By Emma Nnadozie
For long, a group of hoodlums have been terrorising residents of Mile2, Abule-Ado, Old Ojo road, Abule-Osun and some parts of FESTAC town, in Lagos state.
They operated freely in these areas, robbing, maiming extorting, looting and killing people. They confiscated people’s hard-earned property at will and forcefully ejected tenants out of such property after which they engaged their own tenants and took over the collection of rents.
They were also into toll collections in major parts of the areas and the major expressway leading out of the country towards Seme.
They subjected truck drivers and members of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, to untold hardship and extortion.
Many of the drivers had lost their lives while scores were seriously maltreated and injured for putting up resistance against their exploits.
They operated at will, armed with sophisticated weapons. They also had as their weapons stones packed in wheel barrows and broken bottles.
These hoodlums operate from Oguntade village, close to Vin-Niger area of the area.
They live in three buildings serving as their hostels and amoury. There have been allegation that their godfather who goes by the appellation ‘Oba” was not recognized by the authorities but he still parades the city as one. He serves as their Commander-in-Chief while his numerous sons serve as field commanders.
They are dreaded and feared so much that all his sons move about with not less than 200 thugs at any given time. They serve as their bodyguards and they are used to extort levies from their victims forcefully.
Humiliation for police and LG officials
The terrorist group once declared their territory a sovereign state where no security agent has the authority to operate. They seem to have subdued the police, both at the local, state and national levels and they demonstrated this last year when they openly humiliated a police team officially assigned to investigate a case in the community.
The thugs being trained in their domain ambushed the five-man team, seized their weapons, forced them to kneel down and flogged them like common criminals.
It was the timely intervention of some policemen at the Satellite division close to them that helped in releasing the captured police team after they were humiliated publicly.
Till date, police authorities swallowed the humiliation without blinking an eyelid.
Then, they organized themselves and invaded Oriade Local Government Area after officials of the council visited their community to officially demand payment of tenement rate. They attacked staff of the council and subjected them to hours of beating, yet, nothing was done to them.
They also forcefully took over buildings from their owners and imposed fines ranging from N10million to N20 million and any of them who failed to pay would not only lose his property but would be beaten mercilessly.
A former police boss in Lagos tried to dislodge them by sending no fewer than 100 heavily armed policemen from all the units of the force to raid their enclave but, the operation came to nothing.
In fact, the policemen were so humiliated to the extent that they tactically withdrew in order to avoid recording heavy casualties. But not after the thugs succeeded in burning a police van.
That operation by the police infuriated the thugs so much that a massive resurgence of their deadly attacks took place several times after without police intervention.
How the bubble burst
However, the bubble burst, last Tuesday, after they came out again in their numbers and started unleashing terror on, not just tanker drivers but, residents of the area.
Their deadly operation was so fierce that enraged truck drivers who tried to safeguard their trucks were seriously battered and even shot at.
That Tuesday attack seemed to have woken up the new Commissioner of Police in Lagos state, Hakeem Odumosu as he promptly deployed a large number of his tactical team drawn from major attack units of the force into action.
The team joined another battle-ready unit led by the Divisional Police Officer in-charge of Satellite town, Chike Oti, a former police spokesman in the state and they all joined hands to carry out a massive operation that resulted in the dethronement and decimation of the dreaded members of the terrorist group.
Police sources hinted that on that day, the police mobilized operatives to the scene and engaged the thugs by deploying anti-riot equipment to disperse them.
They reportedly fired several tear gas canisters to disperse the riotous hoodlums but when they saw that they were not recording success, they quickly adjusted and frontally engaged them.
The battle which was described as “a war of courage against overwhelming crowd of youths brandishing all sorts of dangerous weapons’ lasted for hours until the police team was able to liberate Vin-Niger from them and chased them down to Abule-Ado.
The battle at Abule-Ado
Crime Guard learned that it was at Abule-Ado that a re-enforcement of heavily armed police team personally directed by the Commissioner of Police moved into action and ended up chasing them out.
They also arrested a few of the thugs. Eyewitnesses said the thugs were engaging the police team frontally but the police were very careful in order to avoid casualties including innocent people.
While the thugs were firing from all fronts, using handguns, pump-action rifles, stones, and broken bottles, they also kept mingling with the crowd using human shield to escape police arrest.
The massive deployment of tactical team by the CP succeeded, however, in dislodging them and ended up arresting about 40 suspected members of the gang.
Residents hail CP Odumosu
Crime Guard gathered that the police team got stiff resistance from the hoodlums at Abule-Ado while trying to separate the wheat from the chaff.
According to one of the sources, weapons were flowing from all angles but police overpowered them, conscious not to mow down civilians.
“Interestingly, when residents of the area noticed the heavy presence of policemen, they withdrew to their houses and this gave room for the police to freely operate and round up the thugs.
“They were overpowered while their abode was taken over. As soon as the long traumatized residents of the community saw that the police had taken over, they thronged out in numbers, praising the Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu for being the first police boss to take the bull by the horn and succeeded in capturing and chasing the terror gang out from their dreaded comfort zone.
“Like a people liberated from danger, they sang songs of joy carrying the battle-ready police team shoulder high for recording that success.”
How the kingpin escaped
One of them who spoke with Crime Guard later said he has been living in Oguntade community for about 30 years and this is the first time police recorded such a success by driving the terrorist out from their zone.
He, however, hinted that their kingpin could have been arrested but for information, he got from an unknown person who advised him to escape from the area.
He was said to have promptly boarded a motorcycle and disappeared towards the expressway to Seme and no sooner than he left than, heavily armed policemen stormed his abode in frantic search for him.
Crime Guard was informed that the police team ransacked the three-story building housing their thugs.
The building, according to sources, was forcefully taken from its rightful owner by the gang. A closer observation of the three-storey building showed that from the second to the third floor were all warehouses which serve as their hostels while another two-storey building houses the first son of the kingpin called Yusuf and said to be the ‘enfant terrible’ of the notorious family.
Visit to the community
When Crime Guard visited the community Thursday afternoon, some of the residents who spoke under the guise of anonymity still expressed fears of a reprisal attack from the fleeing members of the gang.
They stated that one of the sons of the kingpin, Yusuf, will not likely allow the humiliation to pass freely and must strike back.
“He is reputed to move around with not less than 200 armed thugs each time he was seen in public and he was said to be very vicious and violent. He was the one that led members of the gang to attack truck drivers and extorted money from them,” they stated.
However, another female resident expressed doubts of any reprisal attack going by the heavy presence of policemen in the community and prayed it would be sustained.
NUPPENG officials react
In his reaction, the National Chairman, PTD branch of NUPPENG, Otunba Salmon Akanni Oladiti told Crime Guard: “I am a man of peace and I respect the rule of law.
“I have advised our members not to take laws into their hands. We have officially reported the matter to the relevant government agencies and we are optimistic that we will get justice.”
In the same vein, Lagos state Zonal Council Chairman, Comrade Olabisi Akinola said that the case had been reported in many police stations and each time they assured that it would be investigated yet they kept on attacking our members.
“There could have been serious breach of peace if not for the police in Satellite that have been helping us to maintain peace. We are appealing to the authorities to take drastic action that will put a permanent stop to the atrocious and criminal activities of these criminals because our members have suffered enough.”
Interpol to the rescue
Meanwhile, sources said police authorities are considering engaging international police, Interpol, in their bid to fish out all the fleeing members of the vicious gang suspected to have fled to Benin Republic and its environs.
As at press time, heavily armed policemen were still patrolling the entire troubled areas while thorough searches were being conducted to finally rout all the members of the deadly and vicious gang that have been terrorizing the area for long.