Monday 7 October 2013

Festival of Robbery in Ugbokolo

By Sunday ITODO, Adaeze Linda EZE and Jossy OTSONU

The rising crime waves in Ugbokolo and environs are becoming alarming and unbearable; the inhabitants can no longer have their peace. Once it is 7 pm everyone seems to be living under the apprehension of whose compound would become the next point of call to the robbers.

The ancient town is gradually becoming a den of robbers as a result of the incessant robbery attacks and other social vices being perpetrated by those children of perdition. Their activities are in assortment – from highway robbery to rape; from snatching of cars, phones and other items to physical assaults.

In carrying out those activities, the ‘unknown gunmen’, as the Police would always refer to them, are
not selective in their operations. They unleash horror on both the rich and the poor; the young and the old; the indigenes and non-indigenes; the educated and non-educated.

With the presence of Benue State Polytechnic, which would have served as a ‘citadel of learning’, the criminals take advantage of its heterogeneous affinity and hide under its canopy to either enroll for a purported course or link up with friends who are under the same expedition.

Thus, the polytechnic environment becomes absorbent and permeable in enthralling criminalities. The Lecturers and Students are prime targets under this category.

Though the school authority is versatile in combating crime by making the campus environment very severe for the visitation of those unwanted guests, yet, they take enchantment in waylaying their victims who are living around the polytechnic environment with attendant effects on students and staff. Those living in the hostels and quarters within the campus record minimal cases, thanks to the security apparatus of the school.

The visiting interludes for these uninvited guests have been decoded. They carry out their evil acts whenever examinations are on-going in the polytechnic. Investigations revealed that the incidences of robbery recorded during examinations are higher compared to when the students just resume. This may not be unconnected to the fact that, those perpetrating these heinous acts would be running shortage of cash or other provisions as the semester is at its tail end. And you would hear them say “O boy, I dey jones oo”, “ground no level at all”.

Research also proves that the dare-devil robbers also take pressure in attacking their victims during the rain at night. They defile rain to unleash mayhem on their unsuspecting and innocent victims, who may be enjoying the rousing and the sweet sensation that come with such mid-night rain. Any operation carried out under such atmosphere will be successful as no one would be able to hear the victims shout or even the police would not drain their selves inside the rain.

Aside attacking during the rain, the men of the underworld also take delight in operating at the wee of the set of dawn from 7-8 pm when the town is still busy and some would visit as from 2 am when the police patrol would have rounded up their itinerary for the night.

Most recent findings also show that part-time students who come from various centres during weekends to write examinations have severely come under the attacks of these hoodlums who always ambush them and collect their handbags and other properties, especially those that stay out in the campus to read at night.

During the time of Amb. Dr. Ogbeh Obande and up to the first tenure of Amb. Dr. O.B. Ella as Rectors of the polytechnic, the crime rate was minimal, save for the activities of the various cult groups that engraved the polytechnic community which led to the abolition of elections into offices of the Students Union Government (SUG). The SUG executives are now being appointed and not elected.

This has helped to bring the cult activities to its barest minimum, thereby reducing their operations to only festive period or during matriculations.

As the battle changed from cultism to robbery and other social vices, the polytechnic authority and indeed the security agents are working tirelessly to curb the menace. Despite their collective efforts, the crime continuous unabated, day-in, day-out, their victims languish in pains.

The hoodlums are also fond of rough-handling and inflicting physical pains on their victims.

DayBreak crew went round Ugbokolo to interact with some of the victims and it was discovered that the criminals always leave their victims with physical and psychological torments, with some still battling to recover from the untold hardship they were subjected to.

One of the victims, Tina Obaje, a 2009 graduate of Marketing from the institution narrated her ordeal. “I am an unfortunate victim of serial attacks from robbers in Ugbokolo as I have been attacked twice. First was during my ND in 2006 and secondly, as I was rounding up my HND in 2009.

“Fresh in my memory was the last attack which took place on the 14th September, 2009. We were deep asleep by 2 am when suddenly the sound of the smashed door woke us and before I could say ‘Jack Robinson’, the rays from their torchlight had engulfed my swollen sleepy eyelids, all I could feel was their gun on my head. The first thing they asked after was my laptop and I gave it to them. They also demanded for the charger which was given to them as well and they eventually left with my new Samsung C 100 and some amount of money I withdrew from ATM that fateful day”.

Another victim who identified herself as Ms. J. Akwu also spoke with DayBreak. “Around 5 am we were reading our books when we saw flashlight through our window and a tick voice ordered us to open the door which we obeyed. When they entered, they asked us to lie down while they were busy ransacking the whole room. They collected our handsets and food stuffs”.

The case of Ms. Akwu above is synonymous with that of Mr. P. Essah whose room was also visited on the 3rd April 2013. According to him, the hoodlums went away with his handsets after demanding for his wallet which he told them he did not have any.

In the case of Mr. T. Mbantar which took place by 5 am the following morning after matriculations, the ‘bad boys’ came in the form of policemen. “They knocked at the door and asked us to open that they were policemen, we did and to our greatest surprise, we saw a gun pointed at us and they asked us to lie down which we obeyed”, Mbantar narrated.

Agada: Hoodlums may be guys within our vicinity
The robbers do not preclude the Lecturers and staff of the polytechnic in their activities. Engr. Ray Agada, a Lecturer in the department of electrical electronics engineering narrated his ordeal. “On the 21st January 2011 around 9 pm, I was in the sitting room with my household when we saw some boys came in through the kitchen door. We locked the front door but forgot to bolt the kitchen door. They pointed gun at us and ordered us to lie down.

“They forced me into the room and asked “where is the money?” and I replied there was no money as we are just civil servants and have not been paid. The only money I had on me was N8000 which they took away with my Blackberry phone, laptops and wrist watch. They also collected some valuables from my wife which could be cost at N350, 000”.

Engr. Agada’s experience could be likened to that of Mr. Raph Ekere, a Senior Staff of the Polytechnic which took place in August 2012. Mr. Raph and his household had just taken their dinner at about 8 pm when the hoodlums forced their way into his house through a door mistakenly left open by a member of the household. The gun men disposed him of cash and valuables which include handsets, computers and other electronics.

Susan: They moved all her properties into a waiting vehicle
The most incredible and pathetic occurrence was that of Mrs. Susan Ogwuche, the Chief Nursing Officer of the Health Services Department of the Polytechnic. The incidence which she described as “terrible experience” took place by 1 am on that fateful day. “It was around 1 am when we were fast asleep, they forced their way into the house and asked me to “bring that money” then I replied I didn’t have any money at home, and then they started hitting my son on his head.

“Unknown to us, they had brought a vehicle with which they moved all my belongings. They ransacked the entire rooms and move all the moveable items and also left with my money. They packed all my properties in their vehicle as if a tenant was moving out of an apartment to go and live in another yard. I have never had such a terrible experience”, she lamented.

Another Lecturer in the department of Mechanical engineering, Mr. Daniel Obioje, his visiting friend and his wife were left with various degrees of injuries when they failed to produce the sum of N20, 000 as demanded by the hoodlums.

Obioje: Attacked on two occasions
According to Mr. Daniel, “It was around 8 pm and we were sitting outside, breaking melon with my friend when we saw some boys approaching. At first we thought they had come for shopping since my wife sells provisions, before I could ask what they would want to buy, they ordered us to go inside our rooms. When we did, they demanded that we provide the sum of N20,000 but we didn’t have such amount at home.

“They suddenly removed their machetes and started inflicting injuries on our bodies – myself, my wife and my visiting friend”.

In our recent research, we also discovered that the crime is not only being committed during the school session as the host community also suffers it even during holidays.

The robbers also intensify efforts to spread their tentacles across the surrounding towns like Okpoga and Otukpa in Ogbadibo LGA. Unfortunately for them, the Otukpa outreach is not always a successful voyage as the combined efforts of the police and the local vigilantes group in the area is yielding fruits. Within this year alone, four robbery incidences were foiled in Otukpa with some killed while others escape with bullet injuries. In each case, the arrested suspects are always linked with Ugbokolo.

Most indigenes interviewed are still confused about people who are perpetrating the crime. While some say there might be hands of Ugbokolo indigenes in the act, others argue that they are non-indigent students of the Polytechnic who also invite friends from other places to commit this heinous act.

All efforts made by our reporters to get the reactions of the Chairman and Chief Security Officer of Okpokwu LGC, Hon. Juliana Obeta on the security state of Okpokwu LGA proved abortive as they visited her office severally without result.

The Police authority in Ugbokolo division also refused to speak on the insecurity situation, rather, the DPO referred DayBreak crew to the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in Makurdi.

When visited at the State Command in Makurdi, the PPRO, DSP Daniel Ezeala had this to say: “There is no security problem at Ugbokolo. If at all there is, it is very minimal in the sense that the police have lived up to expectation in their fight against crime activities in and around Ugbokolo. This is because the application of modern policing, pro-active policing, intensive and active crime patrol squads have yielded result, thereby reducing crime to its bearest minimal”.

When our reporter asked further about the reported cases of theft, burglaries and rape that are still fresh in the town, the police Spokesman replied: “Like I said, they are very minimal. Meanwhile, some skeletal crimes reported where nipped on the board.

“Let me give you an example, sometimes ago, there was an attempt to rob a bank at Ugbokolo where police officers engaged the criminals in a fierce combat and got them arrested. They were taken to the state C.I.D. and were later charged to court. In the case of rape, an open investigation led to the arrest of the alleged perpetrators”.

What then can we do to curb this ugly menace in Ugbokolo? A Public Opinion Leader and the Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Okpokwu branch, Rev. J.S. Okwori spoke with DayBreak on the crime wave in Ugbokolo and the possible remedies.

“Ugbokolo is a citadel of learning, unfortunately, some are here to learn while others are here to commit atrocities, so the two categories of people can be found in the school and that is why we must be careful at all times.

“At our own end, we have been praying to God to save the land. As the CAN Chairman, I do call meetings of all the Pastors periodically to pray for the salvation of the land. The church is making frantic efforts at ensuring the situation is brought to its bearest minimum.

Rev. Okwori, CAN Chairman, Okpokwu LGA.
“I want to use this medium to call on the community Leaders to facilitate the operations of the local vigilantes groups by empowering them to work to the best of their abilities. The community Leaders should also join the church in prayers because except the Lord watches over the Land, the vigilantes watch in vein. The villagers should make it duty bound to report any suspicious movement around their area to the Law enforcement agents as this would help curb the menace”, Rev. Okwori said.

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