Vivian Onyebukwa And Elizabeth Ogunbamowo
As you read this, private business owners in Lagos as well as other cities in Nigeria, including Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, are lamenting as they count their losses after the conscienceless vandalisation of their property by hoodlums and looters.
Hundreds of them are said to have been arrested by security agents across the country, especially in Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Osun, Anambra, Kano and Plateau states.
Losses incurred by public and private concerns have been put at hundreds of billions of naira. Lagos State government said in a recent statement that it would need about 1 trillion naira to replenish the losses. We will fish out looters, police commands across the states vowed as 14 were killed during the looting of Kogi, Adamawa, Taraba palliative warehouses. Looting of these palliatives warehouses is evidence that her father is not Nigeria’s problem Zahra, Buhari’s daughter, said.
But elsewhere across the nation it has been nothing but lamentations from citizens, private businessmen and manufacturers who lost their goods, monies and products to hoodlums and looters during the hijacked protests by criminal elements.
For instance, the Managing Director, Tuns Farm. Osogbo, Osun State, Mr. Taofeek Badmus, put his losses at over N500m. In Kano State, Alhaji Ahmed Sufi, the owner of the multi-million naira Galaxy Shopping Mall in Sabon Gari, said N246m worth of goods were lost to looters. In Benin, Isiraojie Moses whose house is located close to the vicinity of the Oko Correctional facility raided by hoodlums who later set free the inmates, reported it being looted and burnt. During the attack, he lost two plasma TV sets, laptops, computers, his mother’s jewels, goats they were rearing at the backyard, clothes and school files.
Tales of woes from looted restaurant
In Lagos, the story is probably worse. In Ikotun, Ijesha and Itire areas of the city, phone stores, electronic stores, restaurants, residential areas, among others, were looted leaving the owners to bear the loss while women were raped during the mayhem. Speaking with Saturday Sun, Olawale Olaoyenikan, Admin Manager, Food City, Ikotun, Lagos, who put the company’s losses in millions of naira, lamented the extensive damage done to the eatery.
His narrative: “During the curfew, I usually come around to see if things are in order. But on the day the protest turned violent the day’s supplies for Food City were looted. Someone called me to inform me. Initially, the police station was their target because they’d been making attempts to attack the station but the officers tried their level best to protect this area. However, eventually they succeeded and damaged our things.”
Estimating the cost of repairs, he said that the restaurant would need over N10 million to get the business back to its feet. “This glass alone costs about N1.8 million. This is frameless glass; it’s not an ordinary glass,” he pointed out. “After they broke in, they started damaging things. Our cake display chiller costs nothing less than N1 million; ice cream chiller is N1.8 million. The structure for displaying our food, they destroyed everything. They even removed the wall AC’s, the TV sets, the office TV, and the refrigerator. They took some, they damaged others.
“All our items were carted away. They even took our hand-dryer, and cake mixer from the bakery. I don’t know where they got the energy because that those things are very heavy. They took away the battery from the generator. That’s our fuel tank over there; we usually fill it with 2000 litres; they siphoned everything. There are lots of things that I can’t even remember.”
He also revealed that the vandals also stole money from the safe, computer and everything. He added that due to the curfew, staff members were not at the workplace except for the security operatives, two of whom were seriously injured in the process.
Olaoyenikan said the restaurant is enlisting the service of the Lagos State government’s scheme to help businesses affected by the activities of the hoodlums. “We are trying to do everything possible to get back into business,” he remarked. “We have over 55 staff working for us here; we don’t want to lay off any of them. Right from time, Food City doesn’t lay people off. We’re known for protecting the jobs of our staff. Even during the COVID-19 lockdown, this company paid staff members even though there was no work.”
Owner of electronics store laments
Shedrach Eze, owner of a big electronic store also at Ikotun estimates his losses at N68 million. “This store was very full before now,” he said. “I sell cooker, generating set, washing machine, freezer and other items. They carted away virtually everything. This freezer here, we saw it at the BRT bus stop. They had already taken the compressor, it is now invalid. The washing machine too, they’ve removed the vital parts and it’s now useless. They removed the surveillance cameras (CCTV). They spent almost two hours while removing the door, they used chisel to do so. I contacted my insurance company but they said my insurance policy doesn’t cover riot and war. I’ve told my lawyer to write them. I am not happy at all with everything that happened. I haven’t had a decent sleep since the incident but there’s nothing I can do. I can’t go and fight those who looted this place.”
Eze said he will try to apply for the Lagos State government scheme although he sounds a bit skeptical about whatever financial help he may get helping him to get back on his business feet. “I’m not supposed to come here but people have promised and failed. I don’t even know where to start.” When asked about the fate of staff members, the distraught business owner said he had stopped four of them from coming to work. “I paid everybody working here for this month but next month is not certain.”
Losses from phones store
When one of our correspondents visited Phones4u store at Ikotun, she found the whole place in disarray because of the extent of damage done by looters and hoodlums. Emem Bassey, the owner of the multi-million naira store said that prior to the curfew, the protests had caused roadblock, which restricted the movement of some of the staff. But the curfew worsened the situation.
“The curfew made the hoodlums to have their way,” he said. “They had a field day looting. They succeeded in burning the police station, paralysing the security of this area. They had a field day going from shop to shop looting. Here we had five vaults where we keep our phones; it’s unimaginable that they were able to break into them. We learnt that they started in the afternoon and continued till the following day. They carted away all the phones, phone accessories. They didn’t stop at that. They damaged all the tables, stole all the fans, all the appliances. They even stole all the lights, furniture. The one they couldn’t steal, they damaged. They even attempted stealing the prepaid meter. This will show you the extent of carnage. It’s been terrible.”
He noted that the damage done and losses that the store suffered will take between five and ten years to rebuild and replace as the vandals left with everything including earpiece. “By the time we came here, this place was like a battleground,” he explained. “Not only this place but all the stores around here. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
He added that the security personnel couldn’t handle the situation because the number of hoodlums and looters were simply intimidating and overwhelming. He said that although they overpowered their security men none of them was mortally injured or killed. He noted that the store had no insurance cover because there was a time they had a challenge but the insurance company was not forthcoming. So they decided to stop paying premium to any insurance company and instead used the money to invest in the acquisition of strong vaults that are almost indestructible. This is why, he said, he didn’t initially bother much when he learnt that looters were operating around the area.
“These vaults are not ordinary vaults,” he said. “I learnt that it took them four hours to break into them. The people who came here are not just thieves; they are professionals because it takes someone who knows about vault to get it opened. They know where to hit. We have five of them. It must have taken someone who knows where to attack to break into them.”
He noted that the store is still trying to count the losses, make an estimate and get the business back to its feet but he is not yet sure how to go about paying the salary of his staff for the month. “We really need support,” he said. “If we can get loans or grants so that we can get back to some level of operations that will be okay.” He also confessed that the store is also trying to register on the platforms of the state government scheme for financial intervention.
Gas depot looted
Jude Uche, owner of United Gas Depot said he couldn’t really estimate the cost of the damage done to his shop but added that it runs into millions of naira. He said that he had tried reporting at the Area M Police Station but was not really given the chance to do so. The man, a member of the Liquified Gas Retailers, said that he left his shop last week Tuesday very early because of the emergency curfew only to receive a call some days later that his shop had been burgled.
According to him, he sells gas, gas cylinders and their spare parts. “I display my gas cylinders to as far as the gate of this place,” he said. “I owe people and people owe me. They looted everything and trampled upon papers including receipts. So, I can’t even trace some things. They even went away with my car papers but I still have a particular permit; so getting back my car papers shouldn’t be a problem. They stole gas, gas cylinders, cookers and parts.”
He laments that the looting and vandalisation of his business premises is a big setback as he had just recovered from a particular financial challenge and had borrowed money to re-activate the business. “I don’t have money but when I go to the market to buy goods, I go with lots of money,” he said. “I invest in my business a whole lot but now everything is gone. I haven’t slept a wink since the incident.”
Hoodlums loot shops and homes, rape women
In Ijesha and Itire areas of Lagos, the vandals caused a lot of harm not only to business owners but also to the residents. They looted shops as well as residential houses. On Saturday last week, they started their evil act at about 7pm and continued till about 3 am without any intervention from security operatives.
A resident of one of the houses on Karounwi Street who does not want his name in print for fear of being attacked by the bad boys, narrated to Saturday Sun how the hoodlums and looters carried out the attacks. “I have never witnessed anything like that in my life,” he said. “They razed down all the shops and carted away things. Restaurants, bakeries, electronics shops and others were broken into and looted. As if that was not enough, they started breaking into people’s houses with all manner of weapons and looting and robbing them. The worst is that some women were raped, old and young. Some were raped in the very presence of their husbands while the young ladies were raped in the presence of their parents. Among the women affected was a 60-year-old woman as well as one pregnant woman. From the news I got today, they said the woman died on Monday. I think this is the height of it.”
Narrating his own experience, he said: “They came to my compound and forced our passageway door open. They tried to force my door open. They also tried my neighbour’s door. But while they were doing that, their leader ordered them to stop. That was what saved us.” A woman who lives on the same Karounwi Street told Saturday Sun that as soon as she heard about rape incidents, she sent away her two young daughters to go and stay with her relatives living in another part of Lagos.
Residents lament abscene of security operatives
As you read this, the entire residents of Ijesha and Itire areas of Lagos are sleeping, as they say in local parlance, with one eye open. As our reporter was trying to get more information on Tuesday, this week, people started scampering for their lives. It was later discovered that a young man who was walking on the road had been stabbed on his neck by miscreants.
“I pray that this boy survives because the injury was much’, a woman who was seen running for her dear life, said. “I don’t know what this country is turning into. One is not safe in his or her country anymore. These boys have turned this thing into something else. The worst is that, there are no security operatives anywhere to protect the citizens from their attacks.”
Investigation by our reporter showed that the incident forced shop owners operating around the area to quickly lock up their shops and leave as the news spread. The ones who managed to open kept vigilance and were ready to lock up at the slightest sign of danger.
During the violent protest, most of the shops along Ijesha Road were destroyed. As things stand now, the ever busy road has been turned into a ghost town. Motorists that ply the road now do so with fear. Even residents are afraid to move about.
A landlord living on Ronke Street, Ijesha and popularly known as Baba Olaoye, lamented the activities of the hoodlums. “I think the one million boys are back,” he said. “They go in groups, terrorising people, snatching phones and handbags even in broad daylight without dear. Police should please come to our aid.”
Reign of touts
Days after the EndSARS protests virtually ended in Lagos and some other parts of the country, policemen who were the primary target of the agitation are still missing on the roads where they used to control traffic and enforce law and order. Instead, suspected touts have now taken over these duties on Lagos roads, having a free reign.
The touts are however doing a wonderful job in restoring law and order while policemen, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and Neighborhood Watch, thoroughly shaken by the event of last week, the public rampage and show of anger against law enforcement officers, continue to stay away from their duty posts on the grounds of playing safe.
The new order
Surprisingly Oshodi axis remains one of the areas that had little or no attack by suspected hoodlums. Apart from Makinde Police Station, majority of the shops at the popular Oshodi market was not affected.
Although police and LASTMA are yet to be seen at their usual spots, there appears to be sanity in that axis. One of the touts who was seen controlling the traffic earlier told Saturday Sun reporter that they need order. “You can call us any name you want but our boss the leader of NURTW warned us not allow chaos to reign. He became what he is from this side, so he will not allow things to go wrong. We are here to maintain law and order and to keep the market safe. If we destroy the market, who will pay our dues. Miscreants in Oshodi went to other areas; they dare not because we know them. This is why Oshodi is safe.”
Confirming what he said, some of the shop owners praised MC Oluomo for controlling his boys. A shop owner at Mafoluku who owns a mini supermarket said that they panicked when they learnt of the mass looting in other areas. “It is those Yahoo boys that attacked Makinde Police Station,” she said. “It is not new that they are so much around this area and some policemen derive pleasure in randomly arresting them. They are the ones responsible. We were assured that nothing will happen to our businesses and they kept to their word. Even when they passed through here, none of our shops were affected. I don’t know how it happened but God took control.”
Another shop owner who owns a pharmacy said that they are still surprised that their businesses were saved. “Oshodi area is the home to so many miscreants and they decided to leave us alone. Even the ongoing house-to-house robbery is rare this period. We have our local security men and they did a wonderful job keeping us safe. I am not saying that we don’t need police in our area but the area has been calm since they abandoned their post.”
They all claimed there was little or no presence of police still seen as at press time. But traffic points were orderly as motorists are aware of the consequence of disobeying the new order in town. “I will break your glass and nothing will happen if you don’t stop,” one of the touts screamed. “This is not police that you disobey anyhow and nothing will happen.”
Laughing, a policeman who was in mufti commended their work. “Let the truth be told,” he said. “Lagosians are lawless and this is the type of treatment they need. Where is even LASTMA; those ones are afraid of their lives. But don’t you wonder that it appears that LASTMA and traffic policemen are the cause of these traffics. Don’t quote me ooh.”
Why policemen are still reluctant to resume duty
Although the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu assured while addressing the media that the morale of policemen and women is back, that seems not to be the case. Odumosu’s words: “I have gone round to visit most of our injured men included DPOs who were battered. It is the hazard of the job but we will not be deterred and allow hoodlums to take over our state. You can see the number of miscreants that were arrested and we will not stop at that. This is a warning to others out there that it is not business as usual.”
But an Assistant Commissioner of Police who spoke with Saturday Sun on the assurance that his name would not be mentioned in print, suggested that the fastest way to get their morale back is by speedily implementing some of those things recommended especially in the area of welfare. “It is no joke because 90 percent of policemen and women out there were doing their job right but were attacked by people who they spend day and night to protect. Even if you do not work at the control room, friends and others who got your number through various platforms kept calling. It is time for Nigerians to apologize to the police force for that blunder. Those who were badly injured and are still in hospital, has anyone asked who will foot the bill? Even if the Lagos State government decides to do that, which I strongly doubt the possibility, what of the other states? It is easy for the IGP to command people to go.
“Anyway, with time everything will return to normalcy and Nigerians have a lot of role to play to ensure that it becomes a reality soonest. I do not blame any policeman who decides not to go out these days.”
Another senior officer who spoke to Saturday Sun lamented that they were freely attacked because of the absence of SARS operatives. “To please Nigerians, the police authority disarmed themselves and made it easy for those hoodlums to attack. If they allowed at least few former SARS operatives to stay around, those boys dare not come near. The regular policeman does not know how to handle a gun. They are even scared of killing themselves or their colleagues in the process.
“Most of the former operatives fled into the bush after their rifles were taken away from them. Their families were attacked and their houses raided. Under normal circumstance, these ones are supposed to live in the barracks but with the deplorable situation in barracks and unavailability of space, they live amongst civilians.”
He further lamented that one of the reasons police might get it right is because they are dependent on complainants to fund investigation. “There is no provision anywhere for the police to fund investigation. We are expected to fuel our vehicles ourselves and no policeman’s salary is enough to be spent on that. This is why if you need police patrol around your area, the community must fund it. This is why Nigerians believe that they control the police. Unlike in RRS and EFCC where all these things are available, you have enough operational vehicles and a special allowance at the end of every month. So why won’t they be seen as the best? I will not be surprised if most of our men decide to retire early. We have not had it this bad,” he lamented.