By Albert Akpor, JIMOH BABATUNDE, LUKA BINNIYAT, DANIEL ETEGHE, Evelyn Usman, EMMA ARUBI & Ifeanyi Okolie
LAGOS — THERE was bloodbath in Badagry, Lagos, yesterday, after a group of heavily armed soldiers from the 242 Recce Battalion, Ibereko, Badagry, took over strategic locations in the ancient town maiming and killing any policeman in sight.
This came as not less than 20 persons were feared dead in a pipeline inferno at Eko-Ovwore-Amukpe community in Okpe council area of Delta State. The incident which occurred near Jesse by the River Ethiope bank was reminiscent of the Atigwo-Jesse pipeline fire conflagration of October 17,1998 that left thousands of persons dead.
Vanguard learnt that the Divisional Police Officer in Badagry, Chief Superintendent of Police, CSP Saliu Samson; his Divisional Crime Officer, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, DSP, whose name could not be ascertained at press time, who were reportedly on their way to appeal for calm were shot dead.
The DPO’s orderly and driver were reported to be critically wounded during the encounter and are receiving treatment at the intensive unit of an undisclosed hospital.
Two police patrol vehicles belonging to the Rapid Response Squad, RRS, were set ablaze while their occupants were chased and shot dead. As at 2.30 p.m., yesterday, corpses of police officers littered the Iberepo roundabout while the rampaging soldiers were spotted with dangerous weapons scouting for police men.
Alleged reprisal attack
Eyewitnesses placed the number of policemen killed in an alleged reprisal attack by the soldiers at eight.
Vanguard gathered that some police men and their families residing in Ibereko barracks were chased out and seriously wounded.
Impeccable sources said trouble started, Sunday night, after a soldier in mufti who was escorting goods from the Seme border was accosted by a police officer attached to RRS who demanded to search the vehicle.
It was learnt that the unidentified soldier had challenged the policeman and threatened to disarm him if he did not allow the vehicle free way, and that this prompted the trigger- happy policeman to shoot at him at close range.
The soldier reportedly slumped and died on the spot. It was gathered that four of the policemen involved in the shooting incident were promptly arrested by police authorities while members of the OP Messa were mobilized to patrol the area to avoid possible break down of law and order.
The story took a different dimension after news of the killing of the soldier filtered into the Ibereko barracks. Some soldiers mobilized as early as 9 a.m., yesterday, and began to attack any policeman in sight contrary to a non-violence order given them by the commander of the barracks, Colonel Nabasa. Some men suspected to be soldiers allegedly stormed one of the new generation banks in Badagry where they attacked some policemen attached to the bank.
Vanguard learnt that the soldiers moved to the roads where they searched every vehicle going into and coming out of Badagry, apparently looking for policemen in uniform.
It was gathered that on learning of the attacks, the late DPO reportedly suggested to his DCO that they should meet with the Commandant of the Army Barracks for peace talks.
Vanguard gathered that they were shot dead when some soldiers saw their police van approaching the barracks. As at 3.30 pm yesterday, unconfirmed reports said some soldiers were still on rampage searching for Policemen to deal with in the area.
Tension in the area
Meanwhile, tension has heightened in the area as some members of the Police Mobile Unit are threatening to embark on full scale war with the soldiers over the killing of their members.
Vanguard learnt that the Police high command in Abuja has issued a directive to all the Mobile Police Commanders to maintain the peace while the authorities are reportedly meeting to iron out the problem.
Contacted, the Force Public Relations officer, DCP Olusola Amore, said he was yet to get details of the clash noting:
“Let me talk to the CP Lagos then I will be in a better position to react to the matter.” But his counterpart in the Army, Lieutenant Colonel Kayode Ogunsanya, of the 81 Division said the situation had been brought under control stressing that it will be throughly investigated.
Ogunsanya said: “The situation is under control and I can assure you that the cause of the clash will be thoroughly investigated.”
It would be recalled that a similar incident took place on October 4, 2005 at Ojuelegba area of Lagos State during which rampaging soldiers killed no fewer than five policemen while the area Command headquarters was razed. Sixty vehicles including twenty police jeeps were set ablaze and 34 detainees set free from the police cell by the soldiers.
NNPC pipeline kills 20 in Sapele
Over 20 persons were yesterday morning feared dead in a pipeline inferno at Eko-Ovwore-Amukpe community in Okpe council area of Delta State.
The incident which occurred near Jesse by the River Ethiope bank was reminiscent of the Atigwo- Jesse pipeline fire conflagration of October 17,1998 that left thousands of persons dead.
This came even as an indigene of Jesse told newsmen that the incident had nothing to do with them as they had since learnt their lessons.
An eye witness told Vanguard that the fire started in yet to be ascertained circumstances, with a loud bang and heavy fog, followed by heavy flame, adding that it allegedly killed all those working on their farm lands, fish ponds/river, sand dredgers/ divers.
He said that those scooping fuel from the burst pipes as well as the new bridge across river Ethiope were also burnt.
An indigene of Ovwore-Amukpe community who simply identified himself as Mr. Sunny said staff of NNPC were already at the site of the fire battling to put it off and effect immediate repairs to the broken pipeline.
He appealed to the government to despatch relief materials to Ovwore Community stressing that they no longer had safe drinking water as their farm lands has been devastated by spilled and refined fuel.
Delta State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, ASP Charles Muka, confirmed the fire explosion but gave no detail, promising to do so later.
Two perish in Kaduna plane crash
A 10-seater aircraft with number plate N364 UZ, owned by Shoreline International company, crashed on a farm at Barakallahu, close to the National Open University, Kaduna, about four kilometres north of Kaduna metropolis around 12 noon yesterday.
Two of the crew members, a Briton and a Nigerian, yet to be named, were burnt to death in the crash after the plane burst into flames thirty minutes when it came down. It had taken off a few seconds earlier for test-running from the old Kaduna airport..
Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren, who confirmed the crash, said the ill-fated aircraft was American-registered, adding that it was sold to the new owners by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Ibadan.
He said the twin-engine turboprop Beechcraft 350 aircraft was on a single pilot flight when the crash occurred.
When newsmen rushed to the site of the accident, an hour later, before fire fighters arrived the scene, the traumatised owner of the farm, Mohammed Musa, said: “I was working on the farm with my son, when I saw and heard the noisy sound of a plane very low and approaching the ground. Then it crashed with a bang.
“I ran to the plane, to see if I could rescue the occupants. I tried to break open the glass of the door with my hoe. But it was a fruitless effort as the hoe bounced back, as if I was hitting a wall. Then a soldier, who was on patrol, ran to the scene. He used the boot of his gun on the door, but it was also a fruitless effort.
Breaking open the door
“Both of us made more effort, but the door would not break open. There were two people inside. We could see them through the glass windows. We kept on trying, with no success. Then we notice that smoke was coming from the plane.
We could see the two people in the plane waving frantically. The smoke was getting worse. We kept on hammering on the door. But the soldier said that we had to leave, that the plane would soon explode.
“So we ran back. And from were we stood, we could see them waving the more. Then the plane burst into flames. It burnt for over an hour. They were long death before you people came. If enough help had arrived in say, 30 minutes, these people would have been alive.”
Another young man, who simply said he was Kevin, and a student of the Open University, told newsman: “I saw the aircraft wobbling in the air right above our school. I am surprised it did not crash there.”
Soon after the Fire Brigade arrived in two fire-fighting vehicles. The fire men sprung into action and started one of the vehicles, with the other parked. But its prayed the burning plane with water for just a few seconds and the pumps failed.
The Public Relations Officer of DANA, Bashir Chedi, maintainers of the aircraft, told journalists that the plane belonged to Shoreline International Oil Company that had come for maintenance, adding that after the maintenance, it was taken for a test-run when it crashed.