•Over 10 persons killed , 60 houses burnt, women raped
•Father, son shot dead
• Ajah thugs chased our children, women from school, market – Ilaje community alleges
• It is false, the crisis is between rival factions from Ilaje – Ajah chiefs
The tranquility hitherto witnessed by residents of Ilaje and Ajah communities in Lagos State, is presently being truncated by the eruption of crises which have left not less than 10 persons dead, with others injured. Houses, including churches were burnt and women, both married and singles , allegedly raped by the invaders who stormed the communities under the cover of the darkness. Some of the residents, especially those living close to the waterside, have fled their homes.
When Crime Guard visited the area last Wednesday, it was obvious that all was not well, owing to the expressions of fear and anxiety on the faces of residents of Ilaje community, which was this reporter’s first port of call.
Residents of the densely populated community, peeped through their windows to have a glimpse at this stranger, with mothers calling on their children who were playing at the verandas, to come inside, apparently thinking this reporter was their enemy’s spy.
The unprecedented crowd in one of the buildings, caught this reporter’s attention. The building as later learned, was used as camp for those displaced, in the course of the crisis.
Things fall apart
All was going on well with the Ilaje waterside and Ajah residents, especially those living at the Ijebu Isale, who are less than a pole apart each other.
In fact, women from both ends attended same market- Ajah market and fished together , as the area was situated close to seven beaches, while children attended same public school, at Olomu .
But as time progressed, things began to fall apart to the extent that the centre could no longer hold , at the moment. Unfortunately, the impact of the seeming cold war between both communities is having a harsh effect on all, as the Ilajes, who are settlers in Ajah, alleged that thugs from Ajah have chased their children and women away from the only school and market, which they once shared.
Genesis of trouble
Spokesman for Ilaje community, Reverend Oduwole Oluwasegun, attributed the cause of the crisis to alleged plan by traditional rulers in Ajah to forcefully evacuate his people and use their space to construct a royal estate.
He recalled with nostalgia, how the Ilajes settled in Ajah in 1886, as proven by the tribunal of Ajah.
He said: “ When we came here, we met Ojukpese, Agberoje and Ojukpon. Our forefathers bought this land from them. This land was bought and not leased as being claimed by the Ajahs.
“We were living in peace until November 2011 , when hoodlums led by some policemen stormed our community. They shot Mr Augustine Oronla, an old man who was outside when the hoodlums struck. They also killed his son ,Oke Oronla. The hoodlums, shot Bariga, Ahmed, Timothy and David, dead. I was the one that deposited their bodies at the Mainland General hospital. Many were wounded and injured . This crime was committed by Ajah community
“As if the invasion was not enough, the Police arrested 40 of our people, including elders and detained them. But justice prevailed at the end. Before the attack, there was an attempt to rename Ilaje road as Odugbese road but I personally stood against it and the plan was rested”, he said.
As the Ilajes were smarting from the first attack, Oluwasegun, alleged that another attack was launched against them, in 2012, where about 57 houses were burnt.
He said , “ The then Commissioner of Police sent operatives of the Rapid response Squad , RRS to our rescue. When the Police came, some persons from Ajah , including the traditional head were arrested. Also arrested was head of the vigilante group who was found in possession of a Pump Action riffle and three other hoodlums . These persons were charged to court but when the DPP result came, the hoodlums and traditional head were exonerated from the murder and released, while the person that was arrested in possession of weapon was charged to court over illegal possession of firearm. But as we speak, nothing has been heard about the case in court.
Pupils , market women threatened
“The only public school here , is at Olomu area of Ajah. But at the moment, Ajah boys threatened our children not to come to school. Each time they see them , they would chase them away. As we speak, our children are at home and this is the promotion exam period. We are appealing to government to please come to our aid.
“Our women can no longer go to the market to sell or buy at Ajah market and our people can’t pass through Ilaje bus-stop because of the Ajah hoodlums. If they sight anyone alighting from the bus at Ilaje bus-stop, they would attack him or her, if the person is from Ilaje “, he alleged.
Cause of Problem
Another reason attributed to the lingering war was the dredging activities at the riverside. In his explanation, spokesman for the Ilaja quarters said that the dredging company started working at Ilaje waterside in 2015 but alleged that they did not benefit from the returns collected then, despite the fact that his people who are predominantly fishermen and women were fishing there before the dredgers came.
He said, “ Ilaje did not benefit from the first dredgers until October 2018 and out of nine beaches where dredgers operated in the Ilaje waterside, Ajah was controlling six beaches while three were for the Ilaje people. Even at that, the Bale at Ajah still claimed royalties on the three beaches .
Ajah community have painted Ilaje people black before Eti-Osa indigenes and Lagosians as a whole. But my question is, are Ilajes, not part of the Yoruba race? Why should we be treated like outcasts?”
Our houses were razed
One of the residents in Ilaje community, Daniel Akinokunuwa, said the crisis left an indelible memory in his family, as his house was completely razed during one of the invasions.
He said,” I am grateful to be alive to narrate the incident of that unforgettable night. I live in Ajah-Isale Ijebu but I was not at home when the hoodlums stormed. If I were, perhaps I would not have been alive to narrate the ordeal. By the time I came back they had already burnt my house. They also burnt some houses close to mine.”
Another victim, Apostle Adewale Ebiwa , said his own house was also razed.
However, when Crime Guard visited the Ajah community, this reporter was also greeted with forlorn looks on faces of residents who alleged that they were also under siege by hoodlums from Ilaje.
Those residing at Ijebu Isale, close to the water side, alleged that hoodlums usually came on robbery spree at night to dispossess them of valuables . They said, women: both married and single ladies were gang- raped in the process by hoodlums from Ilaje.
There were also some houses that were burnt but they were not as many as those at the Ilaje end.
Crime Guard saw bullet holes on the walls and windows in some houses at Ijebu Isale, with some louvers shattered while some residents had abandoned their homes.
At the palace of the traditional head of Ajah, the chiefs in council were seen gathered to deliberate on the issue at hand.
The traditional head was said to be absent but the General Secretary of Ajokun and Ogunsemo Chieftaincy family( the two ruling families in Ajah), Alhaji Kabiru Yekinni, described allegation of attacks on Ilaje community by Ajah youths as false.
Rather, he stated that the trouble was between rival factions in Ilaje.
According to him, “ The real problem started from two siblings at Ilaje. We gathered that fight started between two siblings who are members of the Eiye and Aiye cult groups. When one of them was having naming ceremony, both invited their groups to the party and that was how the fight started and the backlog came in to Ajah . So, Ilaje boys hid under that, came into our side to rob and cart away property of people and burnt
We were shocked to hear that the cause of the problem is over move to sell their place and turn it into a royal garden. Where they got that information from still baffle us”
CP Muazu wades in
Determined to ensure peace in the area, the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command , CP Zubairu Muazu, met with both parties last month, where he settled the misunderstanding between them. A peace accord was reportedly signed by leaders from both sides .
But when all was thought to be fine, the invasion continued . Yekini, said alleged that the invasion against his end , continued for three days with hoodlums from Ilaje entering through the riverside.
He said, “ a renewed onslaught against us started on June 18, 2019. The Bale is not resident in Ajah but he was contacted on phone. Immediately he got that call, he called the Area Commander and the DPO .One of our boys that worked in Ayetoro area, named Oloyo, who was not a native of Ajah was killed. Those who attempted to recover his body were shot and one of them died instantly , while the second person died at the hospital making it three people that lost their lives. Ajah boys were angry at the attack but It took the Baale great of effort to pacify them”.
Crime Guard learned that a team of policemen who arrived the area to quell the situation reportedly met stiff resistance from the aggrieved youths, until a reinforcement led by the Area Commander, ACP Gbolahon, came.
Attack on pupils, female traders false
Yekini, described allegation that children and market women were being chased from school and market as lies. He said, “ There is nothing like that, the baba Oja of Ajah is here to attest to my claim. On the day the fracas started, the school children were locked in a place to prevent them from being hurt. Even, when the problem
started, it didn’t extend to the upper part of Ajah, where you have the market, it was only in Isale Ijebu, here, and Olokunla that the problems were. But people started moving out and locked their houses and shops out of fear”.
To ensure that peace reigned in the community, CP Muazu, stationed two Armoured Personnel Carriers: one each, at the entrance of both communities. Aside this, patrol policemen were also stationed inside the communities, particularly at the riverside , where hoodlums come through, to forestall any likely invasion or reprisal attacks.