Resurgence of Keke Robberies in Awka

… Victims Recount Ordeal,

From around the last quarter of last year, 2022, it nearly became customary that no day ended without news of people losing mobile phones to pickpockets and bag snatchers. A story was told of a student who was shot dead in the process of a struggle between him and some boys trying to forcefully collect his phone. Nonetheless, the prevailing style now is the use of tricycle, popularly known as Keke, through which criminal gangs attack people at gun point or use knives and other dangerous weapons to collect their money and other personal items, Ogochukwu Nwaokafor and Gloria Ibesi report.

While some pose as normal Keke riders and passengers, with the passengers who board them for a ride becoming their victims, some others operate as armed robbery gangs with tricycles, attacking people on the road and in their shops.

The gangsters operate along Unizik Junction, Eke Awka Roundabout, Regina Junction, Ukwu Oji, Aroma, Ifite, Amaenyi and some other parts of Awka, this operation usually kicks off in the evening when they move in groups of four or five persons inside a keke.

This menace has claimed many victims in Awka and is widely spreading to different parts of the state. Some victims who shared their encounter with Fides had this to say:

Mr David Eleke, whose encounter took place close to his house around 8.12 pm one day, said he was attacked alongside other people in his wife’s shop by a gang who took away their phones at gun point.

‘A gang of five boys operating with a tricycle waylaid me. While the others went to attack some people in a nearby shop, one of the boys came to me and demanded my phone. He had a pump action gun which he pointed to my head. I flung my phone far away from where both of us stood and upbraided him about why he needed my phone. To my consternation, he held up the gun and released shots into the air and ran away. I had previously thought the gun was not loaded. The panic caused by the shots made some other guys to quickly surrender their phones, and flee,’ Eleke recounted.

A petty trader, name withheld, narrated that she boarded a tricycle (Keke) and inside it was a lady and a man who was the Keke driver. According to her, she was pushed out of the Keke by the lady sitting at the passenger side while forcefully taking her bag from her after they covered a few distance. Due to the violent push, she fell inside a gutter and sustained some injuries.

Young Mr Chisom, whose encounter took place early in the morning, said he was on his way to morning Mass when he was robbed by the criminals.

‘On my way to morning Mass at around 5:45 am, a Keke stopped beside me, immediately I looked to see who it was, one of them pointed a gun at me and I was asked to surrender my phone. They also took other things I had with me and drove off.’ he lamented.

A Keke driver who spoke to Fides on the condition of anonymity, disclosed that the robbers were not really into the Keke business, rather some young men use Keke to rob and intimidate people, adding that they had once visited the lodge where he lived, shooting into the air and forcing people to surrender their belongings to them.

He suggested letting the state governor know about it in order to find a solution.

Mr Tochukwu Agudosi, a business man in Eke Awka Market, spoke about an attack he experienced from some hoodlums along Eke Awka Roundabout at about 6:30pm.

‘I was on my way to my shop when I received a business call from an unsaved number who claimed to be a customer. While conversing with him, he ordered for some building materials and made his payment. He asked that the goods should be way billed to him. On getting to the park for the delivery in my Toyota Camry, a keke rider with some passengers in it blocked my way.

I stepped out to find out what the problem was but was immediately surrendered by some boys with a gun asking me to enter the keke, while one of them entered my car and drove away in it. The other three young men, including the keke rider, took me to an unknown place, pushed me out of the keke and left. If not that I was a man, I would have wept like a child but I took hold of myself and made my way home,’ he said.

Another victim, Mrs Ngozi Eze, who operates a pub, narrating her ordeal, said one day, around 8:45pm when she was closing her shop situated at Oby Okoli Avenue, Awka, two young men in their early twenties, immediately jumped out from a nearby keke and accosted her. According to Ngozi, she initially thought they were customers who wanted to buy drinks, so she paid little or no attention to them until one of them got closer and pulled up his polo, exposing a gun, while he quietly whispered, ”Bring your bag or I shoot you”.

‘Immediately I felt cold, with my temperature rising so high than expected. Before I could shout, I heard a gunshot and the young robber suddenly grabbed my bag and ran back into the keke, while they zoomed off in a split second,’ she recalled.

Ugochukwu Okeke described his encounter with keke robbers as the greatest action movie that he had ever experienced.

His words, ‘I had gone to First Bank’s ATM stand along the Enugu-Onitsha Express Road to pick up the money my client sent to me to fix up his fallen wall caused by rainfall. In my inner pocket was stashed neat notes of one hundred thousand Naira in two packs.

‘I took a shuttle heading to Aroma. On getting there, I alighted and took another one going to Amaenyi. It never occurred to me that I was being trailed. Just before two poles, a keke driver suddenly over took our own keke and two boys came out, pointing a gun at me to surrender the money I withdrew from the bank or ”I would collect”. I quickly obeyed and then, they took the money, ran back to their keke and drove off.

However, in a telephone interview with the Keke coordinators in Anambra, Comrade Osita Obi, a social activist, said most criminals who operated with keke were those who did not register or belong to the body called Anambra Transport Management Code (ATMC).

Though he bemoaned the illegal activities of those marauders, he was of the view that no responsible operator with family or responsibilities would be involved in any evil act with his keke because it was registered and could easily be tracked.

Mr Obinna Okafor, a keke operator in Awka and equally a victim of keke robbery, gave a graphic experience of his encounter with the criminals, saying, ‘I was on my way to get pap for my child when two young boys entered my keke with a gun pointing at me and ordered me to submit my proceeds for the day, else they would shoot me dead. I quickly obeyed, while I was ordered to drive along NEPA (EEDC) axis where there were no street lights. They alighted there.

Mr Okafor however, revealed that during the Obiano Administration, to curb the menace of keke robberies, the state government ordered the removal of keke curtains; yet their illegal activities continued to manifest.

He further pointed out that the reason for the resurgence of keke robberies was as a result of the recent CBN cashless policy in the country, noting that some of the criminals see keke operators as the only people with cash.

Although some attributed the cause as the increased revenue from the state government, Comrade Obi said those who used their keke for robberies were those who refused to pay up the government revenue.

Comrade Obi advised that the state government should set up an interim committee to look into the affairs of the union, pending the time a new executive would be instituted. He further added that producing an official identification tag or card for those operators would go a long way in reducing the incidence of robbery in the system.