John ODHE, Yenagoa
Renewed attacks by armed bandits who use tricycles otherwise called Keke Napep to dispossess commuters of their telephones, money and other hard earned possessions is causing grave scare among residents of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital.
One of the latest victims, a man in his late sixties (name withheld) was gruesomely murdered penultimate week around OMPADEC area of the state capital for refusing to submit his Android phone to the marauding gunmen.
TNN learnt that the rate of phone theft in the state may have been heightened due to alleged inability of the police to swiftly track stolen phones, arrest the culprits and recover the cell phones for the owners.
According to an eye witness who feared to be mentioned in print, the elderly man was shot at close range by a group of unidentified gunmen immediately he alighted from a tricycle he boarded alongside phone thieves.
The eye witness recounted that “the papa was shot by some gunmen numbering four because he refused to give them his phone. I heard them threatening the old man, saying ‘senior man, respect yourself and submit that phone or I will shoot you.’
“I thought it was a joke but suddenly, one of them brought out a gun and shot at the man at close range. Immediate we heard the gun shot, all of us ran away for our dear lives while the old man was shouting on the ground for help.
“The papa was buried last week. These boys have become something else in this state. I don’t know what the security people are doing. We don’t know where Operation Doo Akpo is operating from nowadays.”
Our correspondent gathered that the suspected hoodlums do connive with some criminally minded Keke riders to carry out the criminal act along major roads and streets in and around the Yenagoa metropolitan city.
We found out that the ruffians would disguise as passengers in some cases and target unsuspecting commuters and dispossess them of their phones, monies, jewelleries and other valuables.
Our investigations further reveal that the suspected armed bandits also target financial institutions such as Automated Teller Machines at banks as well as Point Of Sales (POS) stands to rob residents either at transaction points or being traced to secluded areas and get robbed at gunpoint.
TNN observed that majority of the general public in Yenagoa have their ugly tales to tell about how their phones were snatched from them at gunpoint.
When our correspondent visited the offices of the different network providers in the capital city, it was observed that victims of phone snatchers were everywhere, to get their phone numbers retrieved.
We found situations whereby the service providers were being overwhelmed by the number of persons that besiege their offices on daily basis just as some of the victims are frustrated, spending days, weeks and sometimes months, waiting endlessly at the offices of the network providers for their phone lines.
TNN gathered that the renewed rate of phone theft in Yenagoa and other parts of the state may have been heightened due to the alleged inability of the police to swiftly track stolen phones, arrest the culprits and recover the phones for the owners.
Our investigations proved that the police were currently relying on private phone tracking machines as the Force could not boast of any at the moment.
Some of the policemen attached to the phone tracking unit of the Bayelsa State Police Command told TNN on the condition of anonymity that they have been having difficulties tacking stolen phones due to faulty tracking machines.
Another ugly and dangerous part of the renewed robbery attacks on innocent Bayelsans, according to victims, is that after successfully dispossessing their victims of their belongings, the daredevil robbers would wickedly push same off on going speedy tricycles on the highways which had led to maiming of many while some have lost their lives in the process.
A daughter to a Yenagoa based Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Bannernews Newspaper, Mr. Union Oyandougha is currently battling with a dislocated shoulder, no thanks to the killer robbers in town who pushed her off a speeding tricycle after collecting her phone and other belongings along the Isaac Boro Expressway in Yenagoa.
Also, recently, the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Niger Delta Herald Newspaper, Mr. Francis Dufugha was forced at gunpoint by a gang of robbers in front of his office at Imgbi Road, Amarata to submit his Samsung Phone and his wallet containing his ATM card and some cash around 8:30pm.
Due to the ugly narrative, business offices and stores along major roads in Yenagoa are forced to shut down activities as early as 6pm.
When contacted to comment on the situation, the Police Public Relations Officer of the Bayelsa State Police Command, Mr. Asinim Butswat said the command was on top of the situation.
The police image maker however said though there were reports of Keke aided banditry in the state, it was not as serious as being presented in some sections of the media.
“These issues are there. We are not doubting the fact that they are there but we are not getting those reports the way you are getting it. We are trying our best to sanitize those aspects,” the PPRO added.