Commuters in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, are facing harrowing experiences as many of them have been robbed of bags, telephones, money and other belongings while commuting in tricycles.
Tricycles have become the popular mode of transportation in the state since motorcycles used for commercial transport were banned on July 2, 2011.
PUNCH Metro learnt that a large number of people in the state capital have been robbed inside tricycles.
Some of the victims declined to narrate their experiences, while others wanted to remain anonymous.
However, two of them spoke with our correspondent.
24-year-old Kindness Effiong, who was robbed on August 21, told our correspondent that she was returning to her office, when a guy came into the tricycle in which she was riding and asked the rider to take him to Osongama Housing Estate.
She said she protested when the rider decided to go to the man’s destination first instead of where she was going.
She said, “We were two ladies in the tricycle. We were going to Nwaniba. The tricycle had hardly moved a few metres when a guy beckoned on the rider, walked up to him and asked the rider to take him to Osongama Housing Estate. The rider then proceeded to Osongama without our consent.
“Immediately the tricycle got to a secluded area, the man began to drag our bags, and as we tried to resist him, he brought out a gun and pointed it at us. We surrendered everything we had to him. They ordered us to get down from the tricycle and rode off.”
Another victim, Bassey Okon, who was seen at the MTN office trying to retrieve a SIM card, told our correspondent that he was robbed inside a tricycle in the evening of August 17.
Okon said he had thought that roads in Uyo were safe, considering the fact that motorcycles had been banned and that policemen were manning different spots. He added that he was surprised that some tricycle riders could turn their vehicles into instruments of criminality.
He said, “I closed late from work that day; it should be around 8:15pm. I boarded the tricycle that was going to Nsikak Eduok Junction. Midway I was robbed of all I had. I had to walk home that day.”
The state Chairman of the Tricycles Association of Nigeria, Mr. Sunny Enang, said he would not rule out the possibility of people using the tricycles for robbery.
He said, “There is a case we had, where we accosted one tricycle operator that some hoodlums forced to use his tricycle to rob.
“The hoodlums were trying to rob a local government agent who was selling tickets. They used one tricycle operator: eventually we were able to get some of them. They were taken to the police station but the tricycle rider said the guys hired him as if they were passengers.
“He did not know. Sometimes, when it is like this, some of these tricycle operators are helpless.”
Enang, however, added that there are some tricycle operators he would not exempt from blame as they came into the profession with intention to further their criminality.
“There are some bad eggs among the operators. Some of those who were using bikes to commit crime are here. We are still trying to re-orientate them. If somebody has a criminal motive in doing anything, eventually that person will be caught.
“We are pleading with them not to use the tricycles for criminal activities. We are all out to fish out bad eggs,” he stated.
He explained that the problem the association was having previously was that of harmonisation. He said the different tricycle bodies had agreed to come together, which would make it easy to tag every tricycle.
He said the measure would make it difficult for anybody to use tricycle for criminal ends.
But the Police Public Relations Officer of the state Police Command, Mr. Etim Dickson, in a text message, said the development was strange.
He said, “This is vague. Are there reported cases? If yes; where?”
However, further efforts to reach him were unsuccessful as his telephone line indicated that it had been switched off.