•Hoodlums on rampage in suburbs of Lagos, Ogun
•Attack residents at home, pedestrians on the move
•Youths mobilize against hoodlums as IG deploys special forces
By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor, Dapo Akinrefon, Evelyn Usman, Olasukanmi Akoni & James Ogunaike
Armed gangs in Lagos and Ogun states have in the past few days, hijacked the lock-down directive of President Muhammadu Buhari to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, invading houses, shops and unleashing mayhem.
The hoodlums, said to be members of robbery/cult gangs known as Awawa Boys and One Million Boys, reportedly invaded neighbouring suburbs of the two states since last weekend, subjecting residents of the areas to untold harassment and intimidation after which they carted away huge sums of money and valuables.
The areas affected include Meiran, iju-Ishaga, Alagbado, Abule-Egba, Sango, Ifo and later, Agege-Pen Cinema, Dopemu, Iyana-Ipaja area, and Gowon Estate.
However, their attacks were stalled by members of Oodua People’s Congress, OPC, and youths who confronted them, with support from local vigilante groups, before the arrival of policemen.
IGP reacts, deploys DIG, others to Lagos
Following this development, Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, yesterday, ordered immediate deployment of additional intelligence and operational assets of the force, comprising Police Mobile Force, PMF, Federal Special Anti-robbery Squad, FEDSARS, Intelligence Response Team, IRT, and the Special Tactical Squad, STS, to Lagos and Ogun states to strengthen security and bolster public confidence in the affected areas.
A statement from Force Public Relations Officer, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Frank Mba, said the Intervention Team is being coordinated by a Deputy Inspector-General of Police, DIG Babatunde Ogunyanwo. Ogunyanwo is also in charge of the Department of Research and Planning of the Force and the coordinating DIG for the South-West Geopolitical Zone.
He is to immediately oversee deployment of these additional assets to enhance public safety, public confidence and general security in the two states.
The Police boss also ordered Commissioners of Police across the country to immediately rejig the security architecture in their various commands to effectively tackle all emerging crimes associated with the COVID-19 lock-down.
They are also to intensify patrols around residential areas, markets, shopping malls and all critical national infrastructure in their jurisdictions.
“The Assistant Inspectors-General of Police in the twelve Zonal Commands have also been directed by the IGP to bring their supervisory role to bear by ensuring that the Commands under their Zones are safe and secure for the citizenry to live and thrive,” the statement read.
It added that a total of 191 suspects had been arrested in Lagos and Ogun states in connection with the incidents, adding that 15 locally-made guns, 52 live cartridges, 42 cutlasses and axes as well as large quantities of weeds suspected to be marijuana were also recovered from the hoodlums by the Police Teams in the Agbado, Ifo, Ota and Agege areas.
The IGP assured the public that the police would not sit idly by and allow activities of a few criminals to disrupt the peace and security of the country.
He commended Nigerians for their steadfastness, patience, perseverance and vigilance at this critical time.
Social media intervention
In Lagos, while waiting for police intervention, panic- stricken residents took to the social media, calling for help from security agencies in the state.
They made bonfires on the streets in their areas to prevent the hoodlums from gaining access to their homes. Some of the posts on social media read:
“Hello family and friends, come and help us, that is why I’m doing this video. We are in the darkness because there is no electricity. The One Million Boys and other miscreants are attacking us.
“We have been calling the police for the past one hour, they said they are coming but they are nowhere to be found. We are the ones defending ourselves, what’s going on; they put us in isolation without protection.
“We are no more safe in Oke-Koto, Agunbiade from Pen-Cinema, Oremeji, Ayanmeji, all in Agege area of Lagos. Our lives are in danger. These boys are about 100, breaking into homes. We are running helter-skelter now. Please, let somebody help us,” cried one of the victims residing in Agege area, who simply identified herself as, Modinat Ajayi, whose recording had gone viral.
It was learnt that the invading robbers, mainly youths with age ranging from 16 to 25, were armed with dangerous weapons and operated from house-to house on Sunday evening. They were said to have regrouped on Monday but were repelled by the youth associations, whose efforts were complemented by police teams that raced to the areas.
Security agencies in Lagos State, comprising Lagos State Task Force; Rapid Response Squad, RRS, Divisional Police and the Executive Chairman of Agege Local Government, Agege, Ganiyu Kola Egunjobi, were said to have later responded to the distress call by the residents.
The chairman, Lagos State Task Force, Chief Superintendent of Police, Yinka Egbeyemi, told journalists that security operatives had since expedited action to bring the situation under control.
He urged residents to continue to cooperate with security agencies on information sharing to curb any robbery attack at this period, assuring that their identities would be treated with utmost confidentiality.
Sanwo-Olu deploys special task force
It was also gathered that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has directed the Governor’s Special Task Force to complement the efforts of the regular police teams in arresting the situation.
According to reports, other areas the robbers attacked included Agbado-Ijaiye, Dopemu, Egbeda, Orisunmbare, Ikotun, Ejigbo, Ajegunle, Mile-2, Meiran, Iju-Ishaga, among others.
It was also learned that out of fear, some residents in Balogun, Alhaja streets, Oke-Koto, Agbalaya, new Oko-Oba Estate, Markaz and Amoo in Agege axis, reportedly sent their female children to relatives in far-flung areas to stave off rape, leaving only the males to confront the invaders.
The siege reportedly occurred hours after some hoodlums stormed Alimosho and Ifako-Ijaiye Local Government Areas where they looted shops and carted away goods. A truck loaded with foodstuffs was raided by the hoodlums.
At Dopemu, residents said the hoodlums stormed the area with over 25 motorbikes and commercial buses, at about 7pm yesterday, while some of the residents were lounging in front of their homes. Eyewitnesses said they broke into houses and shops, carting away goods.
At Mangoro area, some residents said hoodlums attacked people walking on the streets, dispossessing them of phones and cash.
A resident in Iyana Ipaja area of Lagos who simply gave his name as Olugbemiga, said the invaders attacked victims in broad daylight.
He said: “They operate both in the daytime and at night. They are hooded during the day. We have taken our fate in our hands. We keep vigil both day and night. Areas they have visited are Alekuto, Unity, Disu and Iyana Ipaja.
“They collect only phones and money and whoever refuses to give, they beat to stupor. At night, they attempted to rape both single ladies and married women, if they did not find money in the house.”
The attacks spread to Ajegunle, Oshodi, Ikeja, Onipanu, Obalende, Ijora-Olopa, Mile 2 Bridge and isolated spots on major highways yesterday.
The attack on Mile 2, outward Apapa, is perpetrated by traffic robbers who lay in wait for motorists plying the route. They position themselves close to bad spots and come out of their hiding whenever a motorist slows down.
Some Vanguard staff were attacked at that spot while driving home, Sunday night, while others managed to escape. Other motorists also suffered same fate, as they were dispossessed of their valuables and cash.
Investigation by Vanguard revealed that aside from the the One Million Boys gang, pick pockets, some motorcycle riders, some commercial bus drivers and conductors, some members of the transport unions, who were forced to remain indoors, capitalized on the lock-down to attack innocent people and motorists seen on the roads.
At Igando area of Lagos, some residents said the hoodlums wrote a letter, informing them to get ready for their visit.
Already, some of them have abandoned their homes, to live with relatives elsewhere, pending when the sit-at-home directive will be suspended.
Cult war degenerates into robbery in Ogun
Elsewhere in Ado-Odo, Owode, Sango-Ota, Ifo, Owode-Ijako, Joju, Ijoko and Agbado areas in Ogun State, the situation is same.
Vanguard learned that attacks in these areas started as a result of battle for supremacy between two rival cult groups which degenerated into robbery attacks and other criminal activities.
But at Ijaye, Ahmadiyya, Abule-Egba, Abule Moore and Captain areas, residents said they had been keeping vigils since last Thursday for fears of attacks by the hoodlums.
One of the residents, Mr Ayo Dele, said: “We have formed a vigilante group in my area to keep watch and alert security agents of any likely invasion by these bad boys. While at it, we heard they were attacking people elsewhere.
‘’We had to mobilize ourselves by making bonfires to prevent them from driving in. By then, OPC members in our areas had mobilized themselves, waiting for them but we thank God they did not come here.”
Already, Policemen in both states have made some arrests. In Lagos, 40 suspects have so far been arrested in connection with the weekend invasion at Agege, while 92 suspected cultists were also arrested in different hideouts in the state.
But the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Hakeem Odumosu, warned residents to desist from making bonfires on the streets.
The warning became necessary as some Police teams said to have been drafted to the scene of robbery, weekend, could not access the area due to the fires on the streets.
So far, over 3,000 tyres have been seized in different parts of the state, even as the police commissioner further warned residents to stop raising false alarm.
The Command’s Public Relations Officer, DSP Bala Elkana, said the Police had put measures in place to curb any likely criminal tendency in any part of the state.
He disclosed that different patrol teams had been deployed to communities in Agege, Alimosho and Ikeja Local Government Areas that were under robbery attacks in the state.
In Ogun State, some suspects were also arrested in Ifo, Owode-Ijako, Joju, Ijoko and Agbado areas.
Ogun Police makes arrests
Spokesman of Ogun State Police Command, DSP Abimbola Oyeyemi, gave identities of some of the hoodlums to include Ekunoye Lucky, 22; Badmus Sodiq, 27; Showumi Femi, 21; Adeagbo Adewumi, 22; and Agboola Femi, 21.
Oyeyemi said: “The patrol team also moved to Winners Church area, along Idiroko road where another suspect, Adekunle Okeoye, 23; was arrested with a brand new locally made shotgun loaded with five live cartridges and assorted charms.
“Operatives extended their operation to Araromi community in Agbado where three other suspects, namely Sulaiman Ogunbiyi, aka Absorber federal, Saminu Adamu and Nasiru Umar, were arrested with face masks and assorted charms.
“Earlier, 10 of the hoodlums were picked up at various locations in Ifo, Kajola and Ososun areas of Ifo Local Government Area by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.
Ogun CP’s order
Ogun State Commissioner of Police, Kenneth Ebrimson, has ordered that all the arrested suspects be transferred to SARS for investigation.
He also ordered continuation of the operation until the last of the hoodlums was arrested.
The Police boss appealed to members of the public not to be “unnecessarily apprehensive as the command will continue to do everything within its powers to ensure that the good people of Ogun State enjoy adequate security during and after this trying period of our dear country.”
PDP blasts Sanwo-Olu
Reacting to the attacks yesterday, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Lagos State, faulted the Sanwo-Olu administration for not being proactive in tackling crimes in the state.
Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Taofik Gani said: “The police should step up but again, it is confirming our saying that this government of Sanwo-Olu is reactive and not proactive; it is a never-ready government.
Where is the Lagos State Security Trust Fund? With the latest onslaught from Ogun State by these bandits, the Lagos State Government, Lagos Police Command and the LSSTF are not proactive. They should have been on standby, knowing that Lagos and Ogun States are neighbours.
If it were a proactive government, they ought to have taken care of that. We are urging Lagosians to take their destinies in their hands because there is no government in Sanwo-Olu’s administration. We are in for it.”