Ifeanyi Okechukwu typifies the assumed qualities of a Lagosian; smart, sharp and lively. Born and bred in Bariga, one of the areas in the metropolis, the 33-year-old has in time blended so well with the dynamics of Lagos life.
The thought of being caught up in the web of city life hardly crossed his mind. He is always on top of his game as he navigates through the length and breadth of the coastal city.
But in June last year, fate played a fast one on him after his horrific encounter with ‘one chance’ — a brisk robbery of passengers in vehicles disguising as commercial ones.
That Saturday around 11am, he left home for his workplace at the Ogun State suburb in Arepo, along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Hurrying to meet his resumption time at noon, Okechukwu hopped on a yellow commercial bus at a park around Motorways.
Within five minutes, the 10-passenger bus was filled up and the vehicle took off without any further delay.
Some two kilometres into the journey, the vehicle made a U-turn and headed towards Ikorodu Road. Before Okechukwu and other five passengers could fathom what had gone amiss, five men clustered around them suddenly and threatened them with guns.
“Robbers! How come? I entered the bus from the park,” the ICT expert thought to himself. Alas, Okechukwu had indeed entered ‘one chance.’ What was more; the hoodlums were kidnappers.
He stated, “It was on a Saturday afternoon. I was on my way to the office. I boarded a public bus at Motorways en route to Arepo. The bus turned by the Federal Road Safety Corps office along the road. We thought there was traffic and the driver wanted to go through Alausa to connect Berger. Instead of going through Alausa, the bus headed back towards Ikorodu Road.”
The bus was speeding. Okechukwu and his co-passengers were at loss as there was no escape route at gunpoint.
“We initially started shouting at the driver until two guys brought out guns and asked us to shut up. That was when we knew we had been abducted,” he revealed before taking a deep sigh. “Immediately, our eyes were covered with pieces of cloth and all we knew was that we were on a long trip until we got to a destination and we were asked to alight and taken to a bush.”
The operation was in two phases, beginning with dispossession of the victims of their valuables. They also collected belongings ranging from phones, laptops, wrist watches and cash.
Okechukwu stated that one of the victims dealing in a poultry business was robbed of N250,000 he wanted to use for a fresh supply of livestock and eggs.
They thought they had lost all to the robbery and the gang would free them but they were wrong.
The kidnappers saw Okechukwu’s identity card showing that he worked with a reputable company and made moves to demand a ransom.
As a smart Lagosian that he is, Okechukwu quickly pulled up a fast one on the kidnappers. He narrated, “I told them I had resigned from the company and did not submit my ID card after I left. I told them I was using the ID card to escape police harassment on the road.”
His gimmicks worked but not without a two-day harrowing stay in the bush. “We were only given sachet water to drink throughout. We were released on Monday when nobody showed up to pay a ransom,” the native of Anambra State said.
Stuck in between sorrow over lost valuables and celebration of freedom, Okechukwu and other victims trudged on a long distance to the roadside; stranded.
He added, “We were told by passersby that we were in the Agbara area of Ogun State. It was some motorists who gave us a free ride. It’s a terrible experience I don’t want like to remember.’’