By Ifeanyi Okolie
A sordid drama akin to the tragic incident at Alu in Rivers State is being re-enacted between the police in Lagos and residents of Vono Street in the notorious Mushin area of the State. The difference is that while the police in Rivers state waited for public outcry and condemnation before swinging into action, their counterparts in Lagos did not waste time before taken action.
The whole tragicomedy started early morning Saturday 3rd November, 2012, when strident shouts of thief!thief! enveloped the entire Vono Street, off Challenge Bus Stop, Mushin. The alarm was a reaction to the presence of a gang of armed robbers that invaded the area and attacked the residents, dispossessing them of their cash and valuables.
The robbers who were said to be five in number were later intercepted while trying to escape by a team of vigilante men on patrol. Crime Alert gathered that during a hot exchange of gunfire that ensued between the bandits and the vigilante group, the daredevils were overpowered and arrested by the vigilante group who had superior fire power.
When they were interrogated, it was discovered that the robbers were from the notorious drug enclave of Akala in Idi-Oro area of Mushin and they were allegedly responsible for some of the robbery incidents that have been experienced within the area and Ilupeju.
A resident, of Vono Street who simply identified himself as Shola, told Crime Alert that the suspects were armed with locally made guns when they struck at the apartment but they were overpowered by the better armed vigilante men that responded to shouts of Ole!Ole!.
Crime Alert gathered that an enraged crowd demanded instant justice and they ended up burning the wounded suspects. According to eyewitnesses, “The vigilante men had better weapons and they overpowered and arrested the robbers, after that, a mob besieged the scene while the vigilante men were about taking the boys to the police station and demanded that they should be burnt.
This is because of the incessant attacks by bandits in the area and each time we arrest and hand them over to the police, they will eventually get bail from the court and return to terrorize us. There are so many of them from Akala that we have arrested and handed over to the police over time. Police charged them to court but they are now freemen walking the streets today. So, this is a sign that we have lost complete confidence in the criminal justice system in this country.”
However, while residents of the area were parting each other at the back for taking the bull by the horn, a move they believe will permanently stop bandits from terrorizing them, the police thought otherwise. Just few hours after the incident, a team of police men invaded the street and swooped on anybody at sight.
It was gathered that, among those arrested, were landlords and members of the vigilante group suspected to have taken part in the killing. Eyewitness account stated that some policemen from Area D Command patrolled and raided the entire area after which the indiscriminate arrests were carried out.
However, after the police carried out the arrests, colleagues of the burnt suspects said to be from Akala, also invaded Vono Street in a bid to avenge the gruesome killing of their colleagues, destroying some cars and shops. There was pandemonium as both the old, young, women and children ran in different directions to avoid the onslaught of the boys from Akala who were visibly bent on carrying out reprisal attack and avenging the death of their colleagues.
A resident of the area who identified himself as Kunle told Crime Alert that the irony of the whole thing “was that the policemen that earlier came to arrest every one at sight for illegally burning suspected armed robbers did nothing to save the residents when another set of hoodlums from the same notorious area came to avenge the death of their partners in crime.
It is very unfortunate that they were allowed to operate freely as if we have no policemen on ground. If the police at Area D and the court have been living up to their responsibilities, these hoodlums from Akala would not have been having a field day, robbing, maiming and killing innocent people in Mushin. It has been happening for a long time now and it is only the intervention of the Commissioner of Police whom we learnt is a no-nonsense person and Lagos State Chief Judge that will save us all now,” he stated.
Efforts made to get a reaction from the Police spokeswoman, Ngozi Braide failed as she did not pick calls made to her. But a police source intimated Crime Alert that the arrests were carried out because nobody has a right to take laws into his or her hands. “We are there to protect and guide everybody without exception and we will not hesitate to deal ruthlessly with identified criminals,”the source said.