People living in Agbelekale area in Agbado, Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of Lagos State, were at about 3pm on April 14 thrown into confusion.
Rough-looking boys, numbering over 30, marched through the area. They were in four vehicles, which intermittently stopped. According to the residents who saw them, the miscreants were chanting words that were apparently meaningless. The hoodlums were armed with cutlasses and locally made guns.
To protect themselves and their belongings, residents of Agbele and its environs, comprising landlords and tenants, trooped out to the streets wielding all manner of weapons in readiness to confront anyone who would deny them their peace. In less than five minutes, a rising number of more angry youths joined the demonstration, and the entire area was soon taken over by battle-ready residents.
United to deal with the common enemy, they appeared ready for war. As witnessed by the reporter, shops selling foodstuff, a bakery, as well as pharmacies at the busy bus stop hurriedly packed up their wares and locked up. Terrified by the pandemonium, women took their children and hurried into their houses for safety, even as some passersby scampered for safety.
The strangers were said to be One Million Boys, a devilish group that has unleashed hell on many areas in Lagos and Ogun states. The mere mention of the group’s name sends fear and panic into residents.
Thankfully, within 10 minutes of the pandemonium, two police patrol vans arrived in the area. The policemen wasted no time in asking the direction the boys had gone. Blaring their siren, they gave the hoodlums a chase. The residents did not conceal their joy as they commended the timely arrival of the security agents.
Many residents of Lagos and Ogun have reported cases of robbery in their communities in the wake of the lockdown.
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Sunday, March 29, 2020, announced a lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and Abuja for 14 days to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country. This was further extended on April 13 for another two weeks.
Sadly, since the lockdown entered its second week, armed robbers have been having a field day in some Lagos and Ogun communities. These cultists called One Million Boys were said to be responsible for most of the robbery attacks in Sango-Ota, Agbado Ijaiye, Adura, Meiran and Abule-Egba areas.
For instance, on April 11, people living in Sango-Ota and Ijoko area of Ogun State took to the social media to report cases of robbery and attacks in their neighbourhoods. This was even before the lockdown was extended by the President.
In Lagos, residents of Abule-Egba, Iyana-Ipaja, Alagbado, and Agege have also suffered attacks as the robbers and cultists invade homes in their numbers, demanding cash, disposable items and food.
In one of the attacks, the hoodlums took over Capitol Road in Agege, robbing commuters and motorists of money and other valuables. Vehicles on essential duty were forced to avoid the axis for the fear of being waylaid.
Residents turn vigilantes
While residents have cried to the Nigerian Police to come to their rescue, some of the affected areas have decided to set up local vigilance groups to repel robbery attacks. Though the police have assured them that they were on top of the situation, the people have resolved to keep watch over their communities both day and night. Many of the residents were forced to set up vigilance groups as the spate of robbery incidents in their areas increased daily.
At Ola Mummy Junction in Meiran, Lagos, landlords and tenants come out every night to secure their areas. At every junction, the residents burn tyres and plastic material to illuminate the neighbourhood. They also sing war songs making it almost impossible for those who are not part of the watch to have a sound sleep.
It was also gathered that the same thing takes place at Adeniyi and Adeyemi streets in the same axis. The landlords there made it mandatory for each house to send at least a representative to be part of the security watch. They also go as far as knocking on doors and banging the gates of houses where people refuse to join the group.
On April 14, the youths in Oyetoro amd Adeniyi went round all the houses and shops soliciting funds to install street lights in the area. One of the residents told Daily Sun that they were able to raise about N40,000, which was used on the same day for the purpose it was meant for.
It is now common to see residents in Alimosho Local Government Area in Lagos brandishing cutlasses and other weapons in broad daylight. Self-protection appears to be what is in vogue at the moment.
Sleeping with one eye open
It was learnt that residents in these communities have not been sleeping with both eyes closed. The complaints have been overwhelming. Some of the affected people took to the social media to vent their anger and frustration.
There were also reports that residents of Festac Town in Lagos were also attacked at the weekend. In the afternoon, the hoodlums besieged the densely-populated areas to rob residents and loot shops.
It was believed that a gang led by a certain ex-convict allegedly sacked a police checkpoint in Dalemo, Ogun State, last Tuesday and robbed residents.
To ward off attacks, many residents have resorted to keeping vigil and making bonfires to secure their communities from the hoodlums who always strike in large numbers.
Mr. Olatunji Michael, who lives in Meiran, said that he couldn’t sleep on the night of April 12 as the robbers terrorised some streets in the area.
“My wife became an emergency prayer warrior. She intensified her prayers when we heard that they were coming to our street. Nobody slept in my house for so many hours. And this has been happening for some days.
“I am praying for this coronavirus to be over so that these problems will become a thing of the past. Anarchy is gradually setting in in some Lagos and Ogun communities. Many boys are hungry and angry. Most of these thugs are now thieves. We have not known peace for some days now. May God help us,” he told the reporter.
Residents have called on security agents to act fast to prevent the situation from escalating to a complete breakdown of law and order.
Some communities have reported that, even in the daytime, hoodlums have been seen moving from house to house taking everything on sight. For these victims and many other people, staying home amid the lockdown is no longer safe.
The Lagos State police public relations officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police Bala Elkana, in a statement at the weekend, said a special strike force and tactical teams had been deployed in different parts of the state to tackle the menace. He stated that 36 suspects were arrested.
Said he said: “The Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Command, CP Hakeem Odumosu, has ordered the immediate deployment of operatives of the command’s Special Strike Force on Social Miscreants. Also deployed are Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Anti-Cultism Squad and Raiders to various parts of Lagos State to support the efforts of area commands and divisional patrol teams already deployed to tackle the menace.
“Operatives of the command’s Rapid Response Squad are positioned in strategic locations to promptly respond to distress calls. Patrols are intensified around markets and stores to prevent hoodlums from stealing and looting. Patrol teams are equally deployed in various communities and streets.
“Nine suspects were arrested along Abule-Egba and Ifako-Ijaiye areas after operatives of Lagos State Command successfully foiled a robbery attempt on residents in communities under neighbouring Ogun State.”
Elkana said operatives also responded to a distress call on Burma/Creek Road, Apapa, where seven gangsters engaged in a supremacy battle in the area were arrested. He said their mission was mainly to steal and loot under the guise of the supremacy battle.
His counterpart, the police spokesperson in Ogun State, DSP Abimbola Oyeyemi, had in a statement last Friday said the Ifo crisis was a supremacy battle between two rival cult groups, which degenerated into robbery and other criminal activities.
Saying that police teams had been drafted to the area for aggressive patrol, “their efforts yielded positive results as five of the hoodlums were apprehended in the Ijako area of Sango Ota.
“Also, the operatives extended their operation to Araromi community in Agbado where three other suspects were arrested with a face mask and assorted charms. Earlier, 10 of the hoodlums had been picked up at various locations in Ifo, Kajola and Ososun areas of Ifo Local Government Area by SARS operatives.”