By Ifeanyi Okolie
The vandals, who are mainly militants from the Niger Delta, had held sway for a long time in Arepo, Ibafo and environs. They masterminded the vandalism of pipelines belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and siphoned the contents. They were also behind the incessant bank robberies in Lekki, Ikorodu, Festac and Agbara areas of Lagos and Ogun States, during which they carted large sums of money and killed several residents including policemen.
Security sources disclosed that the vandals led by dreaded hard hitter, General Ossy, were responsible for the kidnap of students of Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary at Ikorodu, Lagos. The unfortunate students were ferried to their camp called Fatola in March this year. The militants also abducted a staff of MTN the same day within Arepo and collected a ransom of N4.5m before he was released two days later around 3 am.
No go area for security agents
Security agents including policemen, DSS, NSCDC, Navy who had attempted to invade the camp in the past were ambushed and killed in the process thereby making it a no-go-area for security personnel.
The vandals, however, resorted to kidnapping following the recent clamp down on top members of the gang and operations by the military. They also invaded another school at Epe area of the state owned by the Lagos Anglican Dioceses, shooting indiscriminately before abducting the school girls who were in their hostel preparing for test. They later disappeared from the scene in an SUV.
Difficulty in stemming operations of vandals
The renewed efforts by the vandals to abduct defenceless civilians for ransom have exposed the inability of security operatives to completely stem their operations. Some security operatives however boasted that vandals could no longer carry out large scale bank robberies as they did in March 2013, when they raided a bank in Lekki, killed three policemen and two civilians and carted away large sums of money.
In November, 2015, the same gang struck at a bank in Agbara area of Ogun State, killing two mobile policemen and carted away large sums of money. In June 2015, the vandals raided banks in Ikorodu, carting away unspecified amount of money. They attacked the banks located at Ipakodo- Ebute, near Ogolonto in Ikorodu by using speed boats in accessing the community after which they raided the two banks in the area.
While the police were busy spreading their dragnets to track the fleeing bandits, no fewer than forty members of the gang invaded two banks at 4th Avenue, Festac area of Lagos state few weeks later and carted away huge sums of money. A nursing mother and her child were killed during the operation.
In May 2014, nine policemen attached to the Inspector-General of Police Special Anti-Vandalism were kidnapped and killed by the vandals when they attempted to visit the scene of a pipeline explosion in Arepo pipeline, Ogun State. The policemen were said to have boarded a canoe and were last seen heading into the creek. Their bodies are yet to be recovered.
Litany of woes
In the same vein, in January 2015, three officials of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, were killed while 10 others sustained severe injuries when they had a confrontation with the vandals in Abule Ishawo and Tappa areas of Ikorodu, close to Arepo. The 10 officials who survived the attack were rescued by a reinforced team comprising the military and NSCDC operatives.
After this incident, the vandals chased some NSCDC officials to Owutu Police Station where they ran into and opened fire on some policemen on guard, killing two on the spot while two other civilians were also killed. The vandals were said to have carted away four Ak47 rifles from the police station before escaping.
Massacre of SARS, DSS teams
Few days after, the vandals struck at four banks in Ijede and Ipakodun areas of Ikorodu. Some operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, were deployed to Ikorodu to combat the menace of the robbers, but in one of their operations, four of its operatives were ambushed and killed and their corpses were taken away. Subsequently, in September 2015, nine operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, were killed while they attempted to rescue a kidnapped victim from the hands of the vandals.
The vandals were said to have ambushed the operatives at Konu, a border town in Ogun State while tracking a telephone number used by the vandals in negotiating the ransom with relatives of the victim. The corpses of the operatives are yet to be recovered till date. Efforts by both the state government and security agencies in the state to end the activities of the vandals have been stalled owing to lack of proper synergy