Lagos EndSARS protests: The ‘mourning’ after

•Awolowo helped raise 2.5 million pounds to build City Hall, now they’ve burnt it — 88-yr-old Jawando •‘Attack on Igbosere Court, destruction of Lagos’s legal history’

ALTHOUGH peace is fast returning to the streets of Lagos, the nerve centre of the nation’s economy, there is yet no relief for residents who lost fortunes to the crisis that engulfed the city in the past few days.

A peaceful demonstration aimed at ending police brutality and putting a halt to the inglorious reign of the dreaded anti-robbery unit of the Nigerian Police, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which commenced in some parts of the metropolis a few weeks ago went awry on Tuesday, October 20, after some soldiers allegedly shot at the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate venue of the crisis.  The repercussions of the action across the metropolis were devastating.

In Fagba, in Ifako Ijaye Local Government Area of the state, one of the hotspots of the crisis, property worth billions of naira were looted and destroyed. The property included two fuel tankers, 40 vehicles, including commercial tricycles, popularly called Keke Marwa, and all stalls at the popular Fagba Market. The popular spare part shops in the area, a new supermarket at Fagba Junction and the Five Shops by the side of the eatery at the end of the popular lndependence Hotel in the area, among others, were not spared. More worrisome to the residents was the seemingly coordinated attacks on public and private buildings, especially places of historical importance such as the Igbosere High Court, the palace of the Oba of Lagos, Nigerian Port Authority (NPA), Lagos City Hall and 17 police stations.

 

How Igbosere High Court was attacked –Staff, resident

An incident that will linger in the memories of residents, especially workers of Igbosere High Court who had resumed for duty on Wednesday, October 21, was the destruction of the nation’s oldest judicial building. The hoodlums reportedly invaded the place in the morning and carted away valuables and sensitive materials from the building, formerly known as the Lagos Supreme Court. Speaking on the attack on the court with a history dating back to the period of cession of Lagos to the British government as a colony, a worker of the court, told Saturday Tribune of how the hoodlums came with weapons to loot the judicial monument before setting it ablaze. The worker, who witnessed the incident but who would not want his name in print, said the hoodlums arrived on the court premises as early as 9.00 a.m., brandishing guns, cutlasses, axes and other dangerous weapons, ready to take on whoever would stand between them and the realisation of their mission – to loot and strip the building of its glory. After the attack, he stated, seized cars and other property within the court premises were burnt, with some carted away.

“We ran away when the hoodlums arrived with guns, cutlasses, hammers and axes. They threatened to shoot at us. It was a horrible day. The incident happened at about 9.00 a.m. The boys put everything up in flames. I can’t really talk on some of the judgment records being housed in the court because I am not a judge but I’m sure that all the cars collected through the Deputy Sheriffs were torched,” he stated.

While the respondent might not be categorical on the destruction of records kept in the building, there are indications that the attackers were unsparing. For instance, a few days ago,  a legal practitioner, Mr Tade Ipadeola, cried out that the High Court in Igbosere had lost processes filed in the lawsuit instituted against the All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, Bola Tinubu, and tax consultancy firm, Alpha Beta Consulting, by a former Managing Director of Alpha Beta, Dapo Apara. “Everything in Igbosere High Court got burnt, including the registrar’s copy of our application. In fact, the whole building was burnt to ashes. So, we will have to file again. The registry has been moved to Ikeja,” Ipadeola, who is the counsel for the plaintiff, stated.

The account of the incident by a resident, Usman Taofeeq, to Saturday Tribune, was more vivid and supportive of Ipadeola’s claim. Taofeeq, a frequent visitor to the court, said all documents and files were destroyed by the hoodlums, even as they carted away some other things they could not burn. He also confirmed that the more than 30 burnt cars seen by Saturday Tribune on the premises was the handiwork of the hoodlums. Taofeeq added that some of those vehicles were seized, while six Lagos State judiciary buses were burnt and a Ford car belonging to one of the judges was also lost to the attack.

“Everything was destroyed – buildings, documents and files. Property that they could not burn, they carted away. What you are seeing now is an empty building. One staff bus and six Lagos State judiciary buses were set ablaze. More than 30 cars were also set ablaze, including the ones belonging to individuals who regularly parked their vehicles within the court premises because of lack of space in their abode. A judge who recently collected his official car, a Ford brand, from the state government, lost the car to the arson. The hoodlums went everywhere in the court. They went to the chambers and carted away the fans and air conditioners therein.  They even took their time to unscrew some of the electrical appliances, using screw drivers. In fact, they went to the toilet and loosened the hand drier,” Taofeek explained.

 

Royal silence

Mum was the word within the royal quarters in the state when Saturday Tribune attempted to get updates on the assault on the highly historical monument and official residence of the Oba of Lagos, the Iga Iduganran. The edifice, said to have been built in 1670 for Oba Gabaro, one of the monarchs of the town, was later refurbished by the Portuguese with tiles and other building materials from Portugal. Besides serving as an administration centre, it is on record that the palace also houses the tombs of all the past monarchs of the town.

Residents see the recent attack on the palace as rape of the people’s norms and traditions. Although none of the white cap chiefs was ready to volunteer any information concerning the incident, Saturday Tribune’s investigations revealed that the palace is not taking the issue of the attack lying low. For instance, it was gathered that the process of a ‘spiritual fumigation’ of the entire palace, believed to have been desecrated by the miscreants, had commenced. Part of the steps taken was a procession held by some of the palace priests around the community recently to appease some angry gods.

 

Attack on Igbosere Court, destruction of Lagos’s legal history –Resident

Pa Marcelinho Owolabi Martins would rather see the attacks, especially that of the Lagos High Court, Igbosere, as “an attempt at destroying the state’s history.” The 84 year-old indigene expressed regrets that the court, built by the British colonial masters, using a construction company, Cappa and Dalberto, over a considerable period, was destroyed within minutes. Describing the loss as colossal, Marcelinho said he believed that it would be difficult for the building and the contents destroyed to be fully restored.

Martins said: “This is a destruction of the legal history of Lagos and the loss cannot be quantified. It was burnt beyond repairs. Igbosere High Court was there before I came back from England decades ago. It was built by Cappa and Dalberto. It was built by the British colonial masters. It is a huge damage. It is a vendetta. They came to destroy Lagos.”

 

‘Attack on City Hall an abomination’

Another prominent Lagosian, Abdulwaheed Aremu Jawando, is embittered that a historical building such as the City Hall could be brazenly assaulted. While going down the memory lane, the 88-year-old Lagosian, in an emotion-laden tone, revealed how the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, used his influence to raise 2.5 million Pounds to build the historic building. Jawando, a former councillor in the area, explained that a company, Niger Soul, introduced by the sage, made the architectural design and construction that birthed City Hall in 1964.

He added: “They used 2.5 million Pounds to build the edifice, through the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He was in prison when he introduced us to Niger Soul, which made the architectural design and the construction. City Hall was built around 1964. They used only 2.5 million Pounds under the leadership of Baba Animashaun Masha and Alhaji Ganiyu Olawale Dawodu. City Hall was formerly Shanties. It comprised 42 local councils up to Surulere, Idi-Oro, Alakara, up to Apapa and Maroko. I was in the council in 1965 representing Ward G2 of Lagos Island.”

Jawando stressed the need for the relevant authorities to get to the root of the arson carried out across the state. “It is a wrong thing. No arson has ever been experienced at this magnitude. I wouldn’t know the motive behind it. There is something underneath. I believe they cannot use the EndSARS (protest) to continue to burn historic buildings like they did recently. It is quite shameful for us in Nigeria and to the people of the state. First and foremost, they must find out the root cause of all these things and try to put up a very good edifice to replace this one.”

 

Business owners lament

Living in a city like Lagos has its advantages. Seen as a land flowing with milk and honey, it is a place that embraces individuals who are desirous of exploring within the confines of the law. But events of the past few months – the COVID 19 pandemic and EndSARS agitations – are gradually dampening the enthusiasm of forward-looking adventurers. Apart from public buildings that fell to the attacks of hoodlums who hijacked the EndSARS protest, individuals’ investments were also not spared.

Mrs Igbalode (other name withheld) will never forget the recent incident in a hurry. Her jewelry and phone shops located on the Island and worth N30 million were reduced to rubble after hoodlums in the area invaded the shops and looted them, among others in the area. The business is presently shut down with the workforce sent out of job.

She said: “Besides being vandalised, all items in the shop worth about N30 million were stolen by the hoodlums. I don’t know where to start from. The destruction was total. All my staff members are presently on compulsory leave because there is no office to return to. The fact that all this is due to no fault of ours makes it quite sad and worrisome.”

If the assault on Igbalode and others in the area could be passed off as that on an elitist group, many still wonder what could be the rationale behind the attacks on small businesses on Ajeromi-Ifelodun to Ifako-Ijaiye, Agege, Ikeja, Alimosho among other local government areas of the state. Some of the traders in the areas watched helplessly for hours as their investments were looted and razed ‘in a moment of madness’.

Mr Obalowu Yusuf, a tricycle spare parts seller at 4, Olumukun Street, Amukoko in Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government Area, for example, watched from afar as miscreants vandalised and looted his shop and about 40 others in the area. Saturday Tribune’s visit to the area confirmed this. The hoodlums laid waste to almost all the shops on the street. Even shops with strong iron doors and burglary proofs had their inner partition walls with other shops drilled by attackers to gain access.

He said: “I was in my shop when they came with guns, cutlasses, hammer and other dangerous weapons. They chased us away before carrying out their mission unchallenged between 11.00 a.m. and 7.00 p.m. There was nothing anyone of us could do as they inflicted injuries on those that tried to put up resistance.”

His greatest pain, according to him, was the fact that he had just stocked his shop with spare parts worth N339,000 when the hoodlums struck and carted away the materials.

The trio of Bilikis Olaide, Yetunde Mudasiru and Ganiyat Oladejo, hair stylist/beautician, cake accessory trader and soft drink sellers, respectively, also had their shops vandalised and looted. Goods lost to the attack include hair dressing equipment, hair relaxer, weave-on, fans, generators, a fridge and a freezer. While Mrs Olaide put her loss at N1.7 million, Mrs Oladejo and Mrs Mudasiru quoted N1.5 million and N300,000 respectively. They lamented that it would be difficult for them to start over since they were from poor family backgrounds and their husbands are low income earners.

Daniel Obinna, one of the traders at AP-Oja around Isokoko in Agege Local Government Area, had his own tale of woe to share. The hoodlums had vandalised some shops in the area and carted away goods, including transistor radios, cell phones and phone accessories. Obinna put his loss at N2 million.

In Fagba in Ifako-Ijaiye, the Baale of Orile Iju, Fagba, in Ifako-Ijaiye Local Government Area, Chief Kamoru Balogun, lost his Toyota Avensis car, while Prophet Solomon Olufemi Ajao, the founder of CAC, Warrior for Christ Mission, Fagba, lost his church’s headquarters mission house, where his family lived, alongside all the items in the building, including his Toyota car.

A shop owner in the area who deals in clothes and shoes, Mr Chinedu Ben, said he had lost all that he had laboured for in life and he didn’t know where to start from again. Chinedu put his loss at N3 million.

Many houses, shops, trailers, petrol tankers, market stalls, eateries and petrol stations were looted and razed in the area. Among them were the main shops and the entire Fagba Market beside First Bank, in the area. The eatery and the newly opened supermarket at Fagba Junction had their windows shattered.

 

Light at the end of the tunnel?

Small business owners who lost their investments to the carnage and other concerned individuals have therefore called on the state government to embark on the type of gesture extended to families of the EndSARS victims.

“The state government recently set up a N200 million fund to compensate families of victims of SARS. It will not be out of place to extend such to these business owners and private investors who are at the receiving end of the crisis,” said Mr Olaiya Taiwo, a public affairs analyst.

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