• Fear hangs in the air after four hours of police/motorcycle operators gun battle
By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
A week after residents of Oke-Afa, in Ejigbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) survived a violent riot by commercial motorcycle riders, believed to be Chadians, resulting in hours of gun battle between policemen and Okada riders, residents of the area have appealed to Governor Babatunde Fashola and the Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko, to rescue them from the menace of Okada riders and street traders at the January 27 Bridge linking Ejigbo to Ajao Estate.
In a statement jointly signed by several Community Development Associations (CDAs), which included Ilamose CDA, Peace Estate CDA, January 27 CDA, Ilamose Canal CDA and Oriade CDA, they are calling on the state government to intervene in regulating the activities of the commercial motorcycle riders in the area.
“We appreciate and understand that some commercial motorcycle operators are genuine in their task to be responsible people, but we want to be able to identify them and also limit their numbers for ease of operation and identification. We also want to see visible government intervention through the ministry of transportation in the operation of these operators who have converted our streets, drive ways, properties into bus parks, okada parks, keke parks and constituting serious nuisance value and security risk to our lives and properties,” the statement said.
Making the observation that about 95 per cent of the commercial motorcycles operating in Oke-Afa and Ajao Estate do not have vehicle licence and can be easy tool for criminal activities, the CDAs want action to be taken on the illegal street market activities, which is causing traffic gridlock on the newly commissioned bridge.
“Also, there is a clear threat to the upsurge of the canal, which will ultimately threaten properties along the canal through the indiscriminate dumping of waste by the traders. We will appreciate if a team of Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) taskforce can carry out a holistic removal of these actors. We suspect the shanti houses at the bank of the canal by Aarester school harbour men of the underworld and their weapons. A visit to this place will reveal serious criminal activities.”
Apart from the menace of the Okada riders, so many businesses thrive on the bridge daily as petty traders see the location as a hub due to the influx of human and vehicular traffic. Traders display their wares on the bridge and line the road every evening, which include pepper, bread, fairly used clothes, shoes, and rechargeable lights to the admiration of passersby.
Seventy-two hours after Tuesday, August 12 incident, there were tell-tale signs of a community under siege. The worst hit was a single-storey building at No. 33, Kudirat Adenekan Street, where the Okada riders had converted into a park. The violent riot against the police had began over claims of extortion within and around Kudirat Adenekan, January 27 bridge, Chivita Avenue all in Ejigbo and Isolo LCDAs.
According to an eyewitness, many of the rioters were not Hausas because he is fluent in the language but what he heard the okada riders, in their hundreds saying, were not Hausa language. “They must be Chadians who took to the streets. They, in a violent rage, resisted the police and destroyed their vehicles. They police called for reinforcement and that was when the shooting spree began with the arrival of two police vans,” he said.
After more than three hours, the combined police team was resisted and they retreated from the scene. Thereafter, the band of okada riders took over the whole stretch of the road in exuberant jubilation at repelling the policemen when another incident lead to another shooting splurge.
While the hostility lasted, the road was shutdown by the protesters, preventing motorists from plying it at the Ejigbo and Ajao Estate end. Incidentally, a resident, Uche Ikeobi, living in the area, dared the odds and ventured out. Unfortunately, he ran into a mob that was still chanting victory songs and knocked down one of them.
Uche was immediately pounced on by the mob, unleashing mayhem on the young man, who broke away through the help of onlookers, but not without serious life-threatening injuries. He was pursued and the rioters attacked the property where the man escaped into. The young man in turn brought out his father’s dane gun and started shooting at his pursuers, which left three people seriously injured.
This incensed the mob, who began to destroy everything in sight, including three vehicles damaged beyond recognition. They broke loose the main entrance, took down doors leading to different apartments in search of the driver, looted valuables and threatened to kill the young man until the eventual arrival of Ejigbo DPO and some of his men, who whisked the man away.
While they were leaving, the mob continued to throw stones and other dangerous object towards the vehicle, leaving one policeman seriously injured. Not satisfied, the mob returned to the property and continued with their threat to burn down the house when members of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) intervened to broker a truce and calm frayed nerves.
Since Tuesday’s incident, it has been brazen acts of impunity displayed by the operators of motorcycles and tricycles. With the gloves off, residents have since been living with fear while such tendencies such as parking on the bridge and trading on the roads leading to the bridge have gone unchallenged.
An occupant of the house that was under siege, Mr. John Odi, said he has never witnessed such barefaced resistance to armed men in his life. “I have always believed a man’s resistance is weakened when he is confronting a gun but what I saw last week is difficult to explain.
“Some youths, majorly from the north, were raising all manner of weapons, planks, iron, stones and whatever they could lay their hands on to challenge policemen who were firing gunshots to discard the protesters. But the more they were firing, the more the boys were getting agitated. I went back in to avoid being hit by a stray bullet when five minutes later I saw my landlord’s son throwing stones back into the crowd.
“We had to lock ourselves inside the toilet and we heard gunshots for more than two hours. They entered the compound and started smashing everything in sight. The cars parked in the compound, including mine were completely destroyed.”
Another occupant told The Guardian that his children are yet to recover from the trauma of the incident. “My children have been extremely traumatised. Each day, they beg me to move them out of the house and since last week, I have been taking them with me to the office, as they can’t stand being left at home. I am seriously considering relocating from this area,” he said.