‘How We Survived Encounter With Gunmen’

The security situation in the country has assumed another dimension, with gun-wielding men firing at hapless Nigerians who were travelling home on Good Friday, WINIFRED OGBEBO reports.

But for God’s intervention, some travellers who were going home for the Easter period would have been history by now.
Like every festive season when people travel home for merriment, the Easter period was no exception.

On Good Friday, they had all woken up hale and hearty, and perhaps, with a song on their lips that they were going to be united with their families and loved ones once again at their various homes, not knowing that death was lurking at the corner.

One of the lucky ones to be alive, though receiving treatment in one of the high profile hospitals in Abuja for gunshot wounds, Olusegun Aremu, narrated, “I was on my way to attend a friend’s burial. We got to Abaji about 11.00, and all of a sudden, gunmen came from the bush, all in black ensemble. They were masked and they started shooting at everybody.

My own vehicle was at a close range, so in the process of trying to lie down in the vehicle, a bullet hit my elbow. I was in a private bus.  It was my co-traveller and I that were injured; that one as a result of the broken glasses.”

The victims said it was obvious the gunmen were clearly after their lives, not armed robbers as they earlier thought because they did not take anything of value and money from them but only wanted them dead. “I think it is part of the Boko Haram operation currently in the country.

If they were armed robbers they would have demanded for our possessions, but they didn’t and kept shooting at us. They just came around; blocked the road in front so nobody could move from front to back.” Aremu said.

Recounting his own ordeal, one of the victims, a machine operator in a private outfit, Ikechukwu Charles,  said he was travelling to Umuahia on Good Friday when the bus he was in ran into the gunmen at Abaji, close to the General Hospital, between 10.30 to 11.00 am.

According to him, the gunmen, who all wore black outfits and face masks and were in four groups of four each, started shooting at them on sighting them from the bush.

However, Charles, who is thankful to God for sparing his life, told LEADERSHIP WEEKEND that the gunmen were particular about buses that were plying the road and did not pay attention to smaller cars, saying, “We noticed that smaller cars like Mercedes, Corolla and Toyota Carina were not being shot at.”

He said, “The people that confused us were the first group who waved us to go ahead, unknown to us that we were moving into danger. A bus that was ahead of us had almost all its passengers killed by these men, but it took God’s intervention and the dexterity of our driver to drive away.’’

He, however, disclosed that the sporadic shooting had hit his leg, which left him in a pool of blood when the vehicle eventually came to a halt.

Aremu attributed the spate of violence currently being witnessed in the country today to bad governance. “This is due to bad governance. For example, the Abuja-Lokoja road has been awarded for a long time, but up till now they are still digging pits on it, which gave rise to the heavy traffic jam. If that road had been completed, there wouldn’t have been any room for anybody to stop travellers. There would have been a free flow of traffic.

Again, the security situation is very bad. If people are travelling, there should be a kind of security patrol team on the road. I learnt that the inspector-general of police approved a patrol team, but when these guys came and were operating there was no security personnel around.

Nobody was around to rescue us, and it was about five to three kilometres away from Abaji, very close to the town. That was where they were operating. The government needs to wake up.”

He also noted, “Some people don’t just like the government of the day and they want to bring it down by all means. I believe that government would have gotten enough facts from the people arrested so far in connection with terrorist activities, yet they are not doing anything about it. Some names must have been mentioned.

What is the government doing about them? Who is Jonathan afraid of? As the commander in-chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who is he afraid of? Who is that individual that is bigger than Nigeria? Imagine what happened in Kaduna a few days ago. Almost on a daily basis people are being killed.

Sharing the hospital room with me was a JTF officer who almost had his arm and eyes off all in the name of going about their lawful business, and somebody out there will just wake up and start killing. That is madness. Is it because government officials have not been affected that nobody has gone that extra mile to arrest the situation?

“If a minister or any of his relatives had been involved, the government would have acted by now and would have woken up. I think the government is not doing enough.”

In an outburst of emotion, the accountant asked, “Is Boko Haram more than us in this country? How many are they?’’

“We have to be serious to be able to get out of it. I don’t see how I will be happy considering what has happened to me. Even when I get well it will keep ringing in my brain that I was almost killed. They were shooting at me at a close range for doing nothing, and to gain nothing too. They just wanted to kill somebody and go.

“The federal government, and indeed patriotic Nigerians, need to go back to the drawing board and find a lasting solution to these senseless killings,“ he concluded.

-Nigeria Trends

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