Since the end of the EndSARS protest, Benin City, Edo State capital and some major towns in the state have been under siege as armed robbers and other criminal elements take advantage of the absence of policemen on the streets and major highways to rob, kill, and maim their victims. At home, business premises, and on the streets, people live in fear of being attacked even in broad day light. In the past two weeks, carjacking had been on the rise with an average of three to four cars snatched in a day.
It is consequent upon this worrisome development that the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, on Monday reached out to officers and men of the Edo State police command, pleading with them to return to their duty posts to end the reign of terror by dare-devil criminals in the state
On October 31 at around 1.30 am, the Okhoro Road, Benin City residence of a retired commissioner of police, Daniel Idonije was invaded by suspected armed robbers. The intruders who were said to have gained access into the apartment through the window after scaling the fence of the house into the compound, reportedly made away with mobile phones and other items.
In less than one week, no fewer than 10 cars were reported to have been violently robbed from their owners in various parts of Benin. Operators of Point of Sale, (POS) machines have also been particularly targeted. An unfortunate female victim was reportedly robbed and killed along Akenzua Road, opposite Brother Pius Catholic Primary School in Benin in broad day light. This development has driven most of the operators underground resulting in cash crunch as most of the ATM machines failed to dispense for fear of being attacked.
Another fell at Aduwawa in Benin City on October 30, when his money and phones were snatched. The hoodlums who approached him from a nearby bush, were said to have hit his head from behind with a heavy wood, gave him a slap and collected his money and other valuables. The man, who lost consciousness, was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital for medical attention.
On the same day, two vehicles were snatched at Ibiwe Street and Adolor Road, Ugbowo, both in Benin, by dare-devil armed robbers who made away with a Toyota Corolla car and a Toyota Voltron respectively from their owners.
It was however a bad outing for another suspected robber as he was apprehended and beaten into pulp when some neighbours and passers-by summoned courage to come to the rescue of his victim. The suspected criminal was said to have attacked a female shop owner at Alohan Street, off Dumez Road, Benin City but some vigilant persons who noticed how the man entered the shop suspected him to be an armed robber and raised the alarm.
Another three-man criminal gang was also not lucky as they were caught along Oreoghene Street, near Oliha Market by some soldiers after robbing along Evbiemwen Street. They were reportedly taken away by the soldiers. On the same day, another gang of robbers were said to have operated along Lucky Way where they had dispossessed their victims of money and other valuables.
Investigation by the magazine revealed that the spike in violent crimes may not be unconnected with the recent jail breaks in the two prisons in Benin where close to 2,000 inmates, many of them notorious armed robbers and serial killers, escaped. Ten out of the escapees have however been rearrested. Out of the 10, four of them had gone to snatch a car from its owner at gun point along TV Road in Benin City while another was rearrested after he had gone on a vengeance mission.
According to information, the escaped prisoner had gone to his Ukhumwun community in Ugbowo area of Benin where he allegedly killed a middle aged man who had given evidence against him in court. The surge in violent crimes had also been linked to the attack on various police stations in Benin during the EndSARS protests hijacked by hoodlums where arms and ammunition and police uniforms were looted. Concerned residents also believe that the arming of political thugs by politicians during the just held governorship election in the state could have contributed to the increase in crimes.
Some have also suggested that the desperation by the fleeing prison inmates to raise money to travel out of the country away from the hands of the law, may have contributed to the rise in violent crimes. It is feared that most of the cars snatched may not be recovered as there could be ready buyers for them.
Obaseki, during his visit to the State Police Headquarters, expressed the need for the officers and men to once again make their presence visible on the streets in order to secure lives and property of the people of the state. Obaseki stated that their absence on the roads and some conspicuous places in the state could easily be interpreted by the hoodlums who had hijacked the good intentions of the #EndSARS protesters as weakness and cowardice on the part of the police, and urged the police to do everything within their powers to quickly correct that wrong impression.
Obaseki said the government and the people of Edo State were solidly behind the police command and promised to give them the needed support and encouragement to move on and get rid of all the criminal elements in the state.
According to Obaseki, “Edo State government will now proceed immediately to begin to rebuild your destroyed building. We already ordered some patrol vehicles and we hope it will be delivered in the next few weeks. We will be responsible for the hospital bills of every officer who had been hurt in the last few weeks”.
The governor vowed that the fleeing prisoners would not celebrate the Christmas with other citizens of the state as they would certainly be re-incarcerated. He assured those who saw the prison gates flung open and chose to stay back, that their cases would be reviewed.
Earlier, Johnson Kokumo, the police commissioner had noted that the presence of the governor in their midst had boosted their morale to resume and reclaim the state from the hoodlums after the #EndSARS protest. Kokumo said about 11 of their personnel were injured by the protesters and that of this number, 10 had been discharged from the hospital while one other is still at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, (UBTH) undergoing treatment.
He informed the governor that after the #EndSARS protest, the command arrested 126 criminal suspects out of which10 were the inmates who escaped from the Correctional Centres in the state. Kokumo said seven police stations, 10 police vans, and several personal and exhibit vehicles were burnt, adding that seven AK47 riffles carted away have been recovered. He appealed to the governor to help foot the hospital bills of his injured men as well as render other financial assistance to them to boost their morale so that they can regain all that they have lost to the #EndSARS protest.
The magazine gathered that the seven stolen AK 47 rifles were recovered by undercover police men who are now operating in most parts of Benin City. They are said to be determined to smoke out some identified attackers of their facilities as well as those who escaped from correctional facilities (prisons).