By ALBERT AKPOR, Evelyn Usman & IDOWU OLAIDE
LAGOS — THE age long face-off between factions of the outlawed Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, over control of a link bridge between Ajao Estate and Ejigbo flared up yesterday into a bloody clash with five persons reportedly hacked to death.
Sources said one Jamiu Shodimu, a member of one of the factions was killed in a controversial manner, Sunday night, and his body dumped in a trench after a confrontation between the opposing factions.
How it all started
Vanguard gathered that some members of the opposing camp comprising Mafoluku and Ejigbo axis had, on Sunday, invaded the bridge where members of the other camp were busy collecting tolls from a local ferry conveying passengers from Ejigbo to Ajao-Estate. The opposing camp was reported to have demanded for daily ferry revenue arising from the collection which was resisted by members of the other camp. The argument soon degenerated into a fight during which the said Jamiu Shodimu was hacked to death. His lifeless body was discovered on Monday morning by his friends and relations in front of 75, Mafoluku Road, Oshodi.
Residents of the area reported the case to Oshodi Police Station where a team of policemen was drafted to evacuate the body and deposited it at the Isolo General Hospital for autopsy.
But as early as 2.30 a.m., yesterday, having received news of the death of their member, armed members of the opposing camp invaded the bridge on a reprisal attack and engaged the other camp in a free-for-all. At the end of the clash, five persons were reportedly killed while several others sustained injuries.
Similarly, a 33-year-old staff of one of the telecommunication companies in Lagos, identified as Chukwuma Eze, was also reportedly killed by suspected members of OPC over the collection of tolls at the pedestrian bridge that links Ejigbo with Mafoluku in Lagos.
Reports said the young man who was billed to perform his marriage ceremony in a few weeks time was killed after he demanded for balance from the N1000 he earlier gave to members of the Congress as toll across the bridge.
The death of the deceased sparked off protest as an angry mob attacked his assailants, killing one of them in retaliation. But for the timely intervention of policemen from Ejigbo division, the protest would have resulted into a communal clash between Igbo and Yoruba as the former argued that one of them was killed last year by OPC members without the killer being brought to book till date.
Eyewitnesses said the late Chukwuma, was returning home at about 7 p.m. that Monday and on reaching a pedestrian bridge where members of OPC collect illegal toll of N10, he realised that he did not have enough change for the payment. He reportedly gave the toll collector N1000 note but was asked to come back for his balance. He was said to have gone home, changed into a shirt and short before going back for his balance.
Trouble reportedly started after one of the toll collectors, a woman identified as Iya Alaje, engaged Chukwuma in an argument, denying that he never gave anyone N1000. In the process, her colleague, a male, joined in the argument which resulted in a fight in which Chukwuma had an upper hand.
Other members of OPC reportedly joined in the fight and in the process, one of them allegedly went for a charm with which he hit Chukwuma on the cheek, consequent upon which he slumped and died.
Irked by the incident, some Igbo men said to be returning from their respective places of work, engaged members of the OPC in a free-for-all as they (OPC members ) attempted to flee the scene. One of the OPC members identified as Asumo reportedly hid under the wooden bridge while others managed to escape. Unfortunately for Asumo, he was caught as he attempted to swim to the other side of Ajao estate and was lynched by the mob. The mob went ahead to destroy the bridge alongside the power generating set and motorbikes of the fleeing OPC members.
Scene of crime
A visit to the scene revealed that the toll collectors have been operating in the area for years, collecting N10 on entry and another N10 on exit from those trying to link Ejigbo and Ajao on foot. Although construction of a bridge by the state government has been on in the area for long, it was gathered that it has lingered at the instance of a traditional ruler in the area, who allegedly employed the services of the OPC members at the foot bridge where illegal toll is collected from, at least, two thousand persons daily.
Vanguard learnt that the OPC member who allegedly hit Chukwuma with a charm that resulted in his death was arrested. The suspect identified simply as ‘Ultimate’ was taken to the traditional ruler who allegedly denied ever hiring his service at the foot bridge.
When Vanguard visited the home of the deceased Igbo man at 1, Dim Alor Close, residents were seen in groups discussing the fate that had befallen the Isuofia, Anambra State born citizen. At the compound where he occupied a two-room self-contained apartment, some of the occupants reportedly fled their abode immediately the incident happened for fear of the unknown. There was also nobody in the deceased apartment as he was said to be living alone.
Background of deceased
The late Chukwuma, who graduated from Abia State University 11 years ago, was reportedly preparing for his marriage which was billed for Easter period. According to one of the neighbours who refused to disclose his identity, Chukwuma started his leave same day.
“I was with him until 11am yesterday (Monday). He received a letter from Joseph Marilo Catholic Church where they referred him to Saint Peter and Paul Catholic Church at NNPC to start his marriage course. He told me he was going to the Island to buy the engagement ring because he was preparing for his traditional marriage next month and thereafter the church wedding in August.
“He met the landlord on his way out, who congratulated him for the wedding ahead. I was informed he came back that evening, changed into a shirt and knicker, to go collect his balance only to be killed just like that. He worked with a company in Mushin which is a consultant to Etisalat. He was an easy going person, full of life and ever ready to assist one. I am yet to recover from the shock of his death”, his neighbour said.
The late Chukwuma, as gathered, celebrated his 33rd birthday on February 9 2012, while his wife- to- be, a staff of Zenith Bank in one of the branches in Enugu State arrived Lagos two days later. His fiancee (names withheld) was said to have discussed plans of their forth coming marriage with Chukwuma, unaware that fate had a different package for her.
The last social gathering Chukwuma had was last Saturday at Festac area of Lagos, where he hung out with friends, chatting away, unaware that death awaited him three days later.
Frantic efforts to get the reaction of the State Police Public Relations Officer, Superintendent of Police, Joseph Jayeoba, on the clash failed as he was said to be out on official assignment. But the Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of operations, ACP Ops, Vincent O. Brown said the clash was expected because, “there has been an age long face-off between the two factions of the group.”
He could not, however, say whether any arrest was made.