James Ojo Adakole
For Mrs Funke Olatunji (not her real name), the streets of Fadeyi in Shomolu Local Government Area of Lagos State were bubbling with usual morning activities as she opened her shop situated along Adenekan Street on penultimate Wednesday.
She displayed her wares and sat in front of her shop, savouring the hustle and bustle of the beautiful day, as she awaited her customers.
Unknown to her, the day would not be business as usual. Barely few hours after she opened her shop, the once peaceful atmosphere suddenly became rancorous with gunshots rending the air.
As residents scampered for safety in the ensuing melee, the thought of safely escaping from the area ran through Olatunji’s mind as she moved quickly to pack her wares into the shop, to avoid looting by street urchins, a regular experience for many residents of Fadeyi area, whenever cultists and hoodlums popularly known as “area boys” clash. Two persons were reportedly shot dead during the Wednesday mayhem. Their names were given as Tobi Kuti, who police alleged to be one of the hoodlums and Samuel Geoffrey, a staff of DTD Services, Apapa. Both were reportedly killed by stray bullets.
According to an eyewitness account, the fight broke out around 1:00 p.m on that fateful day. When Sunday Sun arrived at the scene of the incident, there was heavy presence of security operatives from the Lagos State Police Command at strategic locations to prevent further breakdown of law and order. Most of the streets had by then been deserted for fear of reprisal attacks from one faction of the hoodlums against the other. Parents were seen barking out orders at their wards to stay indoors. Most shops were closed immediately after the incident.
Later that evening, football fans, who watched Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-finals matches between Manchester United and Barcelona, as well as Ajax FC and Juventus did so amid fear of being hounded by security operatives on duty. Most of the residents who were approached by Sunday Sun to ascertain the cause of the clash declined for fear of being victimized. However, a resident who spoke on condition of anonymity said that such clashes had been reoccurring in the area for a long time.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos Police Command, Bala Elkana, a Deputy Superintendent (DSP), who confirmed the incident said that 33 suspects had been arrested for cultism and murder in connection with the incident, adding that two locally made shotguns with 10 live cartridges and other dangerous weapons such as cutlasses, knives, were recovered.
“Members of rival cult groups from Alakara, Mushin and Onipanu, Shomolu, armed with dangerous weapons and engaged themselves in a fierce supremacy fight at Fadeyi, Onipanu, along Ikorodu road. During the scuffle, one Tobi Kuti suspected to be one of the hoodlums and one Samuel Geoffrey of DTD Services, Apapa, who was caught up in the web, were killed by the hoodlums,” Elkana said.
“Patrol teams and operatives of tactical units were promptly deployed to the scene. The teams swiftly contained the situation and restored normalcy to the area,” adding that the manhunt for the other fleeing members of the gangs was ongoing.
Community at hoodlums’ mercy
An estate consultant resident in the area, Mr Bolaji, was about striking a business deal with a potential client over a project when the violent clash on the fateful Wednesday brought the meeting to an abrupt end. According to him, the growing clashes between hoodlums in the area are not only a threat to lives and property of residents, but also to business activities.
“The situation is slowing down businesses for those of us who are into different entrepreneurial activities. The clients are not always comfortable with us when such things come up. I was with a client close to the scene of the incident, but when that happened, the client had to run for safety. It was quite embarrassing.
“The little idea I have about what happened yesterday was that some parts of this community are having issues with the other over conflicting interests. And that has been on for over so many years. What happened on that Wednesday was so sudden. You needed to see people running helter-skelter as gunshots were fired. Most of the time, innocent people are always the victims. We are pleading with the government to wade into the situation because it has not been easy, the experience has been ugly,” Bolaji said. Corroborating Mr Bolaji’s claim, another trader in the community, who pleaded anonymity added: “Whenever a clash occurs, the hoodlums will attack innocent people, break into and loot shops. Most of the people that were arrested were innocent people. The government has to come and ensure that the actual perpetrators of these acts are the ones brought to book. From experience so far, the tragic part of such moments is that shops of market men and women trying to eke out a living are often besieged and the goods carted away, leaving them in huge debts. The hoodlums are not making the environment peaceful. It is affecting businesses in this area because people cannot move freely,” he said.
When Sunday Sun visited the area again on the next day, most shops were still locked. “If you were the one, will you open your shop after yesterday’s incident?” a trader snapped, when asked why most shops were still locked around 11:00a.m.
Aside shops being locked up, human traffic was sparse.
Residents of the area were seen in groups, discussing in hushed tones. Fears were still palpable though security presence in the area was still heavy.
Growing concerns over security in Lagos
Wednesday’s incident once again raised concerns over security in Lagos. Recall that the state was recently shocked by the kidnap of the Director of the Lagos State Fire Service, Rasaki Musibau and six others by gunmen on Iwoye Bridge, along the Itoikin-Epe Road, Ikorodu.
However, the Lagos Fire Service boss, alongside others have been released by their abductors. And while the dust generated by the development was yet to settle, the bloody clash in Fadeyi happened.
Meanwhile, the Lagos PPRO has reiterated the commitment of the Lagos Police Command to rid the state of hoodlums, to ensure a tranquil environment that promotes socio-economic development.
“We have not relented on our efforts. If you look at the few incidents we have, there were massive arrests. So, the command has not been sleeping. We have been up and doing, and that is why Lagos has been enjoying the peace we are seeing presently,” Elkana said during a telephone chat with Sunday Sun.
“We have different ongoing surveillance operations. If you look up, you will see helicopters hovering around. Down, you will see enough vehicles on patrol too. We have also cut down our office resources for them to join those on the roads, so we have more police personnel patrolling Lagos,” he said.