There is an alarming rise in traffic robbery in Africa’s commercial hub, which has posed a major source of worry for all road users and the government.
In Lagos today, especially in areas of heavy traffic, stories have been told of day and night robbers unleashing terror and mayhem on helpless road commuters and motorists.
Victims and eyewitnesses have shared pathetic tales of how the daredevil traffic robbers have defied the presence of security personnel and gone ahead to attack innocent road users, carting away valuables and sometimes, killing those who struggle with them.
In recent times, the fear of a traffic robber is the beginning of wisdom as motorists never toy with the opportunity to wind up completely when stuck in traffic. Surprisingly, the culprits seem invisible until they appear right before you, skillfully snatching your mobile phone, wristwatch, costly jewelry or a bag lying lazily on any of the car seats.
Other times, even when motorists wind up completely, and making good use of the central lock of the car, there have been instances where the car windscreen or window is smashed and valuable items whisked away in a heartbeat.
This has become a source of worry for motorists heading to work in the early hours of the morning, driving through traffic infested zones or heading home after a long hectic day at work.
Lagosians have since begun to express fears and concerns that the state is fast returning to the Pre Babatunde Fashola days, were things like these were a common occurrence. Localities such as Oshodi, Mile 2, Okokomaiko, Cele, top the list of places were these criminals operate with reckless abandon — whether at day or at night — making motorists who ply those areas do so with their hearts in their mouths.
Lagosians have called on the government to look into the situation and create a lasting situation, as they can no longer drive on roads without being apprehensive of what atrocity, another traffic robber ahead, may have in store for them.
What police has done
Over the last couple of months, the Lagos State Police Command says it has doubled its efforts and introduced fresh strategies in order to combat the menace of traffic robbery in the state.
It appears that the strategies employed have yielded some good, as a series of the arrests that have been made, in an effort to rid the state of such activities.
For instance, in May 2019, the Lagos state police command announced the arrest of about 18 traffic robbers.
According to the command’s Public Relations Officer(PRO), Bala Elkana, the suspected traffic robbers were nabbed at various locations in the state.
Elkana also noted that the arrests were only possible because of the fresh strategies initiated by the state’s Commissioner of Police, CP Zubairu Muazu.
In an interview with Information Nigeria on Wednesday, the police spokesperson said the command has taken drastic measures to address the menace in the state. He noted also that surveillance patrol has been deployed to areas where they frequently received reports of traffic robbery.
According to Mr. Elkana, those robbers take advantage of traffic situations to rob motorists within a matter of minutes. Therefore to solve this, the police spokesperson said the command has deployed undercover police officers to crime-prone areas where they pretend as traders.
“In one week alone, we got close to nine suspects arrested and recovered a lot of weapons from them, ” he said.
He further revealed that 12 suspects were arrested in the other week and in subsequent weeks, there was a harvest of arrests and that is really bringing down the menace in the state.
Also, earlier this month, the command issued a strong warning to traffic robbers and cult members in the state to either quit their criminal lifestyle or leave the state completely.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations), Lagos State Police Command, Mr. Mohammed Ali, stressed that the command was working on new strategies to crack down and suppress the activities of these traffic criminals including cult members harassing citizens of the state.
Speaking with journalists at the Command Headquarters, in Ikeja on July 3rd, he said: “Traffic robbers and cultists are criminals. My advice to them is to relocate out of Lagos, otherwise, we will dislocate them. Anyone arrested will be charged to court and end up in prison. Then, life to such a person will have no meaning.
“So, instead of wasting your life as a young boy or young person growing, by ending up in jail, why don’t you drop the idea of joining any of these groups of criminals- be it cultists, traffic robbers, armed robbers or kidnappers.
Lagosians recount their unpalatable experiences with traffic robbers
Information Nigeria, in separate interviews, spoke with a few residents who narrated how they watched in total confusion at the swiftness and skills these criminals employ as they carried out their activities in traffic.
Nnaemke Ezekwu said that he was in traffic at Oshodi, alone in his car when “the rogue entered my car and emptied my pocket, very bad experience, ” he said.
Abdul-Raheem Yaasir said: “my dad was robbed recently at Ikeja under bridge, they collected all his stuff and he is still facing a lot because of that day. Hmm, what a country!!!”
Muri Oladokun said: “Ladipo in Lagos state is a no go area and the police nearby are bunch of rubbish.”
“I was rubbed together with my colleagues in the vehicle, especially when a bystander hinted them that I was of the Oyo state Governorship aspirant, they started chasing my vehicle with knives and clubs, ” he said.
“When we reported to the police, the officer simply said “in the broad daylight”, the officer instead asked me for ‘egunje’ before he could commence investigation,” he concluded.
It appears these criminals are gaining more grounds with each passing day, as more Lagosians continue to get robbed of their valuables, day and night by these young men, who have mastered their act to near perfection. The government and all appropriate authorities must rise above rhetorics and tackle this menace headlong before it grows into an uncontrollable one.
#EndSARS: Nigerians Recount Horrible Experience With Thugs In Police Uniform
“I entered a commercial tricycle heading home. On our way, we met SARS officials. They told us to come down. We were three inside.
“They started asking me questions about where I worked and what I do to which I replied all. After much questioning, they collected my ATM and told me I have to bail myself. I asked on what grounds and as we were talking, the other of his men shot one of the guys in the tricycle.
“I was terrified and told him that I don’t have cash on me. He brought out a POS, inserted my card in it and told me to type N200,000. I had to type it because I was scared of being shot”, she tearfully recounts.”
If you think the above narration is from a Nollywood scene, you are wrong. A young lady, Sophia, who works as a food vendor in Delta state, was not only forced to witness a young man being unlawfully shot but also part away with her hard-earned money – a total of N200,000 in her bank account.
The ongoing protests against the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) which is gradually growing into a nationwide revolt is not independent of the burning desire of the majority of Nigerian youths to see a reformed Nigerian police force.
The most populous black nation in the world with more than half its population as youths is witnessing its strongest alliance against police brutality in over a decade.
SARS, created in 1992 to handle crimes related to robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping, cattle rustling, and crimes involving firearms have been involved in anti-citizen activities, with officers deviating from their original assignment by profiling young Nigerians, maiming, harassing, and shooting them even in the absence of concrete information to warrant their arrest.
Nigerian share their experiences
The anger and agitations for the total disbandment of the hated police unit cannot be said to be unreasonable.
During one of the several peaceful protests, a protester who took to the streets of Port Harcourt in a stereotyped appearance was later revealed to be DJ Kaka, who schooled in Ghana but lost his twin brother and car to SARS officers in Nigeria. His experience with the rogue police unit made him travel from Ghana to Port Harcourt to join the street protests.
“My name is End SARS boy, I don’t love them, I schooled in Ghana, but when I came back on January 25th, SARS had the guts to kill my brother and took his car. I don’t love SARS; I don’t love them.
“We need the MOPOL. We need the police. And we don’t need criminals like them. iPhone is not a crime. I’m from Ikwerre, all my body there is tattoo and I’m a DJ but no job. So, I’m just here to end SARS.
That’s why I came all the way from Ghana to end Port Harcourt SARS. I’m crazy but I’m gentle”, DJ Kaka reveals in a viral video.
Nina Nora’s experience with the rogue police unit was while travelling to her village in early 2020. The bus she boarded was framed for transporting Indian hemp.
“When I was going to the village early this year, FSARS stopped us at Okwu Uratta and told all of us to come down for ‘stop and search’. They didn’t see anything so they allowed us to go. Another group stopped us at Bishop’s Court and told us to come down for ‘stop and search’ again.
“One of them went straight to the gloves compartment and brought out wraps of weed. They started to threaten us with the NDLEA if we don’t comply. We eventually settled them with N30,000. They had initially asked for N5,000,000. Definitely, their ‘stop and search’ was to plant incriminating evidence in our bus”, she shares.
A quantity surveyor identified as Alexander Aghedo narrated his experience with the infamous police unit thus:
“When I was to lead a team of surveyors to Rivers State during the height of kidnapping menace along the East-West road, I visited the SARS post in Emoha LGA of the state to make arrangement for security escort.
“This was to enable me and my team carry out survey work and also collect soil samples for analysis. I paid the requested amount to their head and four SARS officers were released to provide the much-needed security for our survey work to go seamlessly. I was in for a surprise when while working at the site on the day, one of the SARS officers told me that he and his colleagues have concluded that I’m going to pay them an addition N100,000 right there and then.
“They said that what I paid in the office was for Oga. I told them I had already given their boss N200,000 and asked where he expected me to get an additional N100,000. The officer then cocked his AK47 rifle and shouted that if I couldn’t transfer them money, they would kill me and say it was cultists that attacked. Afraid for my life, I had to transfer my last N40,000 to them.”
A young woman who was raped by SARS officers in 2018 is championing the protests on the streets. Identified as Chiatuiro Precious Chidera, she says she does not want a repeat occurrence for her unborn male and female offspring.
“I was raped two years ago. They also extorted money from me. What was my crime: I fresh. I fresh na crime? I cannot give birth to a daughter in this country make them no go rape my daughter tomorrow. Make them no go shoot my son tomorrow. Na people pikin them they dead for Lagos state. End SARS. End police brutality”, she said while holding a placard.
Protests across the nation
The ongoing protests started on Thursday, October 8, 2020 after a planned protest by notable musician Naira Marley that was put on hold following a Twitter appeal from the Minister of Youth. Naira Marley then agreed to have a Live chat via Instagram with the IGP, Mohammed Adamu on Monday, October 5 2020. He, however, issued a one-week ultimatum to the government, after which a protest would begin to bring an end to the activities of the unit.
Displeased with Naira Marley’s lack of resolve, another artist Runtown who had also called for physical protests maintained that the protest would take place in Lagos on October 8 in spite of the government’s warnings and appeals. Runtown was soon backed by rapper Falz, comic skit maker Mr Macaroni, female singer Tiwa Savage, OAP Toke Makinwa, and reality TV star Tacha.
On October 8, the aforementioned celebrities took to the streets of Lagos alongside other young Nigerians who had received the Twitter call to meet at the agreed venue. They all marched to the Lagos State Governor’s House. Majority of the youths slept at the gate of the government house till Friday, October 9.
Other celebrities joined subsequently. The number of youths at the protest grounds increased, with Twitter as the main social media platform for communication. The #EndSARS hashtag alongside its offshoots such as #EndSWAT, #EndPoliceBrutality, and #SARSMUSTEND has attracted global attention with some global celebrities such as Trey Songz, Kanye West, and Lil Baby tweeting the hashtag and creating more awareness on the microblogging platform. Currently, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has acknowledged the movement with an emoji.
The protests then spread to other states of the country such as Rivers, Ogun, Osun, Oyo and the FCT, Abuja, following the disbandment of SARS by the IGP on Sunday, October 11. It was also on Sunday that the five demands were made to President Muhammadu Buhari. Currently, the protesters have not relented. This is because of the unimplemented pronouncements of disbandment and prosecution of abusive officers in the past.
The protests have also been disrupted on several occasions by alleged government security agents and hoodlums. The death of Jimoh Isiaq spurred more hatred for the SARS unit and more protests against police brutality. A prominent activist in Abuja, Aisha Yesufu, was also reportedly manhandled by the Nigerian police.
There have also been donations made by private companies, small and medium-sized enterprises and notable celebrities. The protesters have so far spoken with one voice: there is no leader among them and they will not stop until all demands are met.
SARS To SWAT, Any difference between Akara and moi moi?
After the IGP’s announcement of the disbandment of SARS on October 11, a new unit was created to replace the now-defunct SARS. This unit is called SWAT (Special Weapon and Tactics Team). SWAT is to fill the gaps created owing to the dissolution of SARS.
In an official statement released by the Nigeria Police Force, no personnel of the defunct SARS will be selected to be part of the new Tactical Team. It also states that operatives of the new Tactical Team must be free of any pending disciplinary matter especially those touching on misuse of firearms and abuse of human rights.
Nigerian youths have, however, rejected the formation of a new police unit to replace the scrapped Special Anti-Robbery Squad, positing that it will not end the brutalization of citizens. Some also argued that the new name given to the unit will give the police unfettered rights to further harass and intimidate Nigerians as they refer to the new unit as an advanced version of SARS.
It remains to be seen what the protests will metamorphose into, and how the Buhari-led dictatorial government would handle the trivial issue.
Fuel Price, Electricity Tariff Hike: ‘Everything Keeps Increasing But Minimum Wage Doesn’t’
“That is how they normally talk. They will say they are doing it in our interest, but it’s all lies. How much am I earning? Don’t I have a family to take care of? This is callous of them.
“While governments of other countries are trying to make life better for their people, here, they want to choke us with increase in this and that.
“Everything keeps increasing but the minimum wage doesn’t increase,” Mr Hammed, a 47-year-old carpenter told Information Nigeria while reacting to the increase in fuel price and electricity tariff.
As Nigerians went about their daily activities despite the restraints caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, hoping to surmount the challenges brought about by the unexpected tragedies witnessed in the year 2020, the subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PNPPC), announced an increase in the ex-depot price of fuel from N138.62 to N151.56 per litre.
A few hours later, the price was adjusted to N147.67. The ex-depot price is the price at which the product is sold to marketers at the depots.
This announcement comes shortly after the increase in electricity tariff that welcomed Nigerians into the month of September. Although this has been described to be in the best interest of the populace, the thought of having to pay more, despite slashed salaries and unreliable power supply has become quite difficult to bear for many Nigerians.
The assurance of Oyebode Fadipe, general manager of corporate communications at Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, that “the Service Reflective Tariff (SRT) plan is a NERC mandated tariff structure whereby an upward increment in tariffs will result in substantially longer hours of power supply, good quality voltage profile, swifter response to faults clearing and provision of pre-paid meters” is not sufficient to assuage the thought of tariff-induced burden growing in the mind of Mr Hammed who told Information Nigeria that the government is on a wanton mission to further impoverish his ilk.
Nigerians, known for doggedness and tenacity during tough periods, could not but worry over the state of economic affairs of the country. However, the increase in fuel price was bound to happen, considering that the government had announced in March that there would be subsidy removal on petrol in order to hand over the reins of importation to private companies such that market forces would begin to determine the retail price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
The PNPPC’s adjustment of the ex-depot price twice within a few hours, inevitably caused varied retail prices at different filling stations across the country. Some filling stations in Lagos state sold at N161 per litre while others sold at N159 per litre. However, the uniform price of N151 soon took effect.
Gas retailer, Christopher Okafor, is not convinced by the official statement from the ruling party. He tells Information Nigeria that he is displeased with the government’s move but is optimistic that better days would return.
He said: “If I tell you that I’m happy with the increase in the price of petrol, I will be the biggest liar on earth. It displeases me to my heart. Why now during COVID, when there is increase in the prices of other commodities? It is very unfair to us, but as usual, we will pull through.”
A 45-year-old beauty salon owner who pleaded anonymity, told Information Nigeria that she is fed up with the electricity billing. She has just one hairdryer in her small shop but her electricity bills run into N40,000 per month.
“This is exhausting”, she begins.
“But what am I to do?” She laughs for a while, probably trying not to let the burden get the better part of her.
“This is my only source of livelihood. I have to support my husband. I can’t stay idle. Now there is a tariff increase, it’s crazy. What can the masses do? What am I selling? That they want to finish me with such bills.”
Bimbo Oyemade, 37, female, is concerned about those who have lost their jobs during this period and how they would be able to afford to purchase fuel at the new price.
“I lost my aunty during this COVID. As if that was not enough, I was also among those laid off from work as a result of the pandemic. Is it now that I’m supposed to be paying so much for fuel and electricity that I am not even enjoying?
“So, other people in my shoes would also have to face this kind of hardship. I can only imagine how parents who have school fees to pay would be coping during this period. I am still trying to survive from having to purchase food items at a costlier price. I am fed up. And what’s worse is that we can’t do anything about it. We are meant to believe it’s in our own interest. Pathetic!”
41-year-old Pastor Kenneth tells Information Nigeria that he concurs with the tweet posted by President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu. In response to the PDP’s statement that the fuel price and electricity tariff increase would be unbearable for Nigerians, Shehu had tweeted thus: “Don’t allow the PDP to deceive you. Amidst acute shortages, they sold petrol at N600 per litre on Easter Sunday in 2013 (See Punch published on that day).”
“We will soon realize that this is for the best. The PDP that are now acting as saints did not do any better. In fact, they wrecked what the APC are now trying to amend. How do we expect the government to keep paying subsidy at the expense of other state-owned corporations? Think about it. That is why we will have to understand the move is a smart one, for the ultimate good of everyone”, he says.
Pandemic Brings Huge Losses To Nigeria’s Cinema Industry
2020 was meant to be the year of cinema blockbusters – from action thrillers to sci-fi. There was a forecast of huge turnovers from several box office hits. But for the intrusion of COVID-19, about five box office hits would have been witnessed by the end of the second quarter of this year.
Before COVID-19, 2019 saw the growth of Nigerian cinemas. The movie ‘Living in Bondage: Breaking free’ accrued a total of N158,435,642 million thereby making it the eleventh overall highest-grossing movie and the highest-grossing Nollywood movie of the year.
With such a feat achieved in 2019, there were increased hopes that 2020 would be more rewarding. Nollywood filmmaker, AY Makun, said in an interview that the third part of his franchise movie ‘Merry Men’ was meant to premiere and show in the cinemas in 2020, but has now been moved to 2021.
Since the government mandated a lockdown, cinema houses in Nigeria have remained shut. Speaking with VIVA Cinemas in Lagos state via a telephone call, Information Nigeria confirms that cinema houses were exempted from the re-opening of leisure and relaxation centers.
“Of course, all cinemas (including VIVA Cinemas) have been shut. What did you expect? That we would open during a pandemic? – when we haven’t been authorized to do so?”
Unwilling to disclose his identity to this reporter, he continues: “We have been shut. But this was never our major source of income. I am currently on a different work assignment. We are fine. Thank you for your time.”
According to statistics released by Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria, during the week in which the first case of COVID-19 in Nigeria was confirmed, there was a reduction in attendance at the cinemas – from 73,209 to 68,922 admissions. Consequently, the general revenue generated dropped to N71 million from N81.5 million.
Shortly before the mandatory closing of all cinema houses, the few films that were shown at the cinemas made low profits as opposed to the usual estimated amounts. ‘The Legend of Inikpi’ managed to make N7.4 million in the first weekend after its premiere at Silverbird Cinemas in January. Things got lower as the profits reduced to N973,850 by February. Also, it has been revealed that there were just 801 viewers across the country in the same month.
‘Sugar Rush’, which was premiered in December 2019, also got affected by the Coronavirus. In the opening weekend, it achieved an enviable feat by grossing N40 million. However, in January, a reduction was witnessed as the movie managed to make N18 million throughout the month. By March, the profits had drastically dropped to N2.3 million.
Although the set term that 50% royalty goes to the film distributor in the first week is still in place, with a low turnout and turnover during the first few weeks of the Coronavirus confirmed cases in Nigeria, cinema exhibitors had a hard time making their usual profits. This inevitably affected the movie producers.
Information Nigeria sought to know the diversification of revenue by Nigerian cinema exhibitors. For this reason, Metro Cinema was contacted.
A lady’s voice answers at the other end. “This is Metro Cinema.”
“We have totally complied with the lockdown directive. I am not even in Lagos. Have you been to our cinemas? It’s completely locked. We are surviving in the best way that we can. My other business is outside Lagos. I have more time to focus on it now that all cinemas are shut.”
But if cinema exhibitors may be relaxed in the knowledge of multiple streams of income, relevant stakeholders such as actors and filmmakers have been agitating for the reopening of cinema halls. Popular actress, Osas Ighodaro, took to Instagram to protest against the exemption of cinema houses from re-opening. Some of her colleagues also joined in the campaign.
A few of them include Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Toyin Abraham, and Falz. With the hashtag #SaveCinemas, they expressed their grievances about the plight of cinema houses during the lockdown, especially considering that other activities were fast going back to normal.
In Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde’s words:
“I believe cinemas are easier to monitor and regulate. If other indoor places are open, why not the Cinemas? Temp checks, masks, distancing etc. We need to work together to ensure safer ways to keep the Arts going. Many livelihoods depend on this. It can and MUST be done as safely as possible. #savecinemas”.
Notable filmmaker Steve Gukas wrote a post on Instagram thus:
“The ability of the film industry to grow and sustain itself is directly linked to how much money films earn in various windows. The cinema is a very important revenue source. Keeping them shut has dire consequence for the industry. Given how many of our youth make a living from this industry, it is time to give this a second look.”
Speaking with KazMPIRE MOVIES, Information Nigeria learns that the cinemas will soon be re-opened but not at the same seating capacity before COVID-19. KazMPIRE MOVIES is ready for re-opening, but they also understand that their income will be drastically reduced.
“Our industry is like the aviation industry”, he begins. “We deal with large crowds and gatherings. We will not make money if our halls are scanty”.
“Our goal was to have full halls by the time of re-opening.
“But that will not be possible anymore. We have no choice but to comply with the government’s directive.
“We hope we can return to our full seating capacity soon enough. All the workers are at home. We have not made any income so far. And that has not been favorable for us at all.”
A rather cheerful manager of MAGNIFICENT CINEMAS told Information Nigeria that they opened their lounge for visitors to come in, watch football matches and have some drinks, considering that lounges have been allowed to operate.
“That is our own way of diversifying our income.”
“We should reopen soon”, he continues. “You are still asking if it’s a huge blow? You are very funny. Of course, it’s a huge blow. The lounge is separate from the cinema halls. We’ve had meetings and have finally agreed that our lounge will continue to operate till our cinema halls can be reopened. The government will authorize our reopening soon.”
Tobi, a computer engineer, male, has missed going to the cinemas. However, football matches have made up for his cinema-going habit.
When asked about other video-streaming platforms, he responded: “Netflix? Frankly, not that I don’t enjoy the platform, it is a good one. But what do you do when you want a different environment and scenery? For dates, for relaxation.
“It’s just like saying why go to viewing centers to watch a football match when you can watch it at home? No one is saying you can’t watch it at home, but there’s a different feeling when you’re in the midst of other people enjoying the same thing. It’s a different feeling.”
For Peter, digital marketer, he likes the cinemas because he enjoys the movies better on the big screen. “I can use my phone. But you can’t compare watching on your phone to watching at the cinemas. That’s why I still think I prefer the cinemas. I hope they reopen soon.”
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