By Esther Onyegbula
For residents of Oke-Afa, Ilamoshe Estate area of Ejigbo Lagos, Thursday, November 12, 2015, will for a long time remain a day of sadness. It was the day hired thugs laid siege on the community and unleashed terror on the residents in broad daylight.
Vanguard Metro, VM, learnt that several hoodlums accompanied by court bailiffs and policemen who came to effect a court order that fateful Thursday morning attacked residents of the estate, looted shops and destroyed properties worth millions of naira.
VM gathered that the hoodlums who wore numbered purple and black T-shirts, brandished different kinds of weapon. They allegedly sang war songs, while boasting that the community would know that the messengers of death had visited them. Eyewitnesses told VM that whatsoever they couldn’t loot, they destroyed.
When VM visited the community, rubbles of destroyed houses and shops and broken glasses littered the streets. All the shops were under lock and key as business owners fled the area. Among the properties and houses affected were Green Dale School located along Adejumo Street, Redeemed Christian Church of God, a Shopping Mall along Alade Apatira Street and Gold Medal School. Others were Grace Events Centre along Kudirat Adenekan Street and Slon Pharmacy Stores.
Ownership of the land
VM further learnt that pupils were in their various classes when the hoodlums attacked Green Dale School and Gold Medal School. They allegedly pulled down part of the school building.
Giving an insight into the genesis of the problem, a landlord in Apatira Street, Mr. Adeleke, told VM that the land dispute between Ojobaba and Adejumo families started decades ago. According to him, many landlords in the area didn’t know that there was a dispute over the ownership of the land when they bought their properties.
“By the time we knew, it was already late and there was little or nothing we could do because the case was in court. I was surprised by what happened on Thursday morning. I had already gone to work when I received a call from one of my tenants that people who came to effect a court order were destroying buildings, looting shops and attacking people in the community. When I came back from work, I discovered that part of my house had been destroyed,” he lamented.
Adeleke who was visibly overwhelmed with sorrow said: “Just take a look at what they did to my house (pointing to his building). Where is it done that when effecting a court order, people’s houses would be destroyed without prior notice? Instead of destroying our properties and looting our shops, the parties involved are supposed to sit down and reach an agreement that will take the innocent tenants into consideration”.
Recounting how it all started that morning, Mr Chiggo Okafor, said:” The court bailiff came in company of Mobile Policemen, regular policemen, officials of KAI, Civil Defence and hoodlums. As they were pasting the notices, the hoodlums busied themselves destroying fences, buildings and shopping malls, while the policemen and other officials watched helplessly. Hired criminals attacked and looted our property with the backing of law enforcement agents. Is this the definition of change in Nigeria? Sincerely this is not change,” he alleged.
“At about 3:30pm that same day, some tricycles(Keke Marwa) started coming into the estate with packs of food which were given to the policemen and the hoodlums. An Aboki who was hawking was attacked, his N8000 and handset were collected from him and they used the money to order food from one of the food vendors. We have suffered losses like this over four times this year alone. Vandals will come with police protection to attack the residents. I lost properties worth over N3 million to the touts, “ Okafor said.
Another victim, who simply identified himself as Nath, said his wares were looted and shop destroyed. “I have an electronic showroom; I sell LCD TV and different kinds of electronics. I was in my shop yesterday (Thursday) morning after the market environmental sanitation exercise at about 10 am. I saw police patrol vans coming in with mobile and regular policemen. Curiously I asked one of the officers whether we are safe. He didn’t respond, hence I beckoned on another who said that they are enforcing a court order. He asked me to relax and go about my normal business. With that assurance, I relaxed. Some policemen sat in front of my shop, drumming and dancing.
Fifteen minutes later, I received a call from a friend at NNPC Bus-stop that I should lock my showroom and leave this area immediately. He advised me to find a way of alerting my neighbours to leave their shops. Immediately I locked up my shop. The policemen in front of my showroom asked me why I was locking the shop I said I was going to Alaba International Market to buy some goods. One of the officers asked me whether I was leaving because of the call that I received and I said no. Then I alerted some of my neighbours to lock up their shops too. Before I knew what was happening, the hoodlums had begun attacking people. People had to pay so that these hoodlums will not beat them up. They were collecting N15, 000, N20, 000 from people whom they forced to pay.
Sponsorship by a money bag
Because they are touts, the money they were collecting from people became another issue as they began to fight themselves. Those boys came in batches and we had never seen before. Most of them were also meeting themselves for the first time. We later found out that they were lodged in a nearby hotel for three days. No doubt a money bag is sponsoring them,” Nath alleged.
He further claimed that the Division Police Officer in charge of Ejigbo Division came to the scene but did nothing to stop the demolitions.
Another victim who identified herself as Maria Onome claimed ignorance of the land dispute. “I didn’t know about the case when I rented the shop. I only saw the inscription that this land belongs to Ojobaba family on almost all the buildings. Anytime there is crisis, they always loot and destroy our shops.
Yesterday these vandals used charms to force open shops they found difficult to open. They came in full force; they were prepared both physically and spiritually.
They attacked people who dared to stand on their way. They extorted money from shop owners, and residents. When they come to your shops or house, they will ask for money if you don’t want your shops or house to be vandalized. They collected N5000 from me, which was why they didn’t destroy my shop. The landlord of this building had to pay N20, 000 yesterday that is why they didn’t destroy this building, “ she narrated.
“We are calling on Governor Akinwunmmi Ambode to please intervene in this crisis. The Inspector General of Police must investigate the complicity of his men during this attack. If the police can’t protect us we should be allowed to protect ourselves,” Onome said.