- We won’t take this anymore – Afenifere
By YINKA OLUDAYISI FABOWALE, TUNDE THOMAS and CHRISTOPHER ORJI
BARELY a week after gunmen suspected to be Niger Delta militants and oil vandals invaded Imushin, a sleepy community in Ogun State, killing about 15 villagers, two other border communities between Lagos and Ogun states; Elepete and Igbo Olomu in Ogijo area of Ikorodu were again attacked by armed men. By the time the smoking guns of the attackers ceased firing, about 30 persons were feared killed and scores injured. The attack took place on Thursday night/ early hours of Friday.
In the latest attack at Elepete and Igbo Olomu, it was learnt that several of the victims were landlords who had formed a vigilance group due to incessant armed robbery attacks in their areas, made bonfires at strategic points and were on patrol when the militants swooped on them.
The militants, who were said to be returning around 11pm from the creeks where they had allegedly gone to perpetrate their illegal business, opened fire as they arrived at Elepete after they mistook the vigilance group, for law enforcement agents.
As the victims fled, the militants chased them and rained bullets on the defenceless villagers. By daybreak on Friday, no fewer than 30 dead bodies were reportedly recovered from various points, while most of the residents had fled the communities for safety.
Dead bodies everywhere as residents flee
Another source in one of the communities said the militants had accused the villagers of giving information to security operatives about their illegal activities. The hoodlums were said to be angry at the way joint security operatives took over the area, preventing them from carrying out their criminal acts.
A community leader, John Ogunike said “Some of our relatives were slaughtered like ram. Mr Isioluwa Angus and his wife Rosemary were slaughtered with knife. Some of the victims were shot at close range while some were hit by stray bullet.
“At the Lagos State side, five Police patrol vans were used to evacuate 20 dead bodies. In Ogun side ,we don’t know how many people lost their lives, but, information reaching me showed that many dead bodies have been discovered .Ogun State people are yet to evacuate the bodies on their own side.
“We are relocating from this community. Everybody is scared. Even the neighbouring communities are also running away because, no one knows his fate. It happened last week at Ibeshi, Imushin and no one suspected they would storm our area. Who knows the next place they will go tomorrow as they have vowed to wipe out communities within this axis. We are begging the government to come to our rescue”
As at the time of filling this report, people were still fleeing the communities.
Soldiers and Policemen have, however, been drafted to the area. Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Fatai Owoseni, and his deputies were also in the area for on the spot assessment.
Disputing the casualty figure, Owosenis Ogun State counterpart, said only two persons were confirmed dead. The Public Relations Officer of the state command, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said only two persons were killed by suspected militants who have been laying siege on the communities.
He said:“Two people have been confirmed dead. The militants came again and attacked the community. We will only continue to work collectively with all relevant agencies to stop the attacks. They came yesterday (Thursday) and attacked and went back to the creeks.”
Militants’ spread of terror
Penultimate Friday night of June 17, 2016 was a black night in Imushin community, Ogijo area of Ogun State. It was a night about 100 gunmen suspected to be Niger Delta militants invaded the community on the boundary between Lagos and Ogun states, in a shooting spree that left 15 of the residents cold dead.
Among the 15 killed in the attack was a technician, Waheed Buhari, aka Yah Alau, said to have been shot dead in front of his room, with one of his children, Mariam, sustaining bullet wounds.
Also included was a travel agent, Mr. Oladele Ogundare, who had just returned home in his car, when the rampaging militants opened fire on his car and killed him.
Another victim, Umoru, who was said to be eating noodles, was chased, hacked and shot to death, along with a friend, Danladi.and a Muslim cleric killed when the mosque in the community, was attacked.
Two hotels were reportedly raided and their customers robbed and injured, while more than 25 shops in the community were looted by the rampaging beseigers.
As families of the slain victims thronged graves to bury their relations according to Islamic rites last weekend, there were no doubts as to the criminal motives and nature of the siege. Although many of the residents, said the militants were suspected to be Ijaw youths involved in pipeline vandalism, especially in the creeks and riverine areas, who were probably on a revenge mission for the killing of two of the vandals earlier on Friday by some operatives of the State Anti- Robbery Squad, it was another orgy in the increasing bloody raids and assault on Yorubaland by the ex-militants, who seemed to have shifted shop from the South South and the South East to the South West enclave in their daring criminal ventures and exploits.
At least that appears to be the reading of the South West leaders of the latest and series of violent crimes perceived to have been committed by the militants, especially after security intelligence linked some Ijaw militancy and criminal syndicates’ kingpins to high profile robberies and kidnappings that made waves in the last one year.
Ahead of a peace meeting between leaders of the Ijaw nation, who are at pains distancing their people from the heinous acts, and Afenifere, the pan Yoruba socio cultural organization, the latter, has sounded a note of warning that it would not tolerate further any despoliation of its people from any quarter.
There have been growing strong indications that Niger Delta ex-militants as well as militiamen made jobless as a result of demobilization and reported cut in the budget of the Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty office in the last one year have invaded the South West, especially, Lagos, Ogun and Ondo States and are responsible for the various recent acts of kidnappings, robberies and other criminal activities in the region.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration had awarded contracts to six companies to guard pipelines belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. The pipeline security and surveillance contract, said to have been worth N9.3bn, was carried out between March 15 and June 15, 2015. The contract was awarded to companies owned by former Niger Delta militants, self-determination groups and prominent Nigerians including Government Tompolo Ekpumopolo, Mujaheedin Asari- Dokubo, Ateke Toms, Bipobiri Ajube and Ebikabowei Victor Ben (Boyloaf).
Others are the company of the founder of Oodua Peoples Congress, Chief Fredrick Fasehun and OPC national co-ordinator, Gani Adams The operational areas for the companies were: Egbe Security River One (Bayelsa), Gallery Security (Mosinmi-Ore), Close Body Protection (Edo), Adex Energy Security (Rivers), Donyx Global Concept (Lagos and Ogun), Oil Facilities Surveillance (Delta) and New Age Global Security (Mosinmi-Ibadan).
Impeccable security sources said available intelligence suggested that some of the ex-militants, whose source of livelihood was lost after President Muhammadu Buhari cancelled the pipeline protection contracts, were responsible for the recent upsurge of crime particularly in Lagos State.
A senior DSS official confessed that the police and other security agencies were finding it difficult to control the proliferation of firearms in the possession of the ex-militants. It was learnt that some of the ex-militants and militiamen responsible for protecting the pipelines during former Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, in addition to returning to pipeline vandalism and illegal oil bunkering in the coastal areas of the South West, notably Arepo, Ikorodu, Ilaje and Ogun waterside also turned to kidnapping and robberies to make money. “Since abduction seems to be profitable and less risky, jobless ex-militants and militia group members seem to have found a lucrative business in the kidnapping of hapless citizens,” a security chief said in an interview.
Since President Buhari did not renew the contracts awards. the states in the South West have witnessed robbery attacks and upsurge in violent crimes between last year and now.
The heightened situation, observers note, can be explained by the heat of deployment of troops to curtail resurgent militancy in the Niger Delta region, which may have forced more of the hoodlums out to seek safer haven in the West.
There have also been several cases of robberies and kidnapping, including the abduction of wife of the Deputy Managing Director/ Deputy Editor-in Chief of the Sun Publlishing Limited, Steve Nwosu, two photojournalists of The Sun and The Nation newspapers and others in Festac area of Amuwo Odofin Local Government area, with the abductors said to have often made their escape in speedboats and through waterways and canals, lending to the suspicion that they were militants. The latest was the abduction of three schoolgirls from the Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary, Ikorodu,
A gang of robbers on Wednesday, June 24, 2015, attacked two new generation banks in the Ikorodu area of the state. The robbers were said to have trailed a bullion van to the premises of one bank in the Ogolonto area of the town before moving to another bank after they were done with the first. The police reportedly engaged the militants in a gun duel.
The sites of the militants’ latest strike -Elepete and Igbo Olomu are not too far from Imushin.
In the latest attack, at Elepete and Igbo Olomu, a source within one of the communities, who spoke on the condition of anonimity, said several of the victims were landlords.
However, the police said only two persons were confirmed dead.
The Public Relations Officer, Ogun State Police Command, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said only two people were killed by suspected militants who have been laying siege on the communities.
He said, “Two people have been confirmed dead. The militants came again and attack the community. We will only continue to work collectively with all relevant agencies to stop the attacks. They came yesterday (Thursday) and attacked and went back to the creeks.”
Adejobi added that the police would fish out the criminals.
Before now, no fewer than 40 armed robbers invaded two commercial banks in Festac Town, Lagos, on October 13, 2015, reportedly carting away a huge sum of money, while about 20 armed robbers, wearing military camouflage also attacked five banks in Agbara Industrial Estate in
Ogun State in November last year.
Also, detectives attached to Igando Police Station on Iba Road, Lagos State, recently arrested two men who, they alleged, had just arrived from Niger Delta via the waterway to carry out a bank robbery. The suspects, identified as Chinedu Okoro and Keme Patrick, were said to have been planning the robbery for Friday of that week.
A gang also reportedly serial robbed some commercial banks including two branches of Zenith and First Bank last year in Ikorodu area. In the raid, the robbers were said to have arrived Ipakodo around 8.30am, announcing their arrival with sporadic gunfire and use of dynamite to scare residents, road users and bank workers, while they operated unhindered till about 10: 05am. They came with a dove, mortar and charms, even as the gang leader, a woman reportedly suspended a live tortoise round her neck and tied a snake round her waist. Eye witnesses said the robbers, who wielded sophisticated weapons, drove to the scene in three SUVs but later escaped in a boat through a jetty christened Origin Gardens, which operates Ipakodo enroute Victoria Island.
The robbers allegedly made away with about N20 million that was to be loaded into the Automated Teller Machines (ATM) at a Zenith Bank branch in Ebute- Ipakodo in Ikorodu, Lagos.
Satisfied with their booty, the gunmen stormed out and challenged the policemen, whose station was opposite the First Bank branch. But no policeman was in sight.
Four persons, including a teenage apprentice vulcaniser, simply identified as Rilwan, were injured by the robbers during the attacks said to be similar to that of March 12 last year robbery in Lekki, Lagos. It was learnt that the bandits, numbering about 16 invaded the banks located directly opposite the Ipakodo Police Division, at about 9am and started shooting indiscriminately.
A bank official said the robbers carted away over N80million from Zenith Bank which “a bullion van was to transport out of the bank.”
A resident of the area, Chinedu Chapel said the police were helpless, adding that it was a pointer that Nigerian citizens were not secured.
Another eyewitness, Ademola Fashola, said he hid somewhere around the jetty area while the robbers escaped.
Also on Saturday, March 14, 2015, deadly armed robbers unleashed terror on Lekki Peninsular Scheme 1, Victoria Island area, attacking a branch of First City Monument Bank, FCMB, on Admiralty Way, leaving three policemen and a teenage fish hawker dead.
About 10 in number and dressed in army uniform, they attacked, shooting sporadically for almost an hour. The dead policemen were said to been unlucky, being on routine patrol when they were sighted by the robbers who immediately opened fire on them. “It was like we were in a war front,” an eye witness recalled.
Some militants also abducted a senior Naval officer and two others in Lagos in June last year and demanded a N7 million ransom.
What has strengthened the theory of the perceived active if not sole involvement of Niger Delta militants in these criminal activities was the arrest of the leader of the notorious robbers raiding commercial banks in Lagos and Ogun States and terrorising residents, sometime ago.
Identified as Kelly Foto, a.k.a, Kelvin, he was nabbed along with three of his gang members. The gang boss, is alleged to be also the notorious Kelvin of Kokori, who had terrorised the entire South South and South East in the past.
The underworld kingpin and his dreaded syndicate were busted by operatives from the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Responses Team, SIT, led by CSP, Abba Kyari, who trailed the robbers to Sapele area of Delta State where there was an exchange of gunfire.
Imushin, Ogijo residents and community leaders were apprehensive to volunteer information or comment on the recent ordeal that befell their community for fear of reprisal or punishment by their
assailants. They said the militants could come back to exact revenge for any such “careless talk.”
Saturday Sun learnt that a community leader was abducted by the militants a few months ago, after reporting a case against them at the police station. A source said: “The man was in the creek for 40 days. The militants collected N10million from the community before he was released. That is why everybody is afraid to talk.
People have started fleeing the community. Two Hausas were killed during this attack and the Hausa community has vowed to fight back.” A man, who spoke for the community, pleaded with the government to intervene before the community was completely deserted.
We won’t take this anymore – Afenifere
Reacting to the incursion by the militants into the South-West, Yoruba socio-cultural organisation , Afenifere warned other ethnic groups not to take the Yoruba people for granted. The group described the unfolding development as ugly and worrisome.
Speaking through its spokesman, Mr Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere berated the attackers who, it described as the enemies of the nation.
Odumakin said the unprovoked attacks was capable of setting the nation on fire.
While saying that the Yoruba have the capacity to defend their territory, Odumakin stressed that there was an urgent need to unmask the attackers with a view to establishing their origin and whether they were truly Ijaw militants or not.
‘’We need to be very careful on this issue.We should not jump to hasty conclusion. These attacks on innocent people, killings and maiming and destruction of people’s property, this is very unfortunate, but we need to know the true identities of people who carry out these attacks . Who are they ? Where did they come from and What is their mission?’’
He said: “Although we are doing our own private investigations on this, security agencies have to act fast with a view to exposing these unpatriotic elements. This is necessary and very important, especially when you remember recent attacks and killings in some parts of the country, which people ascribe to Fulani herdsmen, but police often come out to tell us that Fulani herdsmen were not involved in the killings.While security agencies are advised to beef up security in the South-West, time must not be wasted in knowing where these attackers came from’’.
Appealing for calm,Odumakin revealed that leaders of Afenifere and their Ijaw counterparts have agreed to hold an emergency meeting over the issue.
‘’We are all worried, and we can’t continue to lament. We need to take concrete action. Towards this end, leaders of Afenifere and Ijaw are meeting very soon over the issue. Afenifere is also carrying out independent investigations to ascertain the true identities of the attackers’, he said’.
But the Ijaw National Congress Publicity Secretary, Mr. Victor Burubo, had, in a recent interview, described as “unintelligent” and lacking in facts, suggestions that his kinsmen were culprits.
He said the Ijaws had nothing to do with the kidnappings and armed robbery incidents in Lagos. Borubo said it was unacceptable to say that Ijaw militants were invading Lagos and getting involved in kidnappings and armed robbery. “I don’t know the source of such intelligence and it is obvious that the so-called intelligence is unintelligent. Those that came out with the intelligence report should come up with facts and stop accusing the Ijaw people wrongly.”