One of the Mondays in February some few years ago, began just like every other work day for Ndubuisi Agatus who woke up at 5am, prepared and set out to join the staff bus of the bank where he worked.
According to The PUNCH, the ma settled in a comfortable seat after exchanging pleasantries with some of his colleagues that chilly morning on the way from mainland to Lagos Island.
Agatus told our correspondent that as one of the systems engineers in the bank, he was required to resume work early; hence he left home early to join the bus and beat the early morning Lagos traffic.
He said, “In the nearly hour-long journey to the island, I mentally geared myself for work–outlining what I hoped to achieve that day and also reminding myself to take time out to eat proper food. The workday was a bit more hectic. But it was expected–Mondays were always so.
“However, time went by quickly and before long, it was 5:30 pm and I joined other colleagues at the bus park, waiting for the staff bus that would take us home. We spent time making small talk while awaiting the bus; all of us trying not to think too much about the terrible traffic we were certain awaited us at the Eko Bridge.”
“Oblivious to us, the traffic was going to be the least of our worries, as that day we were going to have a terrifying experience outstanding from whatever we had witnessed on our daily commute to and from the island in my two years with the bank.’’
He added that as the driver meandered his way through the light Victoria Island traffic, he took a nap, letting the cool wind from the island sea wash away the stress and sweat from another hectic workday. Intermittently, he woke up to see how far along they were in the journey home and how much time was left before he could dig into the sumptuous meal his wife told him on the phone that she had prepared for him.
Agatus stated, “As the bus sneaked to the base of the Eko Bridge, I noticed that there was heavier traffic than usual. For a few weeks, there had been more traffic on the Eko Bridge due to the much-needed repairs being carried out on the Third Mainland Bridge at the time.
“In the few weeks since the repairs had begun and the traffic situation worsened, drivers instead of sticking to the safer two-lane traffic on the bridge had contrived to add a third one. On certain days when the gridlock was too tight, commercial drivers created a fourth one. A situation that usually angered our driver.’’
He further said that as the driver slowly ascended the bridge, he could hear some colleagues on the bus complaining of the traffic situation and venting their annoyance at the government’s failure to provide viable alternatives for drivers and commuters. The drivers of private vehicles on the other hand took their anger out on reckless commercial bus drivers who tried to be smart by trying to wriggle into tight openings on the road.
He said, “But halfway over the bridge, every thought we had regarding the cause of that day’s worsened traffic situation dissipated like the cool island breeze kissing a sweaty brow.
This is because lying on the cold ground of the bridge like school children being punished were some commuters on the third and fourth lane of the Eko Bridge while their assailants hovered over them like vultures, swooping in and angrily demanding their valuables. The guns and machetes they held silenced protests or thoughts from the hapless commuters.’’
The bank worker said as he and his colleagues together with other commuters on the other two lanes of the bridge looked on in consternation; the criminals went from one vehicle to the next ordering them to wind down and hand over their valuables.
“Commuters who were slow in responding to their order were pulled out of their vehicles and given the beating of their lives. The looks on their faces showed they were relaxed and not necessarily afraid of being arrested. We were stuck in our vehicle in traffic that was moving even slower than a snail, waiting for the robbers to finish with the other two lanes and proceed to pounce on us. I immediately turned off my expensive phone and hid it with my laptop and some of the cash with me under the car seat,” he said.
Agatus noted that some passengers in commercial vehicles, hoping to outsmart the highway thieves, rushed out from the buses they were in and ran towards the end of the bridge.
He said, “It was as if the robbers had envisaged the action as other members stationed around the stationary vehicles swooped on them and angrily snatched their valuables. I would have been scared out of my wits but many times the air was rent with shouts of ‘Blood of Jesus’ by some of the scared women on the bus. Their intermittent cries of panic cut through my thick blanket of fear. As the bus slowly manoeuvred through the traffic, going past the crime scene, we all heaved a collective sigh of relief. Glad that we were not a part of the unlucky commuters robbed that evening. Our bus driver loudly said he would be careful driving on that route henceforth. For the first time in the two years since I joined the bank, I saw him flash a smile on the way home.’’
According to the bank worker, a commercial bus conductor conversing in Yoruba, excitedly exclaimed as the bus he hung on like a leech veered towards an opening that he had witnessed the incident a few times and that it was not a one-off.
Agatus added, “Every relief I felt after witnessing the robbery was short-lived after listening to him. I knew I had to make the same commute every work day. I slept fitfully all through the night and dreaded going to work the next day. For weeks after witnessing the robbery, I was awake on the bus ride home at least till the bus went past the Eko Bridge.”