It is 6 in the morning; the time when the sun is shy. A piercing scream from a robber-bitten woman disturbs the solemnity of the casual ambience. The scream breaks into a teary wail; a wail spewing up enormous pain. It is a Monday, but it becomes a mourn day. The bitten woman lies in a pool of precious blood. She has just been rob of her possessions and shot in the waist. She is a victim of dawn robbers in Onitsha. And she is one of the vast unknown numbers in the directory of victims of dawn robbery in Onitsha.
The woman victim, in between wailings, mutters, “Two boys on Okada at gun point asked for my bag which contained fifty thousand naira and a Blackberry Phone. I resisted at first, and the one holding a gun shot me. They took my bag and sped off.” After her anguished mutterings, comes the climax of a deafening scream, e…wo! e…wo! e…wo!
Strangely, on the crimson scene only a scrawny number of people gather to help the wailing woman. The people of the area have become sated with habitual occurrence of easy, bloody, dawn robbery, that a new treat to it, is not really new or awfully exciting. Hence, only a Samaritan few have gathered to tend to the robbed and bloodied woman. Surprisingly, no one throws a thought at calling the police; it is a grieving waste of time. The hospital is the only place the wounded woman is thought to receive unsoiled attention.
The dawn tragedy soon passes, and the cacophony of jingling buses, weeping cars, whining motorcycles and heavy steps of impatient people announces the city’s humdrum awakening. The city unfurls in the accustomed pattern. All beats, no symphony. Just classic non-descript hurly-burly.
It is midday already, and there are stabbing reports of robbery attacks at different locations in the city. One knifing report says a group of shoppers were leisurely dispossessed of their belongings at a shopping plaza. This smokes out albeit contentiously and arguably a conspiracy theory since the traders at the plaza were not attacked. Another report says a mélange of girls at an eatery were robbed by supposedly gun toting security men.
The names of the crime spots and victims of these base attacks have been deliberately masked for security reasons.
As a matter of fact, a typical day for Onitsha residents is punctuated and hyphenated by robberies in shuddering successions. A day does not come to full maturity without splatters of blood from gun wounds and peals of lamentations effectuated by stolen property. In fact, in terms of robberies, Onitsha is a raging war zone.
It is 7 in the evening, and the sun has gone to sleep. There is a mad dash of people to their homes or safe havens, for it is sheer stupidity to be exposed to the evening marauders of Onitsha. The early mornings and late evenings are exclusively for intrepid Onitsha robbers. They own the times. This explains why there are few brave souls walking the streets at these times.
There are ear shutting sounds of gun shots, and frightened people scamper pell-mell. There is a robbery going on, and no one wants to be caught in the tragedy. The streets become broke. And so they remain until the night comes for a visit. The fear of night terrors keeps everyone behind iron doors as ominous dread swallows the city. The fear of the owners of town as robbers are called in Onitsha slang is the fount of wisdom.
Onitsha is a city in the pressing grip of robbers. A day comes to complete metamorphosis when spates of robberies are recorded. A day devoid of usual gut-wrenching robberies is an insipid day; insipid, because robbery attacks have become fresh meat for arresting tales, providing entertainment for some. A day without the usual tales of robberies is an entertainment starved day.
As it is now, the robberies reign unchallenged. So for those coming home this Christmas abide by the unwritten code of staying indoors in the early mornings and late evenings in Onitsha. I was given this advice, but I ignored it. And then I became a victim, that was when wisdom found me.
I have deliberately refused to name robbery prone spots, but please stay away from Upper Iweka in the early mornings and late evenings. It is a haunt for “area boys” who double as robbers.
It is a frightening reality that one of the commercial cities in Nigeria is in the fierce grip of robbers. It is more saddening that a state, Anambra, that prides itself as the light of the nation let different collections of robbers reign unchecked at its commercial epicenter. For the sake of residents and those coming home, more security initiatives and apparatuses should be deployed to scatter the nests of robbers and to shatter the concrete curtain of fear covering the city of Onitsha.
Finally, find wisdom by staying indoors early mornings and late evenings before it finds you in Onitsha. Finding it in Onitsha will cost you greatly.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and a poet.
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