By Olasunkanmi Akoni
The on-going exercise by operatives of the Lagos State Special Task Force on Environmental and other Related Offences to rid Lagos of miscreants and other criminal elements, has led to the arrest of at least 93 suspects, including 23 teenagers, in Lagos, particularly at the popular Oshodi area of the State.
Other arrested suspects were illegal occupants of abandoned buildings, hemp smokers and hoodlums suspected to have been terrorising some areas in the state. They were arrested in Oshodi, Agege, Ojuelegba and Iju-Ishaga areas. Those arrested were three female teenagers and 90 adult males.
It will be recalled that the same Task Force had arrested a total of 50 suspects in the area in the past weeks.
Parading the suspects before Vanguard Metro, VM, at its Secretariat in Alausa, Chairman of the Task Force, Superintendent of Police, SUPOL, Hakeem Adedeji, who led the operation, said the exercise was carried in the early hours of the day. He said the Task Force acted on the order of the state Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode and Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, who expressed concern over the spate of criminal activities in some parts of the state, especially Oshodi and certain identified areas.
He confirmed that though, no weapon was found on the suspects, there were strong indications that they are part of miscreants who had been terrorising the area. He added that they were identified as such by some tattoos on their arms, indicating they belong to a particular sect or cult.
According to Adedeji: “We moved into the area as early as 1a.m., an operation which I led. We found the suspects under the bridge at Oshodi in such odd hours walking aimlessly. Some were also caught smoking Indian hemp popularly called Marijuana.
“You can see many of the arrested suspects have tattoos on their bodies. Many are chain smokers. Some are robbers who terrorise Oshodi residents and pedestrians.
“The age of the suspects ranges from 11 to 19 years and most of them are from other states of the federation. For those who are under-age, we cannot arraign them because the law does not permit us, while the others will be prosecuted by the Magistrate court.
He added that the arrested miscreants would be screened while the under-age would be referred to the juvenile homes for rehabilitation, adding that most of the ‘young miscreants’ who are between ages 12 and 15 are from broken homes.
Adedeji added that the measure became necessary following several complaints from innocent citizens over the rising cases of intimidation, harassment, robbery attacks in the axis even in the day and night hours.
Adedeji said: “We won’t back down on the miscreants. This will serve as a clear warning to them that the Task Force will not condone indiscipline and environmental nuisance. There is no hiding place for criminals in Lagos.
“We are also clamping down on the street traders on major highways who have become armed robbers. We are getting complaints from the residents and motorists. We won’t stop arresting and prosecuting them until they are ready to obey the law of the state.
According to him, Governor Ambode was committed to protecting lives and properties in order to attract more investors and make life easy for the residents.
Speaking, one of the arrested girls, Zainab Kamal,19, said she was arrested in Oko Mola by officials of the Task Force. She said she paid N50, with others numbering about 50, to sleep at a hide-out in Oko-Mola in Oshodi.
According to her: “Before I broke down, I was smoking at least four sticks of cigarette. I was smoking heavily before I developed tuberculosis. I smoke cigarette and also take a type of drug that we called Jedi Jedi”.
Iyabo Okunola, 16, who also said she made the tattoo on her face at Oshodi, informed thus: “I don’t take much of Indian hemp; I only smoke a minimum of four wraps in a day. We were arrested under Oshodi Bridge where we were managing to survive.”