By Ola Ajayi
Ibadan– THE peaceful atmosphere in Ibadan, capital of Oyo state, was ruptured yesterday when policemen and dreaded hunters known as Agbekoyas engaged themselves in a gun battle.
At the end of the battle which reportedly happened at the Ogbere Onilanta Police Division, along Akanran in Ona Ara Local Government Area of Ibadan, one person was reportedly killed while others were seriously injured.
It was gathered that crisis erupted when the police challenged the hunters for driving recklessly.
The Agbekoyas were said to be coming from Lagos and heading towards Akanran when the incident happened.
According to an eye witness who identified himself as Isiaka, “The men were coming in some vehicles including a black Pathfinder Sports Utility Van, SUV. Some policemen, who were at the checkpoint in front of their station, challenged them for driving recklessly.
“One of the Agbekoyas got down and started an argument with one of the police officers. In the process, he slapped the policeman. Afterwards, we started hearing gunshots.
“There was shooting from both sides. We learnt that the bullets rained on the policeman did not enter his body, but he gunned down one of his assailants. The crisis was so much that everybody started running helter-skelter to avoid being caught in the crossfire”, he recounted.
Some staff of Elekuro High School close to the scene reported that the shooting was so intense that some policemen had to rush into their compounds, removed their clothes and started changing into mufti to avoid being identified by the hoodlums.
One of the teachers said that they had to take refuge under tables and in stores, covering themselves with objects.
Most female students of the Caritas International School, also close to the Police station, were crying, just as their teachers made efforts to safeguard them. The extra lessons that the students and pupils of the schools usually had were truncated as many parents rushed to the schools to pick their children.
The Agbekoya men were said to have departed the scene, leaving the black vehicle behind. Another resident said that he saw the corpse of the dead victim before it was carried into a police vehicle and taken away from the scene.
Within about an hour that the face-off lasted, more policemen and men of the Operation Burst were drafted to the area to keep the peace.
Confirming the incident, the Police Public Relations Officer of the Command, Adekunle Ajisebutu, a Superintendent of Police, however, said that the Agbekoya militant, who was shot, did not die at the scene but was only injured.
He said, “Some suspected armed robbers later identified as Agbekoya militants in three vehicles attacked policemen on stop- and- search duty at Ogbere and attempted to snatch a rifle from the police. The armed bandits were repelled.
“The hoodlums fled, only to regroup and launched a deadly attack on the Ogbere Police station, advancing to the armoury, shooting their way in. The police again repelled their attack and in the process, one of the hoodlums was fatally injured.
“Two suspects were arrested. The injured suspect later died on the way to the hospital. Items recovered from the hoodlums include one cut- to- size locally-made gun, assorted criminal charms and a 4Runner Jeep. The arrested suspects have made confessions and are helping police in their investigation”, Ajisebutu said.
According to him, “The Oyo Commissioner of Police, Samuel Adegbuyi, warns individuals or groups going about with prohibited firearms and other lethal weapons with the aim of causing mayhem or apprehension in any part of the state to desist or risk being arrested and prosecuted.”