Days after the Federal Government ordered a probe into the slaughter of 19 travellers at a robbery scene on the Ijebu-Ode – Sagamu Expressway, the principal actor revealed at the weekend how and when he killed the victims.
While denying reports that the incident happened this year, truck driver, Osayande Idahosa, said that he ran over the passengers, who were being robbed on July 31, 2009, because he thought they were logs placed on the road by the armed robbers as he viewed them with panic from distance.
The victims were travelling in a luxury bus, marked XF 285 AKD. The bus, with 41 passengers, was hijacked by bandits at a spot between Federal Government College, Odogbolu and Babcock University, on the Ijebu-Ode–Sagamu Expressway. They were asked to lie face down on the road, where they were crushed by a Scania lorry, marked XN 808 BEN, during a robbery that lasted for about 10 hours, claiming the lives of six women and 13 men.
The 40-year-old driver said: “On the 31st of July, around 10 O-clock, between Odogbolu and Sagamu-Lagos Road, as I was driving, there was heavy rain and the road was lonely, I had to park at Ijebu-Ode. Later, I saw that vehicles were moving at the other side of the road, so I continued my journey. Suddenly, I didn’t see any motor coming again. The road was free as I climbed the hill; then I saw a brake light in the distance, so I tried to get close.
“As I got near, I just started hearing heavy gunshots. Hey! I said I have entered these people’s hand. I began to shake.
My boys and the passenger that I carried quickly lied down. I slowed down and tried to reverse, so that I could jump out, then I saw that the robbers behind me were more than those in front and they were all shooting. I was in their midst and in that area, robbers have always been killing drivers. So, I said I won’t wait, and I raised my head; a part of the road was blocked by the bus they were robbing, but there was a narrow path that was free. I saw some things lying on the road like slabs used to block the way. I zoomed and ran across them. But as I did that, my motor fell into a ditch, so I ran into the bush.
“They pursued me. I hid somewhere inside the bush; then they went back. I could hear them say let’s go and search his motor first. That was what saved me. I’ve been having nightmares since that time.
“I covered myself up inside the bush and I dosed off. In the morning, I came out to see people discussing at the scene that my motor mashed human beings. I ran away and reported myself at the nearest police station, Obalende police station.
“When I got to the station, they said the DPO and his boys had gone to the scene. I told them that I was the lorry driver. The officer said, ‘So, na your motor den take mash all those people.’ I said yes.
“They took me back to the scene, where I saw big, big officers, including road safety officials. I told them how the thing happened. I spent four days at the police station, before I was granted bail. They did not allow only my people to bail me, they also asked for people in that village, and I didn’t know anybody there. My people later found one Good Samaritan. They also said that the VIO people should inspect my lorry.”
The father of three, who has been a lorry driver for 22 years added: “I also learnt that two trailers mashed the bodies, after my lorry. It was the trailers that were even mentioned in newspaper reports then.
“On that day, I was carrying garri from Benin to Ijebu-Ode. There was a Yoruba woman and my motor boy with me.”
Another testimony was given by the driver of the luxury bus that was robbed.
Okechukwu Francis Okafor, 37, who drove the bus belonging to Young Shall Grow Motors, said: “On that day, I loaded at Enugu, at about 8a.m. On our way coming, we met a serious hold-up in Ore. After the hold-up we moved; getting to that Ijebu-Ode area, I saw what looked like a roadblock; I didn’t know that it was armed robbers’ roadblock.
“When I got near to the place, I started asking my colleagues whether it was a normal roadblock or armed robbers’ roadblock. Before I mashed my brake, I started hearing gunshots from front and back and on both sides.
There was nothing I could do again than to proceed. If I had tried to go back, they would have fired directly at me. The firing was too much. They shot my air tank, so the vehicle could not move again.
I quickly opened my front and back door. I wanted to jump down, but one of the robbers was waiting there. He said, ‘Move back or I’ll fire you.’ I moved and pushed the armed robber. His gun fell. If I had known there positioning, I would have picked the gun to fight. But the shooting was too much, so I just ran into the bush to hide. I could not give account of anybody again then.
“I came out around 6 O-clock, when the robbers left. Then I went to the police station to report, because the police always accuse drivers of planning robberies. I did not even know that a lorry had mashed my passengers, until the police took me back to the scene. They packed the bodies in a police Hilux van and took them to the mortuary. My bus was later towed to the station.”
“If it had not been for the bad roads we would have arrived at our destination in daytime. We left Enugu at about 8a.m., and the robbery started after 8p.m.”
Following a fresh newspaper publication claiming that the robbery took place last month, the Senate invited the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ogbonna Onovo, last Tuesday week, to explain what happened.
Onovo told the lawmakers, two days after, that the incident happened last year, when Mr Mike Okiro was the IGP.
According to police records, a team of policemen from Obalende Division were led to the scene by the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), Ayodele Sonubi. They were later joined by Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Omolodun Oladokun, who was recently killed during mayhem at Ijebu-Ife, Ogun State.
The Commissioner of Police (CP), in Ogun State then, Mr Hashimu Argungu, also joined them at the scene, and the mangled bodies of the victims were taken to the Sagamu mortuary of the Ogun State University Teaching Hospital (OSUTH), with the assistance of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) officials.
According to the police report, two injured passengers were treated at a hospital, as the State Criminal Investigations Department (SCID), Abeokuta, commenced investigation into the robbery aspect of the case, while the Motor Traffic Division, at Obalende handled the traffic case.
Statements were recorded from both the luxury bus driver and the truck driver, who the police released on bail pending the receipt of the Director of Public Prosecution’s advice.
Police authorities told the Nigerian Compass that since the incident happened, only 10 out of the 19 victims have been claimed by their families. The remaining nine bodies were said to have been mangled beyond recognition.
Meanwhile the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone ‘2’, Mr Azubuko Udah told reporters at the weekend that violent crimes have nosedived since he resumed in the zone, comprising of Lagos and Ogun states, on January 25.
While appraising the situation in the zone, Udah said: “Due to the proactive crime curbing strategies put in place by the commands, ably complemented at the Zone ‘2’ Headquarters, the combined efforts are already yielding positive efforts.
“However, there’s need to synergize our efforts with other sister security agencies with a view to achieving a more tolerable crime level comparable to other mega cities in the world.”
To achieve the task, Udah said that he had paid courtesy visits to the General Officer Commanding 81 Division; the Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command; Assistant Comptroller General of Customs; Assistant Comptroller General, Nigerian Immigration Service and that of the Nigerian Prison Service, as well as the Zonal Commanding Officer, Federal Road Safety Commission, to solicit for their co-operation in crime fighting.
Udah, who argued that the police should be commended and not be condemned, also reached out to traditional rulers and members of the Police Community Relations Committees (PCRC), in a bid to galvanise them to support policing efforts and enhance the new emphasis on intelligence led policing.
He appealed to the Lagos and Ogun states governors to give more support to the police, in other to force down the crime rate.
Source: Nigeria Compass.