By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor
IN the past, areas like Ajegunle, Ijora-Badiya, Mile 2, Mushin, Somolu, Bariga, Oshodi, Ojota, Yaba bus stop, Orile, Mile 12, Obalende bus stop, CMS etc were the critical crime-prone areas in the centre of excellence called Lagos. However, as soon as Babatunde Fashola assumed duties as the governor of the state, the crime situation in these areas took a downward trend for the better. In fact, it was so glorious that a place like the then notorious Oshodi was turned into a peaceful zone overnight.
Unfortunately, while both the state government and security agencies, especially the police, were putting all hands on deck to sanitize crime-infested areas in the city, little did they take notice of the popular, densely-populated Festac town. They woefully failed to detect the alarming crime dimension and increasing growth of different gangs in the area. Presently,, the gangs have assumed the toga of an octopus devouring many lives.
The Festac story
Built in 1977, during the era of Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, the estate which was initially meant for participants at the fiesta was turned into a residential area and many people benefited the sales of housing units. Surprisingly, the beauty and historical relevance of the estate has been desecrated by the growing rate of crime in the area.
It is so alarming to the extent that security agents are permanently on their toes. The seemingly ill-equipped police force has grossly failed to take firm control of the area to the extent that crimes of all dimensions, like kidnapping, armed robbery, ritual killings, drug peddling etc reign in the area with reckless abandon.
Advent of gangsterism Investigations by Crime Alert revealed the existence of different deadly gangs with multifarious agenda, all targeted at both wealthy residents of the area and others staying in different parts of Lagos and beyond.
The gangs are being controlled by kingpins with either business interests, ritual purposes or peer group bravado. It was reliably learnt that their foot soldiers are mostly the teeming unemployed youths and apprentices in different markets in the city.
Another deadly but underground group comprises drug addicts and their barons who use their stupendous wealth and enormous ill-gotten resources to accomplish and destroy any clog in their ‘wheel of progress’.
Then, there is the less vicious but no less anti-social group popularly called ‘Yahoo-yahoo boys’. At the top of the crime pyramid in Festac are pipeline vandals, made up mainly of very violent militants from the Niger Delta area of the country.
Residents open up
Most of the residents interviewed bluntly refused to speak on the burning issue for fear of being made a scape goat. Those that bared their minds under the guise of strict anonymity stated unequivocally that the cult group that is ravaging the area is the Eiye confraternity.
Piqued by their nocturnal bloody activities, the Police in the area arrested leading members of the group sometime in May, this year after raiding their hide out. That singular effort brought peace temporarily to the area but with time, the peace turned out to be that of the grave yard.
Pipe line vandals on the loose
Crime Alert gathered that the most vicious gangs in the area are the vandals who are mainly militants from Niger Delta area of the country. Their operational base is at 6th Avenue where it was reliably learnt that their leader lives in an intimidating mansion.
They ferry stolen fuel from Ijegun area of Lagos after vandalising pipelines, through the canal at 6th Avenue to Ikorodu. They steal the fuel with big sacs and tie them together after which they are floated through water in canoes across the water to Festac en route Ikorodu.
Most of their activities are reportedly carried out at the wee hours of the night. Sometime last month, three members of the outlawed Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, were kidnapped in broad day light by the vandals at the canal in 6th Avenue where the bandits that robbed banks recently came from.
The OPC members confronted the vandals while they were carrying out their nefarious operation and they were kidnapped and till date, their whereabouts remain unknown and nobody has shown any concern about the ugly incident.
Emission of pungent odour
Their deadly activities recently generated tension as people living around their operational base at 6th Avenue raised alarm over the pungent odour that emanate from their stolen products. One of the residents intimated that “around 8pm when they start ferrying the stolen fuel, the choking putrid odour will permeate our apartments, forcing us to stay outside until they finish their operation.
“We usually see security men in different uniforms throng the canal where they operate from but at the end of the day, they all disappear with smiling faces while the ugly trend continues unabated.”
The biggest of them all – Okada riders
Then comes the bigger threat that constitutes great danger in the area. These are the commercial motorcyclists popularly called Okada, suspected to be ex-members of the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents that ran away from their base in the North Eastern part of the country. Most of them joined the business on arrival to Lagos and they still live the wild, deadly life which they are accustomed to in the North East.
The brazen manner of operation manifests whenever any of them gets involved in an accident. They will besiege the scene in their hundreds, threatening to not only burn the vehicle involved in the accident but, lynch the driver.
On the trail of bank customers
They also monitor people coming out from banks with huge withdrawals and trail the person to a lonely area where they will attack and snatch the money from them. These incessant attacks have resulted in the death of many people in the area.
It was learnt that sometime last year, two policemen attached to the anti-crime unit at Alausa, Rapid Response Squad, RRS, were killed while on official duty at 7th Avenue, where the motorcyclists usually hibernate. Also, in August this year, the same dare-devils, said to be armed with assorted dangerous weapons, killed another policeman at 4th – 6th Avenue junction by stabbing him to death.
Adamawa village Interestingly, their major bases are located at 7th Avenue and another obscure location around the popular Apple junction in Amuwo-Odofin called Adamawa village. They reportedly live at the base which is along Okota road with their wives and children in ramshackle houses and once they commit any offence, they run back to the village and no law enforcement agent dare approach there.
The only attempt made by the police to break their impenetrable wall of defence was after they killed one of their colleagues in August this year. About 40 of them were rounded up in an operation described as ‘ very tasking’.
Unfortunately, before the Police at Festac which performed the rare feat could savour their victory and carry out more operations, the case was transferred to the State Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Bureau, SCIIB, where it was messed up and at the end of the day, the suspects were discharged and acquitted by the court for lack of evidence. The criminals came back to base, according to reports, reinforced and continued with their criminal activities.
Impenetrable wall of crime
Police sources hinted that their base at Adamawa village is impenetrable because of the extreme violence they exhibit there. Sometime in September, 2015, according to the source, heavily armed policemen from the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, were attacked there during operation and their rifles and vehicles were collected by the residents.
Kidnapping and illicit business interests
Sources attributed the raging issue of kidnapping in the area to acts being committed by those who are into illicit businesses. “Most of the time, they disagree over settlement because one person wants to cheat the other and the resultant effect is that the other party will organise the readily available teeming and frustrated young men that dot the area to kidnap his colleague.
This is also where drug barons that live in the area come into the picture. Their case is also very dangerous because they can go to any extent to eliminate their colleagues in crime over one flimsy reason or the other. Their bases are scattered in various exotic mansions at different locations in the area. At times, they come from outside to hit business associates resident in Festac over unsettled cases.
That, sources continued, may account for the unknown fate of a billionaire industrialist and the MD of Commster, James Uduji, who was recently kidnapped and the family had paid over N100million without seeing their breadwinner. The kidnappers are still insisting that extra N120 million must be paid before he would be released.
Crime Alert was informed that the recent successful attack on two banks by armed bandits in the area could have been checkmated but for the glaring inadequacies and operational lapses by the police formation in the area. According to the source, “The new Divisional Police Officer in Festac is also busy as the training officer involved in community policing in the state. He has been performing that dual duty of training officers in community policing and acting as the DPO in Festac and it is obvious that it is a very cumbersome responsibility for one person.
On the day of the deadly robbery at the banks, responsibility for the counter attack was left to only the area command. The division could not muster enough operatives because the anti-crime, surveillance and patrol units which are the engine rooms of security, were recently dissolved.
This is coupled with the fact that because of the small number of policemen in the area, criminals carry out strict monitoring of policemen. Any time they feel their absence in a given location, they utilize the opportunity and strike.
More policemen are urgently needed in the area because even those that are there, hibernate at the area command where they while away time. The bulk of the manpower should be sent to the division which is the main operational base. The area command should be downsized and more men sent to the division so that they can live up to the challenges of the rising crime rate in the area.
Landlords and allocation of lands
It was also gathered that landlords in the area should be held liable for the ugly development in Festac because of the arbitrary manner they allocated lands to people.
“The landlords destroyed the original plan of Festac by sub-letting their houses to every Tom, Dick and Harry thereby creating room for some to abandon their lands to criminal elements like those at 7th Avenue and Adamawa village. Originally, crime was curtailed in the area to the barest minimum but now, it has gone out of control with the recent bank robbery which has never happened before in Festac,”the source stated.