such an incident could prevent the victim from fulfilling his or her obligations resulting in distrust, noting that rather than castigation, people should refer the victim to a psychologist for adequate check up.
Also, a psychologist and member, American Psychological Association, Dr. Mustapha Sambe, noted that psychological problems such as anxiety disorder, trauma and depression symptoms like high level irritability, hatefulness, run-away tendency or being psychotic and eventual death could result from such circumstances.
He advised victims to regularly visit hospitals for checkups, adding that their relatives could also force them to do so when they were unwilling.
Sambe said, “It doesn’t affect the victim only. One may have various forms of anxiety disorder, trauma, even depression. It might even lead to suicide and many symptoms such as high level irritability, hatefulness, run-away tendency or being psychotic, post-traumatic experience, depression and exposure to anxiety among others in such a way that the person would be scared to enter a vehicle at that particular spot or such a vehicle-type. Relatives can also help by taking the person to the consulting room or psychologist for treatment.’’
In his view, a security expert, Oladele Fajana, identified lack of data as a contributing factor to the menace. He explained that improper documentation of commercial vehicles gave the robbers the opportunity to perpetrate crimes.
He added that the public needed to be enlightened on the importance of individual security consciousness, stating that it had become a necessity for individuals.
Fajana said, “This is a trend that has been in Lagos for some time and we jump on any vehicle on sight. We need to educate society that not all vehicles should be boarded. I want to appeal to the Lagos State Government because one thing about these people is that they take advantage of little opportunity to perpetrate their evil activities.”
Fajana noted that the problem could be resolved when commuters stopped taking commercial vehicles from undesignated parks and bus stops across the state, stating that security consciousness should be raised across the country.
He said, “We need to be security conscious. No other remedy can solve the problem than to be conscious. The majority of the commercial vehicles across the state are used and abandoned ones. They are not properly registered.”
On his part, Director-General, International Institute of Professional Security, Tony Ofoyetan, stated that peoples’ eagerness to reach their destinations often blinded them from observing the necessary things before entering a vehicle.
Ofoyetan said that poor identification process for commercial vehicles left the gap for such criminal activity to thrive.
He further stated that when boarding a vehicle, commuters should ensure they were comfortable with vehicle type, other passengers and other things before continuing the journey. He noted that a phone or video call could be made to a relative to inform him or her of their movement and the type of bus being boarded.
He noted, “When you want to enter a vehicle, the first thing is to listen to yourself. That is the first security consciousness because there is always an inner voice in every human being. When entering a vehicle, you need to look around and observe whether everybody in the vehicle is suspiciously quiet or not. Looking at an advantaged position to sit is also a good and important idea because in a twinkle of an eye, you can do a quick scan of the whole vehicle.’’
Contacted for his comment on the issue, spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command, Benjamin Hundeyin, noted the importance of being security conscious on the road. He stated that individuals should imbibe the culture of boarding vehicles at lawfully established places, adding that doing so would reduce the risk of falling into the hands of the ‘one-chance’ robbers.
Hundeyin said, “There is no way you can identify criminals especially when they are good. They don’t want you to identify them so they will behave like real people and that is the challenge. Commuters should not board vehicles at undesignated bus stops. There should be a particular bus stop because criminals too try as much as possible to avoid bus stops. Also, people should stop boarding vehicles that do not have commercial colours. If it is a Lagos State vehicle, it should have a yellow colour. Many people that use smart phones do not know how to use a speed dial.”
He added that some of the ‘one-chance’ robbers who had been arrested by the state command would soon be paraded after the conclusion of investigation.
He however appealed that the public should learn how to use speed dials on their smartphones and the complaint lines of the command whenever they found themselves in such a situation.
Hundeyin added, “Also, people should try to have our emergency number and complaint line so that at the touch of a button they can quickly call to make complaints. Our patrol officers observe vehicles and make eye contact with passengers to see on their faces if they are panicky or not. I don’t want to go into further details but we have some leads that we are following and soon there will be a parade of some suspects doing these things.’’