How juju, extortion, battle for supremacy caused ‘war’ in Otodogbame

Recently, a crisis erupted in the Otogbadome Community in Lagos State, in which properties worth millions of naira were destroyed. LEKAN OLABULO and KASALI QUDUS, in this piece, write that peace is yet to return to the community, just as some residents report that their family members are still missing.

Following the reported clash between two communities in Otodogbame in Lekki area of Lagos weeks back, some residents have insisted that scores of their relatives are still missing. The clashes between both communities resulted in the torching of over one hundred houses, while many were also said to have been missing.

The residents, who, on Thursday, submitted a petition to the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of zone 2, Kayode Aderanti, urged the police boss to carry out a thorough investigations into the incidents.

One of the Egun-speaking  members of the community, John Avonah, claimed that he had not seen his wife and two children since the first clash over  a month ago.

The old man, who claimed to be a fisherman, said thhat he was not around when the clash started and that he could not immediately return to the community.

Avonah, who said he was born in Otodogbame, told Sunday Tribune that he had since then been searching for his wife and children and could not find them.

Another resident, Hazume, also said that his wife and three children had been missing since the first incident. He  urged the police boss to look beyond what eminent personalities in Lekki are saying, and that the security organisation should conduct a discreet and independent investigations into the two clashes that has left many displaced.

From the several complaints, these are not the best of times for residents of Otodogbame community in Ikate area of Lekki. They have not only lost their houses to a controversial communal clash, but are also having a difficult battle to rebuild those houses.

Apart from the loss of lives in the four day-clashes, the residents have a more difficult task of remaining in the Lagos community. They have twice protested at the Lagos State House of Assembly, but their claim on the land they have occupied for years remains very bleak.

Hundreds of houses, most of which were shanties, were destroyed in a clash between Yoruba residents and other ethnic groups on one hand and their neighbours – the Egun, from neighbouring Benin Republic, three weeks ago.

The police in Lagos State and the state government described it as a crisis between the Yoruba and the Egun, while residents of the community alleged that it was an arson deliberately planned to forcefully dispossess them of their land.

The state government has denied the claim, insisting that neither the government nor any of its agencies was involved in the clash, and that it was not arson.

Dupe Akele, a resident of the community, confirmed that there was actually a clash between the Egun and the Yoruba groups, but the mother of six asserted that the misunderstanding between the two ethnic groups started more than a month before the incident.

“Though there had always been minor and major disagreements between the two groups, the latest crisis started from an effort by the Egun residents to rehabilitate a major road between the two communities,” she narrated. Akele further said that had the road rehabilitation commenced, it would have affected some of the houses and businesses owned by mostly Yoruba residents.

“This rancour led to division among the Egun into two – the pro-rehabilitation and the anti-rehabilitation group. The pro-rehabilitation groups’ is made up of the Egun, who held firmly to the mandate of rehabilitating the road regardless of whoever gets hurt, while the anti-rehabilitation group comprises the Egun who opposed the rehabilitation because of the negative effect it would have on other residents of the community. Ironically, the anti-rehabilitation group has been existing in the community before the other group,” Akele stated.

The infuriated Yoruba residents. Some of whom she referred to as ‘Area Boys’, started breaking bottles, carting away people’s property. But there was no razing of building at that time.

Akele believed that the clash between the two groups was caused by the the “security fee” usually collected by the Egun residents.

“After the two months clash between the two groups, there was a resolution that they be demarcated in terms of accommodation, hence, the Egun have their buildings on the left hand, which is renamed as Agbami, whereas the Yoruba have theirs on the right hand side of the community, called MTN Ghetto because it is directly opposite the MTN Studio,” she added

The mother of six added that: “I don’t know why they collect the security money. They are just cheating us. When we don’t have money to pay for this so-called security fee, they would storm our shops and cart away our belongings. One room tenant pays N500, while shop owners pay over N1000. But it is still dependent upon the daily turn-over,” she recounted, saying she lost well over N500,000 worth of goods and property to the crises.

Another resident, Emmanuel, who claimed to have spent over two years in the community, blamed the crisis on extortion and the domineering posture of the Egun.

“A room in Agbami area costs N4,000 monthly, which is not supposed to be. They also sell a piece of land for an exorbitant price of N30,000. Unlike the Agbami area, the Yoruba rent out a room for N1500,” Emmanuel said.

“The last crisis escalated when the Egun placed their black magic power in the middle of the road facing the Yoruba enclave. We decided not to take it anymore by burning it. We were even considerate in our retaliatory method. The Egun came to the Yoruba enclave and started razing our buildings. While retaliating, we admonished them to pack their belongings before we set their buildings on fire,” the resident explained.

He said that the major groups in the community were from Togo, Nigeria, Ghana, Cotonou, Mali and many others.

Federal, another resident of the area, also blamed the crisis on the abduction of one of the Yoruba residents called Aloma, who was beaten to stupor by the Egun. “As of Thursday, nobody knew the whereabouts of the abducted man.

The family of Aloma came to the community this morning to inform us that Aloma was yet to be found ever since the fight started. Aloma was the first to be kidnapped by the Egun squad called Gbasibe Group,” Federal said

A member of the Benin community, Bolaji, who was one of those who opposed the road rehabilitation, claimed to have escaped death narrowly.

Some of his friends from the opposing group attacked and almost killed him.

Tajideen Abiodun, another resident of the town, also blamed the crisis on supremacy battle between the Nigerians and the foreigners, who are in large numbers in the community.

“This land belongs to a man called Bello, who initially appealed to Julius Berger to sand-fill the whole place since nobody erected any building on it. Later, people leveraged on this opportunity and started residing here,” Abiodun claimed.

“In 2014, some people were in control, but they were chased away by residents who saw them as saboteurs because of their shady dealings like selling more than hundred tippers of sand to the detriment of the community’s environment.”

The image maker in charge if the state police command, Dolapo Badmos stated that the police had continued to maintain peace in the community and insisted that the police only responded to a communal clash.