Travelers and motorists plying the Benin-Lagos express road were on Thursday stranded for over ten hours following protest by commercial drivers and drivers of luxurious buses over the killing of conductor and a pregnant woman.
The protesting drivers blocked the Benin-Lagos express road at the Okada junction from 3am demanding increased presence of security personnel on the highway.
Newspapers being conveyed to Edo and neighbouring states from Lagos State arrived Benin City at 2:30pm.
Witnesses said armed robbers blocked the highway at about 1am, robbed several vehicles and in the process killed two persons.
The killing of the bus conductor angered the luxurious bus drivers who used their buses to block the highway.
They were joined by other commercial drivers.
A driver of the Young Shall Grow motors marked AAA 283 XM that was attacked, Mr Obika Orakwe, identified the deceased conductor as Onyekwere.
He narrated that “We left Onitsha around 10:30pm. While we are coming armed robbers attacked us immediately after we left Benin heading to Okada. We managed to escape but we now decided to park somewhere because the shooting was too much. We discovered that the conductor of the bus had been killed. The robbers also robbed several vehicles close to where we parked, including Ezenwata bus and some small buses and were shooting everywhere”.
A driver conveying Complete Sports who gave his name as Ayinla, said the robbers took over the road as early as 1am killing two persons on the spot.
He said the robbers operated unhindered without police presence.
“There was a robbery incident at Okada Junction where they killed a conductor and a pregnant woman. This whole incident triggered the luxurious bus drivers to block the road so that nobody could either go or come in.
They said they will not leave the high way until the federal and state government come to address the issue of incessant robbery on the Benin-Lagos Express road.
Mr. Johnson Saliu, a driver with the Tribune Newspaper who arrived Benin City at 1:50pm described the situation as horrific.
“It was very tough. You can imagine somebody that has been on the road since 11:am till now, it is not easy and the experience is very 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”, he said.
It was the intervention of the State Commissioner of Police, Haliru Gwandu, the State Director of the Department of State Security (DSS), Ibrahim Hiliu and the Secretary to the sSate Government, Barr. Osarodion Ogie that made the drivers leave the highway.
Ogie said, “We received this report this morning about the traffic jam that occurred around Okada junction this morning as a result of armed robber incident. We got in touch with the Director of SS and the Commissioner of police. We saw the thousands of stranded passengers and drivers.
“We received the report of the robbery operations and I can assure you now that 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 that passes here does that safely. We are going to increase security in all the major roads involving members of the communities, the army, police and others,” he said.
The police Commissioner said it was police intervention that rescued the passengers.
“However the hoodlums who came from the bush shot the windscreen of the bus, wounded the conductor who later died in the hospital.
“Apart from the conductor who lost his life others are hail and hearty. I will say kudos to my men who attended to the distress call. We have seen how it could have been supposing their was no prompt response from the police. The Command is battle ready to ensure that such hoodlums are brought to justice. We will apprehend them. Not only that, proactive strategy will be deployed. The aspect of visibility policing where the government promised to provide containers for the police, so that hoodlums will not take advantage of heavy down pour.”