Connecting Lagos and Ogun states together is a six-kilometre bridge that emboldens criminals to brazenly disregard the rule of law during nocturnal hours. Under the cover of darkness pervading the entire stretch of the bridge, robbery, kidnapping and murder, among other heinous crimes, have been recorded on the Long Bridge with motorists, commuters and residents of surrounding communities at the receiving end of the unfortunate tragedies.
This displeasing state of affairs goes on daily on the Long Bridge end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway that is in between the Ifo and Obafemi Owode local government areas of Ogun State with attendant loss of lives and property.
On March 5, 2021, a cab driver, Ahmed Adepoju, was conveying four passengers to their destination in the Berger area of Lagos State when his car broke down abruptly around 5.50am on the Long Bridge.
While trying to examine the car, eight armed herdsmen stormed out of their hideouts under the bridge, broke the windscreen of the faulty vehicle and attacked Adepoju and his passengers.
“The only man among my passengers escaped with wounds inflicted on his head and arm,” the 50-year-old driver said, adding that a desperate attempt to flee the scene of the attack made him jump from the bridge.
Adepoju said, “Immediately I jumped down from the bridge, five guys also jumped down and apprehended me. The other three guys also got down from the bridge and they all led me into the forest. We walked for an hour and got to a well from which they fetched water and drank.
“Afterwards, they tore my cloth, used it to cover my face and also used my singlet to tie both of my hands. We walked for another one hour until we got to their hideout, where they started torturing me with cutlasses and cane. They also used a heavy stick to hit my head and the impact of the stick pressed my skull inward.
“They demanded N50m ransom and I was instructed to contact people who could pay the money. So, I called my pastor but his pleas were ignored. They were all Fulani; the oldest of them is about 25 years and they said it was either I pay or die.
The father of five said only one of the suspects could read and speak pidgin English, adding that the rest partially communicate in Hausa, but speak in a language they used in communicating with cows.
Adepoju stated, “It got to a point that they said they would kill me and move on, but I pleaded for my life as I had no money. They later concluded with my sister, Adijat, to pay N500,000, but through the support of my pastor and family members, N200,000 was raised.
“I was with them for 21 hours and was released on March 6 around 2.37am on the Long Bridge after they had received the ransom from my sister. The bush is wide, its entire stretch reaches Itasin in Akute, Sote, Igboko, Ori Iyanrin in Orimerumu, Ajiyan and Gasline at Iju Waterworks. The kidnappers are used to the bush.
“Even after my case, other people were kidnapped on the Long Bridge and are nowhere to be found till date. In fact, policemen came from Abeokuta to search for them but could not locate the victims. If the Fulani herdsmen get to know that the police are looking for them, they will kill the victims.”
Aside Adepoju, the Chairman, Warewa Security Council, Olanrewaju Falade, said the family of another victim also paid ransom after he was kidnapped on the bridge, adding that in a bid to curb the insecurity on the Long Bridge, the community partnered the Ogun State Police Command.
Falade stated, “How the incident happened was that a young man was coming to Lagos and his car developed a mechanical fault at Arepo around 2am. So, he called his friend, who stays in Magboro, for assistance and the friend decided to assist him by using a rope to tow the vehicle to Lagos.
“On their way, the rope snapped on the Long Bridge and while they were trying to fix it, the hoodlums appeared from nowhere and kidnapped the friend, who was assisting the other person whose car broke down.
“The owner of the faulty car escaped; initially, we thought the two of them were kidnapped until the other person came to the station the following morning and explained that he escaped. So, the person who offered to help was kept for a number of days, but was eventually released after ransom was paid.”
Falade, however, said the bush surrounding the Long Bridge had been aiding the daredevil hoodlums to launch onslaughts against unsuspecting members of the public, adding that the insecurity was common, because both sides of the bridge were partially built up.
He said, “We cannot continue to be living with our hearts in our mouths just because we have to drive through the Long Bridge every day. We have had a meeting with the state Commissioner of Police, and we are looking at getting all stakeholders involved to address this menace.
“Whether it is Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Fulani or foreign bandits, we just want to upgrade security around the Long Bridge such that no bandit from anywhere will be able to operate there. But we need resources and manpower; we want to light up the entire Long Bridge from end to end so that if our men are patrolling, it will be easier for them to see and act accordingly.
“We also commissioned the cutting of the bush under and around the bridge because those hoodlums hide in the bush to launch their attacks. These hoodlums usually stone our patrol team from their hideouts in the bush and also stone vehicles moving on the bridge. So, if they stone you, and you get angry that somebody broke your glass and you park, they will attack you”
Falade urged people to be aware of the antics of the hoodlums to avoid being robbed or kidnapped on the Long Bridge, adding that when the bush was cut, the stoning reduced drastically.
He, however, appealed for support from corporate organisations and approval from the government so that the projects needed to strengthen security on the bridge could be executed.
When contacted, the state Commissioner of Police, Edward Ajogun, said the command had been working assiduously to curb insecurity on the Long Bridge.
He, however, urged the government to light up the bridge, assist in clearing the bush around it and also provide drones for surveillance of the bridge’s surroundings.
Ajogun stated, “As a command, we are doing all that is necessary to improve security on the Long Bridge; we have deployed more personnel on the bridge; we have also deployed more vehicles and motorcycles with a view to enhancing our visibility on the bridge on a 24-hour basis.
“We also took the initiative of identifying the opportunities that are facilitating the commission of crimes by these criminals and we discovered that the bush around the bridge is a cover that the criminals are using.
“The Divisional Police Officer, Warewa Division, CSP Folasade, Tanaruno is in charge of that Long Bridge, took the initiative of clearing the bush, but along the line, the community came in, commended her efforts and took over the financial responsibility of doing that and also returned the money that the DPO had initially expended to clear the bush.”
Ajogun explained that members of communities around the bridge had presented a template to improve security on it, adding that it was the belief of the residents that if a drone was deployed for surveillance on the bridge, it would curb the situation.
He added, “The community members also have a project on lighting up the bridge, but it is such that it will require government support. They also said the Federal Government had a project of lighting up that particular bridge, but pending the time the contractors will finish the construction and in addition to the efforts we are making, a temporary arrangement should be made through the installation of solar panels to light up the bridge to deter away criminals.
“So, if the government can support us in lighting up the entire bridge, ensuring that the grass around the bridge is lowered and enhancing surveillance by way of deploying a drone, I think those will go a long way in improving security on the bridge.”
During a visit to the Seriki Hausa Awori land, Isheri-Olofin Market, Muhammadu Gbadamosi, he said, “I recently had a meeting with the Commissioner of Police regarding the armed robbery and kidnapping incidents on the Long Bridge and I told him that the suspects are not from this market. They come from somewhere else to commit crime on the Long Bridge and run away.
“I have over 20 policemen here in Kara Market. I told the Divisional Police Officer, Warewa Division, that I have directed all herders to return their cows to the market before 7pm because I don’t want any cow around the Long Bridge from 7pm and any cow and herder seen should be arrested.”