The Ogun State Police Command, yesterday, said it had arrested four suspected members of the robbery gang that attacked Ekene Dili Chukwu luxury bus which was conveying 42 female secondary school students to Lagos, last Saturday, at the Oke-Odo end of Sagamu-Benin Expressway in Ijebu-East Local Government Area of the state.
The arrest was made just as indication emerged, yesterday, that the attack and reported rape on the teenage students could have been averted had the driver of the bus listened to warnings by motorists that robbers were operating ahead.
Consequently, the 52-year-old luxury bus driver, (names withheld) has been arrested and detained by operatives of the State Criminal Investigation Department, Elewe-Eran, Abeokuta.
Sources at the state CID told Vanguard that the driver would remain with them until he cleared the air on the matter.
Driver Ignored Warning
It was gathered that the gunmen barricaded the highway last Saturday night where they attacked motorists who slowed down on reaching the spot.
Some motorists reportedly suspected danger when they saw a road block ahead and stopped before the barricaded spot as they wondered why there was a road block in spite of its ban. Most of them reportedly remained on the spot, watching the turn out of event when it was apparent that robbers were operating ahead.
Motorists flagged the driver down, informing him of an impending danger ahead. But the driver reportedly ignored them.
Police sources said: “The driver is not new to robbers’ modus operandi and should have stopped to find out what the problem was.”
Confirming the arrest, spokesman for the Ogun State Police Command, Mr Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said: “The Ogun State Police Command has arrested the driver of the luxury bus that conveyed the Enugu students who were attacked by some hoodlums at Ogbere along the ever busy Ijebu/Benin expressway at 11. 40p.m. on Saturday, 31/3/2012 and four others who have been suspected to have carried out the operation.
“The other suspects arrested are Oni Olopari, Innocent Omule, Gbenga Adebayo and Samuel Luca. Driver of the bus has identified Samuel Luca as one of those who attacked them that night.
“In the same vein, the command was able to recover some items in the suspects’ houses at Ijebu Ife and Ijebu Imushin, including some plastic chairs contained in a broken down vehicle at the scene of the robbery, the recovery of these chairs assisted the police to focus more on the suspects who were raided in their hideout at Ijebu Imushin after a tip off. The command is still intensifying efforts to arrest the fleeing members of the gang.”
During investigation, one of the suspects, Lucas, was discovered to have been residing in a military barracks in Ilese area of the the state before he was ejected for an undisclosed offence.
Transport Firm Blames Parents
Meanwhile, the management of Ekene Dili Chukwu Transport Company Limited, in its official reaction three days after the incident said although the attack by armed robbers was regrettable, it, however, blamed the attack on some parents of the students.
The company’s General Manager, Mr. Charles Obiora, in an interview with Vanguard said the second bus sent to convey the stranded students travelled in the night because some parents insisted that their children must be brought to Lagos that night by all means. He stated that the company had a record of cordial relationship with the school and Parents Teachers Association, adding that the company has a standing policy not to travel at night following the spate of insecurity in the country.
…Dismisses Rape Case
The company also dismissed as baseless and unfounded rumours that some students were gang-raped by the hoodlums who hijacked the bus, challenging any parents to show evidence of such from a government certified medical report.
According to Obiora, “the incident is highly regrettable, I must say but again, it will be suicidal for any transport company to send his driver on a long journey with a dysfunctional vehicle, especially that conveying students.
“On that day when we got the report that the bus conveying them to Lagos had developed fault, we promptly dispatched another one in good shape to fetch the stranded students but when we discovered that it was getting late into the night, we got through to the driver to drive them to a safe spot but some parents who were at our Fadeyi park insisted that they would not leave until they set their eyes on their wards.
“This was why the driver continued the journey to Lagos even against our policy. I want to say that the company maintains a 17-year robust relationship with the school and the PTA. Instead of engaging in a media war, parents should help the victims overcome the psychological trauma their wards have suffered from.
“It is true that the bus ran into a gang of armed robbers, but about 17 of the students had disembarked on the order of the hoodlums while they were being searched and robbed of their valuables but at the sight of a patrol van that was on routine patrol of the road, one of the robbers jumped into the bus and zoomed off into the bush not too far from the scene of incident.
“The vehicle and the remaining 25 students on board were later recovered where they were abandoned. I can tell you that nobody was raped and I challenge any parent who said his or her daughter was raped to come up with a medical report from a government hospital to that effect.”
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