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Ajegunle mayhem: Residents, Police in war of words

• One of the burnt vehicles.

By Bose Adebayo & Fredrick Okopie

AJEGUNLE, the popularly acclaimed ‘Jungle City’ in Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Area of Lagos State has always been in the news for different reasons. It is presently in the news on account of  a riot rocked the area when some youths took to the streets to protest alleged police brutality on some residents.

Problem started last Thursday when some policemen from Ajeromi Police Station allegedly invaded a viewing centre at Layinka Street in Ayetoro area to carry out an arrest which led to the death of 25 years old Charles Okafor who was at the centre to watch a football match.

His death immediately sparked off a protest by some irate youths who embarked on a reprisal action by torching houses and cars. The violent protest continued the following day, being Good Friday, but the protesters were eventually repelled by a combined team of policemen.

As at now, commercial activities in the area are at a standstill as shops and market places are under lock and key. When Vanguard Metro visited the area on Monday, worried residents called on the state Commissioner of Police to save them from the excesses of some uniformed men in the area.

At 67 Babani Street,  Madam Kate Okafor, mother of the slain Charles, told Vanguard Metro  in an emotion-laden voice her son was a law-abiding citizen before he was allegedly killed by the Police.  “Police from Ajeromi killed my son for no genuine reason. He was arrested where he was watching a football match. They were trying to take him to the station, so they used their gun butt to hit him on the head. When he fell, they said he was pretending, and they hit him again and he died,” she said.

•The Late Charles Okafor

Continuing she said: “My son was not an armed robber, he worked at Walter Carrington, Victoria Island, as a photographer and photocopier operator”.

On efforts of the Nigeria Police to bring the culprit(s) to book, she said amidst tears: “We were invited to the Police station because they told us the Commissioner of Police wanted to discuss with us; we waited until somebody told us that they were holding a meeting inside. When they came out, they went to inspect the scene, and after that went away. We didn’t have any discussion with them. No amount of compensation would bring back my son, all I need is justice”.

A possible fallout of the incident was the complete absence of police check points from the Otto Wharf  to Cardoso Street down to the Ashakpo Bus-stop unlike what obtained until recently. A motorcyclist who spoke with Vanguard Metro confirms this, saying: “Look, as a result of what happened in Ajegunle, no policeman has been courageous enough to man a road block. They know the “boys” are waiting to pounce on them any time they show their faces there because of that boy they killed”.

Some residents told this reporter a security guard with St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Ajegunle,Chukwuemeka Udeneh, was hit by a stray bullet that Thursday. When Vanguard Metro visited the Church, the Parish Priest, Reverend Father Innocent Amasiora, confirmed the incident. “I suspected that he was  hit by a stray bullet. And this was confirmed when we took him to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LUTH  where an x-ray was carried out on him, showing the bullet. I left my residence to supervise certain work going on in the parish, when I heard a yell at my gate.

I heard people shouting, Father! Father!! Father!!! I rushed to see what was happening only to discover my security guard was bleeding profusely. He said something had hit him on the chest, so I took him to General Hospital, Ajegunle where he was given First Aid treatment before he was transferred to LUTH. As I am talking to you, he is still in LUTH recuperating. We spoke today, but he said he would be discharged today(Monday),” he said. Fathe
r Amasiora also said he had reported the case at Ajeromi Police Station.

In a telephone interview with Vanguard Metro, the victim said the bullet was still inside his chest, and the hospital had asked him to return on Friday to have the pellets removed.

At Layinka axis of Ajegunle, Vanguard Metro saw the charred remains of a commercial bus belonging to one ‘Baba Layinka’ who had gone into hiding. His building at No 32 Oduduwa Street was also torched on the account of his being suspected of  being a Police informant. A source told Vanguard Metro that the youths are still waiting to vent their anger on Baba Layinka any time he shows up.

Reacting to the incident, the Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Command, Mr. Frank Mbah questioned the authenticity of the claim that  police killed anybody in the area. According to him, there was   no physical contact between the Police and some individuals in the area as alleged. He then challenged those making the claim to come forward with useful information on the identity of the deceased.

He also dismissed as hoodlums, those who took to the streets to protest the killing of the said Charles by the Police. “Those who initiated the riot are not protesters but hoodlums because there’s nowhere in the world people embark on a protest armed with guns, machetes and petrol. And I can confirm to you that they are actually hoodlums because among the things we recovered from them are two locally-made pistols, five cutlasses and five litres of petrol,” he told Vanguard Metro on telephone.

Mr. Mbah, however, appealed for patience from those who feel aggrieved, saying they should give Police time to conclude investigations into the incident. “We should grow above some of the sentiments and passions that becloud our judgements on matters like this,” he said.


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