As government and security operatives make efforts to stop insecurity in Ogun State and Nigeria in general, ritualists, kidnappers, robbers and rapists have now devised a new method to hunt down unsuspecting passengers and make them victims.
Findings show that they now operate under the guise of commercial cab drivers and cyclists.
In most cases, these fake commercial drivers are among those the Yorubas popularly described as Sọọlẹ̀. They pick passengers by the roadside without any traceable motor park and drive them to their destinations.
The sọọlẹ̀ system is rampant on major roads across the nation. Some of these drivers engage in the practice to avoid being on the queue for several hours waiting for passengers at the approved motor parks. Most passengers also do not like spending precious time awaiting other passengers before embarking on their journeys.
To entice roadside passengers, the sọọlẹ̀ drivers beat down their transport fares as they do not pay charges imposed on their colleagues by transport union officials at motorparks. Some of them, it was gathered, make more money than their colleagues at the parks. Commuters with low budgets, those who are in a hurry and those whose houses are far away from the approved parks find pleasure in roadside drivers.
“I board cabs by the road. I prefer it to going to parks where I will pay more and even waste my time. I think there is nothing bad about it,” a civil servant, Mordiya Adeyemi said in Sango.
Today, findings revealed that some individuals have taken advantage of this to kill, rape or rob their victims.
Ritualists, kidnappers, robbers and even rapists now appear as commercial drivers, tricycle and okada riders to pick waiting passengers, who later become their victims.
Our correspondent reliably gathered that the devilish act has become so worrisome, especially on the Abeokuta/Sagamu/Ogere, Ijebu-Ode/Ibadan/Lagos roads and others.
“The ritualists are out there to kill those innocent passengers for money-making rituals. The kidnappers will hold the passengers hostage for ransom, while the rapists only target women to forcefully have carnal knowledge of them and may even kill them.
“These criminals have their hideouts inside the forests along these roads. Most of them even operate with charms. The moment you enter their cars, you sleep off or lose consciousness. Some threaten their victims with guns. We are in a very difficult time. Everybody must open their eyes,” a driver on the Abeokuta-Iperu road told our correspondent anonymously.
The driver, in his 60s, recalled how a ritualist was once arrested by the transport union task force, saying “he confessed he used to sell a human head at the rate of N50,000.”
It was recalls that the Ogun State police command recently raised the alarm over the availability of a yet-to-be-identified serial killer said to be on the prowl in the Remo axis of the State.
Police Public Relations Officer in Ogun, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said the serial killer used to pretend as an okada rider and pick his targeted female victims as passengers.
Such victims, according to Oyeyemi, would be “taken to an isolated area, raped and brutally murdered in cold blood.”
This was said at a time the security agents were searching for the killers of the late Beauty Queen of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta. It is not clear whether or not the serial killers in Remo have been arrested since August.
The police, in the same month, arrested a bike rider and one other, who picked a female passenger and forcefully conveyed her to a building where she was gang-raped by three young men in Ogijo, Sagamu Local Government Area of Ogun State.
In Sango-Ota, a 21-year-old okada rider, Idowu Adebayo, was arrested by the So-Safe Corps for allegedly abducting and attempting to rape and kill a female passenger inside a bush in Ayegbe village.
At gunpoint, a tricycle operator had raped a female passenger and dispossessed her of the money on her around 4am on June 22. The 22-year-old Rasaq Tahoeed, had picked the passenger at the popular Pakoto bus stop going to Iyana Coker in Ifo, but the rider diverted to another route, threatening to kill her if she failed to cooperate, police said.
Also, a taxi driver identified as Tunde Bello was arrested few months ago for allegedly kidnapping, raping and collecting N140,000 ransom from a female passenger along the Mowe axis of the road. The victim, who boarded Bello’s cab around 5 o’clock in the morning was beaten and molested when the driver made a detour to Ibadan road and drove her into a bush along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
“After raping her, he held her hostage and asked her to call her relations, who sent the sum of N140,000 to him as ransom before he let her go,” the police stated, adding that the suspect admitted the crime.
Recently, the police arrested two ritualists who kidnapped one Abdullahi Azeez, killed him and used his body parts for a money ritual. The 40-year-old victim was said to have left his home in Kobape on June 8, but he never returned. It was not clear how he was kidnapped by the suspects, Friday Abinya Odeh (21) and Poso Idowu (20); but there are speculations that he must have been dragged away while on transit.
Our correspondent gathered that there are many unreported cases of persons who got missing or attacked after boarding cars or buses by the roadside.
“We have seen people who will come to our parks to say a member of their family is missing. Some people came to Kuto motorpark some time ago to say their relative was missing. We asked them where he boarded a cab and they said it was by the bridge. We told them that was sọọlẹ̀. Those vehicles are not registered, not traceable, the driver is unknown,” a Road Transport Employers Association leader said.
Gov Abiodun takes urgent action
A few weeks ago, it was learnt that a private car had stopped beside the Kuto bridge to pick passengers going towards Siun and Sagamu. But few kilometres into the journey, the vehicle made a detour into the bush and the women on board were raped, while they were also stripped of all their belongings.
When Governor Dapo Abiodun got the information, he was said to have directed all security chiefs in the State to take urgent steps towards nipping such incidents in the bud.
Findings by our correspondent revealed that the Ogun State Commissioner of Police, Lanre Bankole, summoned transport union leaders, directing them to scrap all unapproved motor parks, while no vehicle should be allowed to pick passengers by the road.
Since then, union leaders, in collaboration with security operatives, have been clamping down on drivers waiting to pick passengers on the road, while all illegal motor parks have been ‘dismantled’.
In an interview , the Branch Chairman of Abeokuta South II, Ogun State Parks Management Board, Comrade Olalekan Adebayo, confirmed that, “three weeks ago, a car loaded passengers beside the Kuto bridge; six persons, three women and three men, including the driver, were in the cab. Immediately after Day Waterman, there is a road on the right, the driver made a detour into that road.
“The women were raped and everything on them was seized by these men. After satisfying themselves, they pushed out these women. Some government officials saw them by the road coming out from the bush and they narrated to them their story, stressing that they boarded the cab under the Kuto bridge.
“That was why the governor called the Commissioner of Police that he should stop these devilish acts of kidnapping by fake drivers in the entire Ogun State. The CP also called transport union leaders and we started the enforcement by clearing all illegal motor parks. We’ve held a series of meetings with security agents and the State Traffic Compliance and Enforcement Corps (TRACE).
“We started on Monday and we have begged the people to come to the park to board vehicles to wherever they are going. It is safe. People should not go and waste their lives and resources because of the N100 or N200 difference. We have seen how a man was robbed of N500,000 by these evil people. Can you say that man did not have N500 to pay? If you don’t have money, come and tell us in the park, we will help you. We have our manifest and we keep your goods safe. If you leave anything in our vehicles, you can go to the park to claim it later; that is not possible if you just rushed into a vehicle by the roadside.”
Security agents turn roadside drivers, attacking task force
It was learnt that some officers of the various security agencies in Ogun have also turned roadside drivers to make ends meet.
Transport union leaders said these security agents do attack the task force put in place to stop the activities of roadside drivers, claiming they are officers.
“I need to say this, security agents have been making this enforcement difficult for us. They are the ones attacking our task force, acting like they are above the law.
“We have told them to come to the parks if they need passengers, we will oblige them. But they will always stay by the road. Something must be done about this.
Police spokesman, Oyeyemi reacts
Speaking with our correspondent, Ogun police image maker, Oyeyemi said most of the recent incidents are not reported to the police.
However, Oyeyemi maintained that the police are in support of steps being taken by union leaders to stop the criminal activities of some roadside drivers, urging Ogun residents to patronize designated parks instead of searching for cheap or free rides by the road.
On security agents engaging in commercial driving without booking at approved parks, Oyeyemi stressed that no officer has the right to attack the union task force while carrying out their duties, saying the situation would be investigated.