Cry for help
No cause for alarm—Police boss
By Olasunkanmi Akoni & Daud Olatunji
FEAR and uncertainty still haunt Igbolomu and Ishawo communities located in Ikorodu border areas of Lagos and Ogun states, no thanks to continued attacks by gunmen suspected to be Ijaw militants which have led to the maiming and killing of residents.
The militants were said to have first attacked the communities two weeks ago. And just when residents thought their nightmare was over, the attackers returned last Friday with vengeful fury. And by the time they left the area, about six persons were confirmed killed. The attack is believed to be sequel to a threat last May by the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, to attack the headquarters of Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, in Lekki-Lagos as well as its tank farm if the company continued to carry out repairs on oil pipelines and platforms the group had earlier bombed or ruptured.
The militant group in an email statement, titled: “Don’t dare the Avengers” and signed by its spokesperson, Col. Mudoch Agbinibo, warned CNL not carry out repairs on the Valve Platform bombed by the group on May 5 and reiterated that if government and the company ignored the warning, the consequences would be dire.
Carrying out of repair works
It stated thus: “From our investigation, Chevron Plc is about to carry out repair works at the valve platform that was blown by us (Niger Delta Avengers). We made it clear that no repair works should be done until our demands are fully met.
“Chevron has been operating in the Niger Delta region for over 40 years and no day has their terminals gone without electricity, while the host communities and villages lack all basic amenities(including potable water, schools, hospitals, roads, electricity). They have a pact with the Federal Government to undermine the people of the region, leaving it to rot.”
The group then warned: “Be informed that if we decide to strike, it is going to be bloody. And the contracting firm going to do the repair works, we want you to know that your facilities and staff will be our first casualties. Our warning to Chevron is that despite the heavy presence of military in the creeks, it will not stop us from carrying out our operations. We are ready to destroy more pipelines; we will not only destroy pipelines, but will bring the fight to your tank farm and your headquarters in Lekki, Lagos.
“If you continue to undermine us and go ahead with the repair works, you won’t see us coming, but we are coming for you.”
However, in the wake of the planned threat of attack, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, was quick to douse the tension, saying residents should not panic but report any suspicious movement to the Police and other security authorities with an assurance of adequate security structures on ground to nip such incident in the bud.
Militants return, resort to kidnappings: Obviously the Police could not live up to its promise of providing adequate protection to residents in the light of that threat. Instead it was the militant group that eventually made good its threat of attacking selected targets in about 18 communities on the borderline of Lagos and Ogun states. The attack was said to have been executed in a daring, commando style. And while it lasted, there was no immediate security response, thus leaving the people in the affected communities at the mercy of their assailants.
This development may have emboldened the militants to step up their attacking forays in the areas.Vanguard Features gathered that the daring militants have now resorted to abducting women, landlords and leaders in the affected communities.
It was observed that some of the communities have been deserted, shops and goods abandoned, while residents only peep from their hiding places as the militants reportedly took over some parts of the communities.
VF gathered that visiting Ogun State Deputy Governor, Mrs. Yetunde Onanuga, also felt the rage and danger posed by the militants as they ignored her convoy and its accompanying security operatives to carry out attacks in some of the communities. Indeed, Onanuga who led the State delegation to the affected areas, received the shock of her life as her convoy was attacked by the armed militants.
While she was still addressing the palpably distressed villagers to convey the government’s message of hope and sympathy, information soon came in that a member of the community, Sarafa Olayinka, had just been abducted by the militants and taken to the creeks.
The Baale of Ebute – Ibafo, Chief Folorunsho Balogun, while narrating his community’s ordeal at the hands of the militants to the state government’s representatives, said he too had received a message that his subjects- Alhaji Odugbesan and wife, had been abducted by the rampaging militants on Monday morning.
Balogun said the militants invaded his community three days ago, killed some persons, abducted some women and attacked a bakery where they carted away some loaves of bread. According to him, even domestic animals – goats and chickens- were not spared during the onslaught as many were either killed or taken away.
VF observed that in five communities of Ogijo, all activities were paralysed as schools, mosques, churches and other business activities were under lock and key.
Residents flee communities, vow not to return: Despite the deployment of soldiers, police and other security agents in communities in Ogijo area of Sagamu Local Government, the residents have yet to return to their abodes. The landlords, shops owners, school owners as well as landlords and tenants who had fled the ‘war-torn communities’ only went back briefly during the visit of the Ogun State government delegation to take few of their belongings.
In fact, it was gathered that only a few were bold enough go back to the communities in the day to transact business and return to their temporary abode in the night. Further findings show that the few residents and traders who returned to the communities in the day were encouraged to do so by the presence of the military who usually leave the communities at night.
Security agencies had responded by deploying their operatives to the affected areas. The Police also deployed the Area Commander of Sagamu Area Command, Ali Janga, and more than four teams of police officers with an Armoured Personnel Carrier to secure the affected communities.
According to the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Muyiwa Adejobi,the Area Commander, Sagamu Area Command, ACP Ali Janga, will remain in the area of operation to monitor operational and administrative engagements of the policemen deployed to the areas for the special operation in the affected communities which include Elepete, Imuti, Kajola, Magbon and Ajegunle.
Adejobi appealed to the fleeing residents of the areas to return to their homes, assuring them of adequate protection.
But most residents who spoke with VF during the visit of the state deputy governor to the place, said they were yet to be convinced that it is safe to come back home.
According to a resident ,Quadri: “It was a very unfortunate situation. The attack started around 10 pm when people were moving in; it was very terrible. More than 50 people were killed and someone’s head was cut off”.
One Olagoke Temitayo informed: “The militants just came on a revenge mission, and started killing people especially the landlords, saying that they were the ones that gave out the information that led to the killing of some of their gang members. There was a house over there where they killed both the father and the child. We are appealing to the state government to provide us adequate security here.”
Also sharing his experience, a pastor of a church in the area, Prophet Olugbemiga Balogun, said: “Governor Ibikunle Amosun should help us and settle the matter. These militants should not be allowed to bring guns here again. I have been living in this community, Elepete, for seven years and I have not witnessed this kind of thing before.”
Tope Komolafe in his own account said: “The militants came and started shooting sporadically. We all ran away. We heard that the governor was coming today and that is why we came to pack few of our things. We are appealing to government to help put adequate security in place here. They should also deploy soldiers here.”
Another resident simply identified as Azeez said: “We want the government to find a solution to this problem so that normalcy would return to this place because if the security operatives leave us and go we don’t know what might happen here again.”
Ademuyiwa Eniafe told VF that: “some SARS(Special Anti-Robbery Squad) operatives came to Topkatts Hotel and arrested two of the militants. They met four of the militants, killed two and arrested the others. But something still has to be done because a four-man gang of armed militants came and killed my friend while we were preparing to break our Ramadan fast. We are appealing to the government to come to our aid; if security is fully on ground, people will return to this place.”
A landlord who spoke with VF on phone said he was not ready to return to the place. He said it was “because the mobile policemen may leave the place in the night and the militants may attack us at night.”
VF reliably gathered that the security operatives in those areas did not have enough arms to confront the heavily armed militants. Indeed a source told our reporter “the reality is that the operatives need more sophisticated personnel and equipment to combat the militants in the creeks.”
Even the Ogun State government has called for help from the Federal Government to nip the problem in the bud. According to the deputy governor, the issue is beyond what either the Police or the State Government can handle, adding that the Federal Government should urgently intervene.
Lagos border communities: Following the incident, residents are also said to have fled the affected areas for fear of another attack by the militants. A resident in Igbolomu, identified as Alex Uche, said people have abandoned their homes, schools, shops, markets and other business centres. Reports had it that parents hurriedly raced to schools to take their children home. Another eyewitness, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the militants invaded a school in the area, but allowed the children to go unhurt, but warned them not to return to school again.
According to eyewitness, Mr. Abiodun Alawaye, alias “Elder,” who luckily escaped with his family from one of the invaded areas, the gun men came through water channel and started shooting sporadically. The gunmen who tied red ribbons round their foreheads, were said to have forced their ways into houses, robbing and shooting anyone in sight.
The causalities were said to be high due to late arrival of security operatives. “As at 11 am, there was no security team on ground to arrest the situation,” he confirmed. His words: “It was so serious, as if we were in a war front. At least I saw some of the landlord’s killed.
“The attack continued the following morning (Saturday) with ferocious intensity. At least I saw several headless bodies as I moved my family out of the hot zone. We are now seeking shelter in my cousin’s place out of town. I do not know when I will return back home. I will be sure that there is adequate security before I can think of returning. The entire area has been deserted,” Alawaye narrated.
However, the Lagos State Police Command, later dispatched anti-riot policemen to restore peace and security to the areas. The CP also assured that there was no cause for alarm as his men were fully on ground to deal decisively with any further security breach.
Residents shun water transportation: Also, investigation conducted by VF confirmed that erstwhile high patronage of transportation by water has dropped sharply since the attack as passengers have shunned that mode of transportation. The fear among passengers is that the militants could attack any time.
Lawmakers call for increased security vigilance: Meantime, the Lagos State House of Assembly, has reiterated its earlier call on the state Commissioner of Police to beef up security in the Ikorodu area of the state to stem the tide of insecurity, especially the nefarious activities of the militants and cultists in the area.
The resolution followed a motion moved by a member of the House, Saka Solaja, who represents Ikorodu II Constituency at the Assembly, that adequate security measures would have to be put in place to save the area from becoming a ‘theatre of war.’
Subversion of value system
Supporting the motion, the Majority Leader, Sanai Agunbiade who represents Ikorodu I Constituency, pointed out that “subversion of value system in the entire Ikorodu division has led to a situation where insecurity, gangsterism are the order of the day.”
He recalled that the House had earlier passed a law on cultism which was not assented to by the then governor, adding that insurgency should not be allowed to surface in Ikorodu. In his words: “A law on cultism was passed in this House; I want us to revisit the law. We don’t want a repeat of Boko Haram.”Agunbiade also noted that the situation had it become worrisome as the police had allegedly failed to curtail the actions of cultists, adding that “it calls for concern if the police cannot handle young elements.”
Contributing, member representing Ifako-Ijaiye II Constituency, Rasheed Makinde, said Ikorodu was becoming “another hell in Lagos.”
He said it was worrisome that the Community Development Associations, CDAs and Community Development Councils, CDCs, in the area have not been proactive. “The leaders know every nook and cranny of the area but found it difficult to collaborate with the Police to curb the ugly incident. Communities in the area have a lot to do to bring down the activities of cultists,” he stated.
Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa, who presided over the plenary, said Ikorodu was increasingly becoming a notorious area.
“If it is not kidnapping today, it is ajagungbale; now it is cultism and Ijaw militants. This House therefore, calls on the Commissioner of Police to do more in the area, in terms of policing,” he