By Job Osazuwa
Normalcy has somehow returned to Oloruntoyin, Olapeju and Oloje Streets in the Ladipo auto spare parts market in the Mushin area of Lagos where hoodlums had a free rein early last week.
However, in spite of the gradual calm in the area now, some traders are still gnashing their teeth and counting their losses, following the violence that engulfed the area. Many were injured, just as many vehicles were razed.
The crisis started on Tuesday, May 17 when some hooligans, popularly known as area boys, who were collecting land fees in the area, allegedly invaded the market that morning and engaged the traders in a fight. In the course of the fight, houses and shops were also torched.
Daily Sun gathered that the street gangsters, who came at about 10am, smashed bottles on the road and attacked the traders with cutlasses and other weapons. The hoodlums were said to have stormed the market to collect the land fees but the traders resisted, leading to pandemonium that later escalated.
One of the victims of the mayhem and General Manager of City Land Warehouse, Mr. Dike Chinenye, told the reporter at the weekend that his two vehicles were completely burnt while two others were vandalised.
According to him, he could still not fathom why the perpetrators chose to target his business for destruction when what led to the fight had no connection with his warehouse and other shops at Oloje Street. Many of those who bore the brunt of the fracas were innocent traders, he said. He said all efforts by his workers to salvage some of the vehicles yielded no appreciable result, as the hoodlums overpowered them.
He recalled how the trouble started that morning around Olapeju Street, but said it never occurred to him that the crisis would extend to his street.
When the trouble seemed to have subsided, Chinenye left for another part of the state for a business transaction. He was there when he was called on the telephone that the area boys had set his vehicles ablaze. He said he couldn’t remember how he hurriedly found his way back to Ladipo. Getting there later, the damage had been done, leaving him weeping like a baby.
He lamented that what was damaged at his warehouse amounted to over N4 million. He recollected that he almost collapsed when he saw the relics of the vehicles, but for the intervention of colleagues and other sympathisers.
But he told the reporter that he still remained grateful to God because no life was lost during the fracas, except different degrees of injuries sustained by some persons.
According to him: “We have been doing our businesses here in peace for long. We never had any problem with the area boys, concerning this matter that led to the latest fight. All I know is that some alaye boys (street toughies) had some issues with traders on Olapeju Street. The problem they had there was on how much and who to collect the ‘park and pay’ money. That morning, the boys made some noise and threw broken bottles in the air. But I was told that they resolved the matter shortly after.
“What exactly caused the second serious fight that led to the damage of our property is what I cannot really explain. But, I heard that one Igbo boy used some charm to beat one of the alaye boys and wounded him in the process. Other alaye boys thereafter launched a reprisal attack on the Igbo boy and the fight spread further. And the target was on Igbo people’s property.
“When they fought the first part, we all ran to different directions to save our heads. The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Olosekan Police Station controlled the situation, and we thought that was all. But we were wrong.
“When they started again, they burnt two of my vehicles and destroyed two others. I never knew the fight would lead to burning people’s vehicles and other property. I actually locked my warehouse in the morning, but the vehicles they burnt were parked outside as we usually do.
“I went out and I was already at Idimu Road when I was called that the boys had set my vehicles ablaze. My workers quickly moved some of our vehicles away to a safer place, but the boys were pursuing them and destroying the cars. I met one of the vehicles still burning, then the boys threw tyres into it so that it could burn faster.
“At that point, I was about to slump, but God’s grace and people around saved me. The mobile policemen tried what they could to ensure that the damage did not continue.”
He said he got another call about 3.00am on Wednesday that Olapeju plaza was on fire.
“I asked one of the traders there to go and see if he could rescue some goods from his shop, but he was afraid because the boys could kill him there. When he got there later, his shop was completely razed and the man has not been himself since the incident.
“Among my vehicles they destroyed; the white bus is N1.5 million, the Volkswagen Passat is N650, 000, the one outside is N900, 000 and the pick-up van is N800, 000,” he said.
He called on the concerned authorities to expedite action by investigating the matter and bringing those behind it to justice. Chinenye said he was tired of incessant violence in the market, and called on government to find a lasting solution to the situation so that the traders could go about their businesses without fear.
Despite the rainfall that fateful Tuesday, it was learnt that the hoodlums laid siege to the market, brandishing knives, cutlasses and rifles, a scene that forced many to abandon their shops and wares and scampered for safety.
A trader at the market, Mr. Emeka Okolie, said the boys were up to 40 and were ruthless throughout the fight.
“I had to run away for my dear life. It was a big fight. As they started the trouble, many other street urchins later joined. They didn’t burn up to 40 vehicles and nobody died. They burnt about 10 vehicles and smashed others,” he said.
The reporter was told by some other persons in the area that members of the market taskforce, claiming to be acting under the orders of a senior official of the union, allegedly led the hoodlums that wreaked the havoc.
The Executive Secretary of Mushin Local Community Development Area (LCDA), Jide Bello, who visited the scene, urged the people to maintain peace, assuring them that investigation would be conducted and those found guilty punished.
Lagos State police spokesperson, Dolapo Badmos, who confirmed the fracas, had said no death was recorded due to the prompt intervention of the police patrol team in the neighbourhood.
“No single death was recorded during the incident. Four men were injured and rushed to the hospital,” she said.
Despite the restored calm, many shops at the Ladipo market were shut down for fear of reprisals. Mobile policemen were visibly stationed at Oloje Street. There was tension in the air.
Daily Sun gathered that the Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, had ordered full-scale investigation into the matter.