By Jude Atupulazi
This week, I'm going to talk about two separate phenomena that are currently in the news in our state. While one makes victims of unsuspecting and innocent people, the other claims the scalps of those who go looking for trouble in their quest to make money. I'm talking about the One Chance Bus phenomenon and the dangerous activities of Runs Girls or modern prostitutes. But first, let me talk about the One Chance buses.
For those who use commercial buses to commute to and fro work or to anywhere at all, the name ''One Chance Bus'' must ring a bell. These are commercial buses driven by criminal elements masquerading as genuine commercial bus drivers and conductors. Unsuspecting commuters enter these buses happily, not however knowing that a brutal fate awaits them. Those unlucky do not come out alive as they are usually dumped along the road stone dead, often with some body parts missing. This crime is currently ravaging Anambra State, especially in the major cities of Awka and Onitsha. The crime is committed at all times of the day.
The scenario is often like this: a tired or anxious passenger either flags down a bus or is stopped for by a bus. The driver or conductor asks him to board the bus which he does. But rather than sit near the door, or on the seat immediately behind the driver, the passenger is forced to get into the back as front and middle seats have been occupied by others.
Then along the way, the passenger is shocked to see one of the occupants of the bus pull a gun and force him to surrender his phone and money. After the robbery, the victim may be pushed off the moving bus, not minding if he will be run over by an oncoming vehicle.
Sometimes, victims are taken to remote and isolated locations and killed for ritual purposes. Those who survive usually complain of becoming unconscious at some point inside those buses.
Indeed, it is difficult for one to identify such buses as they are painted in the colours of regular commercial buses and also operate at all times of the day.
Just last Sunday, a female member of staff of Fides was a victim. Returning from her village to Awka from Ihiala where she had gone to see her mother in commemoration of Mothers' Day, she had boarded a bus to Awka from Onitsha around the Upper Iweka area around 8PM. Five men were already in the bus; all seated in the middle. She was forced to get in behind them. Soon another lady and a young man entered. But soon as the last person had been seated, one of the occupants pulled a gun and his accomplices began to rob them, taking their phones and money. Not only that, they were beaten. While that went on, they kept telling them that they would be taken to Delta State and killed for ritual purposes.
That got our girl scared. As they got to the flyover at Nkpor, she braved it and sprang from her seat and jumped, falling on the road and injuring herself. But at least she lived to tell her story.
There was also this female student of UNIZIK that boarded a bus around 4PM on her way to Eke Awka. But she was surprised to see them take another route and when she wanted to know why, the driver increased his speed, while the others in the bus told her to keep quiet. She started praying as the bus sped on. Soon she lost consciousness and only returned to her senses when she felt someone tapping her and telling her to leave the bus. When she came down, she realized she was somewhere in Ozubulu! She believed that her prayers saved her.
There are many stories of people who fell victim to these criminals in commercial buses. But the worrisome thing is that their activities are on the increase, with the security agencies seemingly unable to stop them.
It seems that this phenomenon of One Chance buses increased after the ban of okada operations in parts of the state by the state government. Before then, most crimes were committed by people using commercial motorcycles. It now seems they have graduated to buses.
My only advice to people is to carefully observe the occupants of the buses they board. But above all, they should ensure that they only board such buses at the motor parks as it has been observed that the majority of victims were picked on the way by buses that seemed to be in a hurry.
Now, to the other one: the Runs Girls phenomenon. These are young women who sleep with men for money. They are different from the traditional prostitutes who to stay in rented apartments from where they receive men.
These new prostitutes have no particular address. They are seen at popular joints like night clubs, relaxation spots and even around hotels. They usually operate at night.
One of the major places they are found is at Abakiliki Street which was renamed Club Street by Gov Willie Obiano after he was a guest at one of the night clubs.
Abakaliki Street is quite an interesting place to be. It is a place where activities go on almost 24 hours. Street trading takes place there at all hours and with the street lights blazing, the night appears like day.
What however adds to its popularity is the large number of girls that swarm all over the place, turning it to a sex market. The girls range from students to those working for pea nuts in private companies and who want to make ends meet. Men can be seen stopping in their cars to bargain with the girls for sex after which they go with them.
But it has not been all smooth sailing for such girls as sometimes they fall victim to Yahoo Boys who either gang rape them or kill them for money making ritual purposes. Some turn mad after sessions with such boys.
Four weeks ago, there was this story of a girl who was dropped off one morning at Regina Caeli Junction in Awka by a young man driving a jeep. He was said to have also dropped her luggage beside the road. But the moment the girl came down, she started to behave strangely and to remove her dress, prompting the young man to ask her if she took anything from his house; that he warned her against doing that. He then drove off. By that time the girl had taken off all her clothes and asking the men around to kiss her. She was eventually taken to a prayer house.
Two weeks after that incident, the body of a girl said to be a third year student of UNIZIK was found dumped on a road at Commissioners' Quarters, Awka, one morning. Her eyes had been plucked out and her pants missing.
One of these Runs Girls had narrated how she was taken by one man in a tricycle to a building in Nawfia and gang raped for three days. Her hands were tied and they threatened to dismember her and dump the rest of her body inside a soak away pit in the premises. While in their custody, they kept making phone calls, telling some people that ''The goods have arrived''. They continued forcing her to take hemp. She recalled seeing female shoes and dresses scattered at that place that could have belonged to past victims.
On the third night one of her abductors took her in a car and dropped her off beside a burrow pit along the express at same Nawfia. The time was 3AM. She had to walk up to a filling station where she stayed until daylight.
But bizarrely, this girl that saw hell in the hands of bad men is still doing ''Runs''.
Indeed, it is believed that these girls court trouble by the kind of business they do. They can also be seen at big supermarkets accompanied by Yahoo Boys with heavily tattooed bodies. These boys spend heavily on the girls but invariably take their pound of flesh one way or the other. It is said that they either kill the girls for money making rituals or they render them sterile by spiritually destroying their womb. Lately, they take their pants to perform rituals.
Amazingly, however, these girls don't seem to learn and thus continue falling prey to these boys.
These girls have the chance to quit now after learning the experiences of those who fell prey. But it seems the allure of money blinds them from quitting while they still have the chance.
One thing is however clear: every passing day is their last chance to quit or die.
For parents whose girls are higher institutions, pay them closer attention. All those expensive phones and dresses may have been funded by lecherous men.