In recent times, rival groups of hoodlums have held the city of Ibadan by the jugular. TUNDE OGUNESAN reports on the origin of the gangs and what the police have been doing to ensure the safety of lives and properties of residents even as they effect more arrests of the suspects.
IBADAN is oftentimes relatively at peace except for occasional waves of protests and armed robbery attacks mostly orchestrated from outside the state. However, in recent times, this peaceful ambience has come under threat. Just like in the other parts of the country where rival cult groups terrorise residents, Ibadan is beginning to feel the heat of cult clashes and terror.
The activities of these hoodlums shocked residents of the city, including the security agencies last September when rival groups engaged themselves during which two persons were killed while properties worth millions of naira were destroyed. In December the event repeated itself when in the full glare of the public, two of the cult groups in the city known as ‘One million Boys’ and ‘Indomie Boys’ clashed again. One other group is named Abe Igi boys. Notable among the hoodlums was one Moshood Oladokun aka Ekugbemi.
In fact, Ekugbemi boasted of his notoriety status an untouchable and his connection with top politicians in the state. A Sunday Tribune source said Ekugbemi once displayed his diabolic strength when a police officer tried to demobilise him by shooting at his legs, but he shrugged the bullets off. Some of the other hoodlums, according to the police, include one Mutiu Lawal aka Eleyele; Abeeb Oladit aka Atama and Akinkunmi Abioye aka Ajanaku and Alaba aka Ojoweliweli.
Who are these boys?
Sunday Tribune gathered that the One Million Boys, the Indomie Boys and Abe Igi Boys have the same roots in Odua People’s Congress, the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and other groups which worked for some big guns as land-grabbers in Lagos. Sources revealed that at the heart of the clashes between the leadership of the so-called groups was power tussle and financial control, details of which could not be revealed. Unconfirmed report, however, said the cult leadership had the backing of the big and the mighty in the society, suggesting that this could be the source of their supremacy battle.
Their activities, meetings and operations are mostly around the traditional inner city of Ibadan, such as Beere, Foko, Idi-Arere, Kudeti, Mapo, Born Photo, Ode-Aje, Odo-Oba, Ile Tuntun, Ilupeju, and others. Reasons adduced for residing or operating in these areas, according to investigations, are not unconnected with the fact that these locations are porous.
Most of the houses they inhabit, according to our investigations, have been left vacant by the original owners. The miscreants, whom sources revealed were dislodged from Lagos, freely live in these compounds and continue to constitute a threat to residents of their immediate communities and the larger society.
Sunday Tribune learnt further that the miscreants and their movements are well known by members of their communities, but nobody is courageous enough to report them to the security agencies for fear of reprisal.
First, the topography of the flash points has continually been a setback for the security agencies. Secondly, according to the image maker of the Oyo State Police Command, Superintendent of Police (SP) Adekunle Ajisebutu, there is lack of cooperation from the citizens with the police and other security agencies.
“The way the houses are built, there are no [well-planned] streets. When the suspects commit offences, they run into the buildings and manoeuvre their way to escape. Unlike other parts of the country where streets are properly laid out which affords the police the opportunity to patrol these places,” Ajisebutu, explained, noting that the state Commissioner of Police (CP), Samuel Adegbuyi recently ordered a deployment of Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) to some areas, including massive deployment of mobile policemen to complement the effort of conventional policemen.
Not our boys
But these gangs have been disowned by all the registered unions they were associated with. Factional state Chairman of OPC, Comrade Rotimi Olumo, debunked the link between the hoodlums and his group, ditto the state chairman of the NURTW, Alhaji Taofeek Oyerinde, who said the hooligans could never be members of his union, noting that his people often carry valid identification cards.
“I learnt from the new police area commander in Iwo Road, who has just been transferred from Lagos that the ‘One million’ boys migrated from Lagos State.
“I heard that police in Lagos were ruthless with the boys, a reason they fled Lagos to take Ibadan as their new abode. I enjoined the security agents to use as a deterrent to other members of the gang. This will stop the menace of the boys in the state,” Oyerinde said.
In the same vein, Comrade Olumo in a press release stated that “Gani Adams-led OPC in the state would never support any act or group that acts contrary to the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or go against the principle which informed the emergence of the OPC in the state and the nation in general.
“The Yoruba socio-cultural organisation is not unaware of the activities of some unscrupulous elements to tarnish its image, thereby putting it in disrepute. Despite efforts to complement the police in their fight against crime and criminals, OPC detractors are all out to portray this group in a bad light.”
Comrade Olumo, said that his group was ready to collaborate and support the police to ensure that the “undesirable elements are brought to book.”
Enough is enough
The Media Assistant to the Olubadan of Ibadan and the Olubadan-in-Council, Mr Adeola Oloko, in an interview with Sunday Tribune noted that every resident of Ibadan is concerned, while revealing the plan of the palace to rid the city of the miscreants.
“The Olubadan and the Olubadan-In-Council, who are people of proven integrity and good characters will not fold their arms and allow the city they laboured to build to be destroyed by some hoodlums who had nothing to lose.
“The Olubadan and the Olubadan-in-Council had concluded all arrangement to assist the security agencies to rid Ibadan of these hooligans. In a few weeks, a town hall cum stakeholders meeting where all High Chiefs, Chiefs and Baales would be involved will held where all cogent and highlighted points which had been deliberated on at the highest level of the Ibadan traditional council will be thrashed.
“I want to assure you that the outcome and the effect will be what we will be proud of at the end of the day,» Oloko stated.
The police are ready…
Ajisebutu, said the state CP, had taken measures that would permanently checkmate the hoodlums’ reign of terror.
“The so-called One million boys are a group of hoodlums, miscreants and cult members…Often times, they engage in supremacy battle with another rival cult groups called Indomie boys. Their activities have become a thorn in the flesh of law and the citizens in Ibadan.
“We need robust intelligence network and collaborative efforts of all stakeholders, cooperation of their sister agencies, community leaders, the media, and of every law abiding citizens in the state. The good news is that we have arrested very many of them in the past, and those arrested have been arraigned in court with some of them currently in prison custody,” the PPRO said.
The police’s efforts indeed paid off when in December 2016 the kingpins were nabbed in Lagos during a shootout. Ekugbemi was arrested in his Ajah hideout with some accomplices, including Ajanaku who was said to be harbouring him.
News of his arrest and that of 165 other members of the group, penultimate Friday, resonated round the city of Ibadan where they used to hold sway. While parading the notorious gang leader, the state commisioner of police, Adeguyi said Ekugbemi was responsible for the spate of violence recorded in locations around the city like Born Photo, Isale Osi, Beere, Mapo, Idi-Aro and other places.
The suspects, from whom were recovered large cache of arms and live cartridges, stolen vehicles, motorcycles, electronics, i-phones, indian hemp, fake currencies, and other valuables had been on the radar of SARS for months.
Ekugbemi especially was suspected of leading his gang to disrupt apolitical rally holding at the campaign office of Governor Abiola Ajimobi in 2015 at Oke Ado, Ibadan. During the fracas, a police Inspector was killed while a Deputy Supritendent was severely injured with pellets buried in his skull.
In his confessional statement, Ekugbemi, who said he could not understand why he was arrested by the police, confirmed that there was fracas during a carnival held at Born Photo area of Ibadan after the Eid-el-Kabir festival in 2016, and that he returned to Lagos after handing over two people apprehended by his group to operatives of Operation Burst the security outfift put in place by Oyo State government provide security at the carnival. Another suspect, Lawal, claimed that he was present at the carnival where two people, one of whom was his immediate younger brother, were killed, said he did not participate in the reprisal killing or destruction of property. The suspect disclosed that he had seen a gun with Ekugbemi before. He added that it was one Ilesile who shot dead one of Ojo Weliweli’s boys dead to avenge the killing of two of Ekugbemi’s followers.
One Abeeb, also a suspect, said that he met Ekugbemi through Lawal and confirmed that Ekugbemi always carried a pistol on him every time, but he (Abeeb) had to use a stick to defend himself when he was caught in the fracas that occurred at the carnival.