Criminals seize Lagos communities, police indict landlords
•Owners of abandoned buildings serving as criminals’ hideouts may forfeit property —Govt •Over 100 suspected criminals arrested in three days
Some residents are making life difficult for others in Lagos. BOLA BADMUS, LEKAN OLABULO and OTARU OVOSI went on the trail of these undesirable elements.
THE police are working to unravel a new wave of criminality gripping communities in two of the five divisions making up the country’s largest economy and most populated state and have officially told Saturday Tribune that investigators are closing in on landlords of the affected areas as the major culprits.
While the indicted landlords are not on the roads and lonely streets inflicting terror on the residents, motorists and other road users, they have been fingered alongside other residents as patrons of criminals who have in recent time been wreaking havoc in communities in the Ikorodu and Ikeja divisions of the state, while the remaining three divisions, Badagry, Lagos Island and Epe, are not totally immune from the current wave of criminality.
Saturday Tribune investigation revealed that criminals in recent months, starting from last year, have been pouncing on early risers, those who are vulnerable in daytime as well as those returning home late, making the Mile 12, Ketu, Ajelogo, Oniyanrin, Oremerin, Agiliti, Obanta axis, a hell on earth.
In the course of the week, the police authorities in the state told Saturday Tribune that a mopping-up operation was ongoing to rid the communities of the bad eggs.
The image maker of the state police command, Bala Elkana, confirmed that the police had identified the affected areas and that no fewer than 100 suspected cultists and miscreants were, between Monday and Wednesday, arrested in simultaneous operations in parts of Ketu and Mile 12.
Elkana accused residents and landlords in the areas of aiding the activities of the different criminal groups in Ketu and Mile 12 and promised that the police would ensure a continuation of the operation.
“Just today (Wednesday), we arrested over 65 suspected area boys in simultaneous operations in Ketu and Mile 12. We started the operation about two days ago and we are going to sustain it to ensure lasting peace in the area.
“Before the ongoing operations, we had always ensured safety of lives and property in the areas. We had arrested many of them (the area boys) in the past and charged them to court,” he said.
He, however, pointed out that “many of the residents are responsible for the attacks. They know these criminals. They encourage them. They (the criminals) live among them. They should report these criminal elements to the police.”
Elkana also assured residents of Ketu/Mile 12 that the police would flush out the miscreants from their communities and urged them to be “calm and go about with their legitimate businesses without entertaining any fear,” while also advising them to report any suspicious activity of any group of people to the police.
Criminals seize communities
Lagos has acquired the reputation of a never-sleeping state and a city perpetually in a hurry. Those two attributes should be a testament to the gradual fulfiment of the dreams of the modern-day founding fathers to turn it to a mega-city, running at par with its contemporaries all over the world. However, some bad boys (and a couple of bad girls) are seeing to it that the supposed attributes are becoming sad realities for their fellow residents by making sure they are not enjoying their sleep anymore and when on the street, have to be practically running to escape the daily trauma these bad elements bring upon affected residents and commuters.
One of the core areas of governance in which administrations in the state have shown considerable interest and intent in the last few years is provision of security, and from the creation of Rapid Response Squad (RRS) to Special Task Force and Neighbourhood Watch, as well as the acquisition of multi-billion naira security equipment, successive administrations have tried to create an identity in crime fighting.
Much as they have tried to protect the state, residents have continued to suffer from different criminal activities that are even peculiar to their communities and the situation has continued unabated.
Taking a retrospective look at what happened in some areas in the state between 2010 and 2011, one may have to give credit to the administration of then-Governor Babatunde Fashola for the decision to demolish Akanimodo/Ajelogo slum, a suburb around Mile 12 in Agboyi Ketu Local Council Development Area.
Ajelogo was characterised by all kinds of nefarious activities, including rape, armed robbery, cultism, filth and street fight, which ripple effects affected all the Mile 12 neighbourhoods – Mile 12 market, Agiliti, Kosofe, Alapere, Ketu and Maidan Orile.
After Oshodi was transformed, the once notorious slum and crime zone was turned into a serene and appealing environment, so were Mile 12 and neighbouring communities, as well as Berger and other places where government intervention yielded commendable results, despite the Mile 12 trading activities.
Now, Mile 12 and environs are fast losing their serenity and peace again because the prohibited activities that led to the demolition of some of its areas are crawling back into it. Cult clashes and violent gang wars have become a daily occurrence in the areas.
Descending into an inglorious past?
Saturday Tribune investigation showed that agbero and trading activities are now rife under the Mile 12 bridge. Some joints with makeshift buildings are also gradually surfacing in the Ajelogo area. There are many spots around Mile 12 where area boys now trade in and smoke Indian hemp with impunity.
For about one year now, residents of Ketu and Mile 12 have continued to be at the mercy of hoodlums and cult members who not only kill and main them but also subject them to series of robbery attacks and loot their properties.
The post demolition Ajelogo showed that the Lagos State government had not fulfilled wholly its intention to build an ultramodern market that would be allocated to genuine occupants when it is completed and becomes fully operational.
Now, a few makeshift shops have resurfaced in some of the spaces on the large expanse of land which, if allowed to remain standing, would become a new breeding ground for notoriety as residents have daily experiences of attacks and chaos as a result of the resurgence of criminal activities around Ketu and Mile 12 .
The effects of a concentration of miscreants and hoodlums around Ajelogo and Mile 2, street trading and parking of vehicles around the market areas and under the bridges are not far-fetched. These unlawful activities breed regular traffic snarl, street fighting, incessant killings, pick-pocketing and robbery.
As the commercial hub of the country, every forthright-minded person should feel safe and go about their business at any given hour of the day without worry. Unfortunately, many decent and responsible residents have fallen victim to these armed criminals who unleash terror on Lagosians and throw them into perpetual fear.
Our nightmarish experiences -Victims
Mr Odudu Peter (not real name) said: “About five weeks ago, on a Monday morning, while heading to my place of work, I saw some groups of young men, mostly in black-on-black outfits, engaging in heated arguments. I began to feel apprehensive that this might not end well. At about 3.00 p.m., a neighbour called to warn me to be cautious when returning from work because about three people had been killed. Those of us living in the Mile 12 area are still tensed up about the incident.”
Some people living on the Mainland and working on the Island, like their counterparts in other parts of the state and neighboouring Ogun State, leave their homes very early in the morning for their places of work. Alhaji Adegbayi Taofiq (not real name) is one of those people. He said he usually set out to his place of work on the Island with two other men in his neighbourhood who also work on the Island. “We usually set out at 4.00 a.m. and we go in groups to reduce the chances of being attacked by the devilish boys who usually lay siege to Oniyanrin Street, Oremerin Street, Agiliti Road, Federal, Obanta and under Mile 12 bridge. Despite going in groups, these miscreants have become so desperate that they take on anyone or group who dares to be smart.”
Adegbayi said despite the moves by him and other residents to scare the hoodlums from attacking them, there have been cases where they were caught unawares by different gangs and got robbed of their phones and other valuables.
He added: “I am petrified by encounters like that. We are living in jeopardy. As a matter of fact, a young man who was commuting in a Keke NAPEP once sustained a deep machet cut on his back. These boys are armed with cutlasses, knives, axes and guns. You dare not engage them. Just submit all they request for. God save you if you do not have money or phone on you..
“Men and women, traders, workers, have fallen prey to these boys. This situation begs for the attention of the the Lagos State government, security agencies and social agencies. The streets around the Mile 12 market are congested with trading activities and double parking of vehicles on both sides of the road. Area boys are trading in and smoking Indian hemp with reckless abandon and committing unspeakable atrocities in braod daylight.”
One development that now resonates with residents of the affected communities is the allegation by the police that landlords are aiding the criminals terrorising the areas. Saturday Tribune’s interactions with residents of the communities showed a common belief that the criminals are either known by the landlords or that they are children of some influential people of the areas. “These bad boys are not invisible to the various market and community leaders in the Mile 12 axis, as well as the market, which is now almost dominated by non-Yoruba traders. Now the suspicion of the worried residents has veen confirmed by the security agency that is primarily responsible for the protection of lives and properties,” said a respondent..
Findings also showed that the Mile 12 axis has been turned into a parking lot, especially by Hausa traders who have a long stretch of their trucks and buses parked on both sides of the roads. Agiliti is a double-lane road, on each side of which are long stretches of parked trucks and buses from the main market through the bridge that leads to Agiliti Estate.
Also, streets such as Oniyanrin have long lines of trucks and buses parked on them. Oremerin and Obanta streets have all kinds of vehicles double-parked on them. “The bad boys usually hide in-between these parked vehicles to launch attacks on unsuspecting residents, especially in the early hours of the day and late night. Many of us, residents, are worried that if this impunity is not curbed, the Hausa traders will invade every nook and cranny and permanently turn all the axes to parking lots and create a perpetual crime zone and easy get-away for the criminals,” said another respondent.
Josiah Itopa was robbed alongside Alhaji Adegbayi Taofiq, with whom he and another man usually move as a group. He said: “I once escaped these guys before I eventually began to set out with Alhaji and Mr Adetola Olawale. March 4, 2020 has kept playing on my mind because on that day, someone got a deep machet cut. This particular victim struggled with them a bit. As a matter of fact, when one of them grabbed me from behind, I thought he wasn’t strong enough and it crossed my mind to attempt overpowering him. Thank God I didn’t go ahead and execute that thought. Maybe I would have been cut with a dagger. I surrendered to these boys, gave them the money I had on me and my phone in order to avoid being brutalised.”
A certain Mr Paul is recovering from a serious knife injury. “I was not their primary target, a young woman was. It was around 6 o’clock in the morning. As they went after her, I decided to intervene and the next thing that happened was blood dripping from l my head, my back and legs. Although they did not take anything from me, they injured me badly,” he said.
We nabbed 54, we need more information –Task force
Lagos Special Task Force, created to make life more peaceful for the residents, confirmed the arrests of 54 suspects.
Its spokesperson, Taofiq Adebayo, in an interview with Saturday Tribune, said: “We have gone there. We have been there on a regular basis. We are working in conjunction with the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC). Around that axis, we do raid once or twice a week and LAGESC has had to station its officials there permanently to control traders displaying their wares on the walkways and by major roads.
“Most of these offenders, the traders, are charged to court and made to pay fines and many others were given community service. It is not only in that area that we are working; we are working across the state. It is the primary responsibility of LAGESC to address issues that have to do with traders, but of course, it is equally part of the responsibility of the task force. We decided to be working together in order to have effective and efficient result. That is what we have been doing.
“As I am talking to you now (Wednesday afternoon), we are at Iyana Ipaja area and just yesterday we were at Ikeja Along, dislodging the illegal traders there. We have our own itinerary. We are moving from one area to another and until everyone complies with the Lagos State Environmental Law, the two agencies will not relax.
“Arrest of criminals is a daily routine. Last Monday, we were at Mile 2 and about 54 miscreants were apprehended. We go round the state in collaboration with the Divisional Area Police. We encourage members of the public to be giving us more information. We don’t need their names, we don’t need their addresses; it is just for them to be passing information across to us in order to serve them better.”
Abandoned buildings used by criminals may be forfeited –Govt
On Ajelogo Estate, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, said: “I have spoken with the Commissioner for Housing. It is not our estate. He said maybe it is owned by a local government, but does not belong to the state government. The state government does not have an estate there.
“The state government is going to look into all abandoned buildings in the state which criminals are using as hideouts.
“We are going to look at the law and the owners of such buildings may forfeit them after being given a notice and once such notice expires and they are not occupying or doing anything about them, they will be forfeited to the state government.”