By Evelyn Usman, Bose Adelaja and Monsuru Olowoopejo
Some parts of the Mile 12 market and environs in Kosofe Local Government Area of Lagos, yesterday, were tension-soaked following fresh killings by armed hoodlums suspected to be from the Northern part of the country. Four persons were reported killed in the renewed midnight ethnic clash which started on Wednesday night. Saturday Vanguard gathered that in spite of the curfew imposed in the area, some armed men arrived at the early hours of yesterday through the canal and destroyed some shops in the market. Some homeless persons sleeping in the market and adjourning streets were suspected to have been killed.
A resident, who simply gave his name as Oluwatimileyin, said: “ The Hausa men crossed the Agilinti river with canoe and attacked residents of an estate at Isheri North, last night. They even burnt some buildings”.
Irked by the invasion, some armed Yoruba youths converged close to the market in readiness for another clash at about 1pm. The irate youths, who chanted war songs attempted to invade the market and destroy shops belonging to Hausa traders. But they were dispersed by security operatives with tear gas cannisters.
Consequently, residents in the affected streets have been fleeing their abodes, following alleged threats by some Hausa youths to set their houses on fire at midnight. Also, Hausa residents in the area have abandoned their homes for fear of being caught in the ethnic war. The popular Mile 12 market was Thursday, turned into a theatre of war, during which no fewer than 12 persons were killed and several others injured. What started like a storm in a tea cup on Tuesday, snowballed into a big fracas two days later.
The ongoing crisis which began with a verbal confrontation took a violent twist after a commercial motorcyclist popularly called okada hit a female trader. Consequently, the popular Mile 12 market was shut by the state government, with curfew imposed on four neighbouring streets: Maidan, Agilinti 1, Agilinti 2 and Oniyanrin, close to the market.
How it happened
According to eye witnesses’ account, a commercial motorcyclist from the northern part of the country who was riding against traffic hit one of the residents, a Yoruba woman who sustained severe injuries. This attracted sympathy from co-residents, who argued that she should be taken to a nearby hospital at the expense of the rider.
The Okada rider bluntly refused the idea and called his colleagues from the same ethnic group, during which a fight ensued. This matter was amicably settled by some community leaders. Unfortunately, the victim passed on the following day, a development that drew the anger of the woman’s friends and subsequently led to fresh crisis on Thursday.
On that Thursday most of those who became victims of the clash were commuters either going or returning from work. Sensing danger, the Okada rider’s friends and other co-okada riders from the Northern extraction re-mobilised and positioned themselves in various places wielding dangerous weapons to attack the Yoruba. The news spread such that some hoodlums took advantage of the situation by proceeding to Mile 12 market to vandalise and loot the traders’ shops.
On noticing the development, the Hausa also strategised to torch and vandalise vehicles and buildings and by the time the dust settled, no fewer than 12 lives were lost while 12 buildings, 10 vehicles and other valuable items were destroyed.
Some of the victims, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, condemned the belated response of the Police at Mile 12 Division. “The Police at Mile 12 did not respond on time and when they eventually arrived the scene, they could not stop the raging war,’’ Mr Igba Andrew, one of the victims, who was badly injured and who also had his two-year-old son kidnapped during the incident said: “I was at home when some Hausas came with guns, broken bottles and matchetes and forcefully took my son away and up till now, his whereabouts remain unknown,”
A clergy, Pastor Adekunle Tanimowo, had his only building, church and car razed. ‘’I am left with nothing and only God can restore me. I was in the church preparing for the day’s event when my wife screamed in the house and I rushed to attend to her but to our surprise, some men were seen afar off conversing in Hausa language and we sensed danger. Without wasting time, we fled the scene with our children and while hiding somewhere, I got a call from somebody who alerted me that all our properties have been torched by the attackers.”
They left me when I spoke Hausa – Survivor
Another victim, Mr Kunle Afariogun, who escaped death by the whiskers said he ran into the hoodlums on his way back from work. ‘’Thank God I understand Hausa language, if not, only God knows what would have happened to me. I was on my way home when I ran into them and they asked me if I were an Hausa man and I answered in the affirmative. But they were not convinced and asked me to start speaking in Hausa Language which I did and they responded in Hausa Language ‘he is one of us, don’t kill him.’’’
A resident of Agilinti, Mrs Oluwakemi Ologbon, who is presently seeking refuge in Ikorodu, said she was scared to return to the area. ‘’My husband is taking refuge with his friend while I am taking refuge with my elder sister. Yesterday’s experience was a signal that Boko Haram has infiltrated Lagos and the government must act fast. Thank God I escaped with all my children but what about so many people who have lost their means of livelihood? Six buildings to my house were razed when I fled with my family but my husband decided to stay elsewhere while we all came to Ikorodu,” she said.
Residents flee homes over possible reprisal attacks
When Saturday Vanguard visited the community, it was gathered that many residents had left their homes in order to avoid been lynched by the hoodlums. A resident, Motunrayo, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard on phone said: “I have left for Mowe. And I am not the only one who has left the community. Some members of the community had gone as far as Ibadan. I don’t want to die. I believe that going to Mowe will help me evade any attack.”
On how she escaped, she said: “We moved through the bush path. And on getting to Isheri-Osun axis, we boarded vehicles to our respective locations.” Motunrayo noted that they would not return until there was strong assurance from the government and the traditional rulers of both communities that normalcy has returned.
Ambode meets traditional rulers in crisis location
Meanwhile, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, yesterday, met with traditional leaders of Mile 12 and environs, to find ways of resolving the ongoing fracas, 24 hours after declaring curfew in the area. At the meeting held behind closed doors in Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja, sources said that Ambode who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Mr. Tunji Bello, asked the traditional rulers to instruct their people to sheathe their swords in order for peace to return to the community.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the Governor assured the traditional rulers that the government was working with the security operatives to end the frequent face-off between the Hausa and Yoruba communities in the axis. In an interview with Saturday Vanguard, Baale of Maidan-Mile 12, Babatunde Ogunjobi, said that the crux of our meeting was on the ongoing crisis in Mile 12, saying “we used the opportunity to express our displeasure over the crisis rocking our community.’’
However, armed security men have been strategically positioned to ward off any reprisal attack. Saturday Vanguard gathered over 50 persons were arrested yesterday in connection with the crisis and were currently being detained at the State Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department,SCIID. Spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command , Dolapo Badmus, said there was no fresh killing yesterday.
She said “the police have dominated the place since Thursday. We are also assisted by the Nigerian Army. We have almost 141 people arrested in connection with the case and we will charge them to court. The suspects were arrested since yesterday (Thursday ) up to the early hours of this morning (yesterday) . Investigation is still ongoing”.