ravellers and motorists plying the Benin-Lagos Expressway were stranded for over 10 hours yesterday in Edo State as commercial drivers and drivers of luxury buses protested the killing of a conductor and an expectant mother.
The protesters blocked the road at Okada Junction from 3 a.m, demanding increased presence of security personnel on the highway.
Newspapers coming to Edo and neighbouring states from Lagos State arrived Benin, the state capital, at 2.30 p.m.
Eyewitnesses said robbers blocked the highway at 1 a.m, robbed several vehicles and killed the two persons.
The killing of the bus conductor angered luxury bus drivers who blocked the highway.
They were joined by other commercial drivers.
A driver of Young Shall Grow bus with registration number (Lagos) AAA 283 XM, which was attacked, Mr Obika Orakwe, identified the slain conductor as Onyekwere.
He said: “We left Onitsha around 10:30 p.m. Armed robbers attacked us immediately after we left Benin, as we headed to Okada. We managed to escape and decided to park somewhere because the shooting was too much. We discovered the conductor of the bus had been killed. The hoodlums also robbed several vehicles close to where we parked, including Ezenwata bus and some small buses. They were shooting everywhere.”
A driver conveying Complete Sports, who gave his name simply as Ayinla, said the robbers took over the road as early as 1 a.m and killed the two persons on the spot.
He said the robbers operated without police intervention.
Ayinla said: “There was a robbery incident at Okada Junction, where they killed a conductor and an expectant mother. This incident triggered the luxury bus drivers to block the road so that nobody could go or come in.
“They vowed not to leave the highway until the federal and state governments tackled incessant robbery on Benin-Lagos Expressway.
Mr. Johnson Saliu, a driver with the Tribune Newspapers, who arrived Benin at 1:50 p.m, described the situation as horrific.
He said: “It was very tough. You can imagine somebody who has been on the road since 11 a.m till now. It is not easy; the experience is terrible.
“More than three weeks since I have been coming here, there is no day there has not been a robbery attack on this road.”
Police Commissioner Haliru Gwandu, the state’s Director of the Department of State Security (DSS), Ibrahim Hiliu and the Secretary to the sSate Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, arrived the scene to placate the drivers.
Ogie said: “We received this report this morning about the traffic jam that occurred around Okada Junction as a result of a robbery. We got in touch with the Director of SS and the commissioner of police. We saw the thousands of stranded passengers and drivers.
“…I assure you now security agencies are going to increase their presence around here and across the state. We have the responsibility to make sure that our state is safe and everybody who passes through here does so safely. We are going to increase security on major roads by involving members of the communities, the Army, police and others.”
Gwandu said: “…The hoodlums, who came from the bush, shot the windscreen of the bus and injured the conductor, who died in the hospital.
“I will say kudos to my men who attended to the distress call…