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Beware Of Buea 

By Isidore Abah
Until recently, Buea, the Regional capital of the Southwest was fondly referred as the “town of gentlemen”. In fact, the out-gone Mayor, Charles Mbella Moki, insisted on Buea being called the “Town of the legendary hospitality”. He procured stickers to this effect; and they now adorn automobiles and other immovable property in and out of Buea.
Another thing that Mbella Moki was credited with was the near total ban of motorcycle taxis on Buea streets. So, even though he failed to check the rude approach to driving and the general devil-may-care attitude of taxi drivers in the capital city, there still remained some measure of sanity or, if you will, some safety on the streets of Buea. It is far from being the case today, barely some a few months after he quit the Town Hall for the Senate.
Motorcycle taxis popularly known as bendskins are almost having a field day, plying the streets of the town. And causing untold havoc in the process. Besides constituting a menace to other road users by way of the recklessness with which they ride, several cases of thieves on bikes have been reported in the town ever since these riders started having a “field day”. Also, cars have been broken into and robbed of their contents like stereos and other valuables.
For example, on Friday, November 13, along the old GCE Board Road, Ms. Francisca Wache, who earns a living from selling roasted food by the road, was mugged and her handbag snatched. It was at precisely seven o’clock in the evening. While she screamed in desperation, the “riding thieves” fled off with their loot of about FCFA 60.000 and personal identification papers. According to her, this was money meant for her rents and other needs.
A few days before this incident, another woman was mugged in like manner along the main boulevard of Buea at about 10 pm. On Thursday night, one such “bendskin” rider practically rode into a jeep just next to Eta Palace Hotel destroying the front passenger door in the process. 
While major metropolises in Cameroon like Douala and Bamenda, and towns in the Southwest Region like Limbe, Kumba and Tiko, are struggling to emulate the example of Buea, which had, for many years, resisted the infiltration of commercial motor bikes in the municipality, the town of Buea is rather fast becoming the hub of benskin activities in the Region.
Interesting to note is the fact that when the former Senior Divisional Officer of Wouri, Bernard Okalia Bilai, was appointed Governor of the Southwest Region, the move was greeted with a lot of enthusiasm by inhabitants of the Southwest Regional capital. Many had thought that the appointment of an astute Administrator like Okalia Bilai, who was known to have waged a spirited war to dislodge benskin riders in Douala to head the Southwest Region, any attempt by them to infiltrate the municipality and operate under his very nose would never come to fruition.
But contrary to these expectations, while Kumba, Limbe and Tiko are fighting off these commercial motorbikes or restricting them to the peripheries, Buea, which is the seat of the Governor, seems to be acting as a “safe haven” for this apparent wayward lot. 
The situation is very appalling especially on Wednesdays when taxis are scarce in Buea, due to the weekly cleanup campaigns instituted by the Southwest Administrators. The bike riders on their part are exploiting such opportunities to make fast money for themselves taking little or no cognizance of the safety of their passengers.
However, the Mayor of Buea Council, Patrick Ekema Esunge, thinks otherwise. Speaking to The Post on December 18, he said the Council is resolute in her efforts to clamp down on any bendskin caught on the major streets of the municipality.
According to him, 13 motor bikes have already been impounded by the Council for operating beyond the areas reserved for them. He added that in a recent meeting held between the Council, executives of the Bike Riders Union in Muea and elements of the forces of law and order, it was resolved that the bike riders should only operate in the areas that have been mapped out for them by the Council.
The bike riders have reportedly promised to respect and operate only within the areas that have been accorded to them by the Council. They have, however; appealed to the Divisional Officer for Buea to sign the proposed papers that would enable them obtain identification badges and registration for their motor bikes.
According to one of the bike riders, Elvis Chi, most of the atrocities like theft, rape and accidents which they are accused of, are committed by people who are not commercial bike riders but owners of private motor bikes. 
To him, the identification badges which they are currently awaiting for the DO to issue would greatly help to reduce these ills, since many people will be able to identify the perpetrators of such heinous acts.
But the heinous acts continue. Damaris Ndifon, a call box operator at Sandpit Buea, was, on December 23 attacked by two men on a motor bike as they attempted to snatch her handbag. The handbag, she later disclosed, contained circa FCFA 70,000 and six mobile phones.
She recounted that it was at about 9 pm after she had closed for the day and was on her way home. At Bonduma Gate, as she alighted from a taxi, two young men on a motor bike suddenly emerged behind her. 
“As I was trying to move away from the road to allow the bike pass, the one behind stretched his hand and grabbed my handbag and started pulling it. Unfortunately for him, I had a firm grip on the bag. But in the course of our struggle, I fell on the tarmac and the bike pulled me for a distance and I sustained severe injuries on my leg. Fortunately for me, the leather handle he was holding detached from the bag and they rode off,” Ndifon recounted.
Ndifon said she could not recognise the young men but that they might have trailed her from Sandpit, where she works, to Bonduma, where she lives. 
 

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