Memoirs of a Bolt man: Death in the family

By Victor Kwame Sampong

Double tragedy befell the e-hailing community in Port Harcourt this past Tuesday as two of our colleagues were gunned down in an attempt to dispossess them of their vehicles.

When the news filtered in, it seemed as if the world stopped briefly for some of us. Many drivers had to close work prematurely, while those who routinely took night shifts were discouraged from doing so.

It didn’t take long for one of the vehicles to be recovered, less than 24 hours later, as the criminals were believed to have abandoned it because they couldn’t restart it when it went off. The car had security features after all. This begged the question: why the driver risked his life the way he did? Well, it was alleged in some quarters that the deceased tried to struggle with the criminals before he was shot.

The debate raged on from Tuesday till Wednesday in some of the e-hailing platforms I belong to. Drivers were warned, advised, told, informed, discouraged, and what have you…to stop night work. The dangers one faces at night are much more elevated than during the day. They kept on going back and forth till I got tired from my vantage observation point.

In the end, coconut heads like me still won’t heed to their warnings. Na night be our most preferred time of operation. I’ve mostly found it less stressful, easier to navigate, friendly weather plus clients and in most cases, more lucrative.

That’s how on Wednesday, (the very next day), when most of my colleagues were shutting down by 4-5pm, that was around the time I woke up from sleep, took my bath and dashed out to begin the day’s hustling. But then, I also knew I needed to be on top of my game and be extra cautious as well.

Things were moving smoothly until about 10:30pm. I just dropped off a female rider at Rumukalagbor. We were even discussing the two casualties recorded the previous day, while she also chipped in with her own close shave with men of the underworld at the now infamous Slaughter Roundabout, where she almost lost her life because some hoodlums wanted her phone (gist for another episode) that night.

Well, as we were finishing her gist, another order came in. I checked my screen and pick-up point indicated Kaduna Street, while the destination showed Oyigbo. The antennas in me stood up immediately. Everything about this one screamed DANGER.

I clicked to accept nonetheless; maybe out of curiosity.

So, I called but without a response. I called again, no response. While reversing, the person called back. He told me he needed me to pick two of his friends from Fruit Market (Kaduna Street) to Oyigbo.

“Where for Oyigbo? Chicken Republic?”, I asked.

He said yeah, but a bit further, towards the market axis.

At this time, I don already know wetin go sup. But I decided to play along further to confirm my suspicions.

So, I asked the man again the price on the app for such a journey and he replied N4,100.

I laughed and told him the price doesn’t cut it for me because it’s too far and it’s late. Immediately, he told me he’ll give me N10,000 if I agree to embark on the trip….another red flag!

No rider, no matter how rich and affluent they appear, would jump from N4,100 to N10,000 during negotiations. None! Not even one! I am now sure what he was up to. But I needed to play along some more.

The call ended abruptly and next I saw on my phone was in-app messages from Mr. Bright (Truecaller displayed name). He asked if I was still coming and I replied in the affirmative.

He now said he might even join us for the trip if I get there. I then told him that the N10,000 he offered was for both of his friends. If he was serious about joining us, then we need to review the price. Mr. Bright blew me out of the water by offering N30,000 from Fruit Garden to Oyigbo. Damn bro… Christmas came way too early!

While talking and chatting with him, I was moving gradually, very slowly along the Rumukalagbor Road, but stopped briefly at the exit onto Aba Road. He must have noticed my stationary position and made some comments about it. But I assured him that I was headed his way so he and his friends should get ready.

I would have gone to him anyway, but with a different motive. My plan was to go through Olu Obasanjo Police Station, hopefully, see any of their patrol van, make a quick report and see if they can follow me for a covert operation.

Unfortunately, the mission was abandoned as Mr. Bright might have understood that I was playing him all along, so he cancelled the trip.

After my encounter with him, I shared his contacts on the various platforms so that my guys could have it on their phones and be wary of him if and when they receive an order from him, whether day or night.

From my experience on the job, Mr. Bright might be with one of the numerous syndicates terrorizing e-hailing drivers in Port Harcourt and I hope he and his gang meet their Waterloo soon!

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