Target schools as residents flee Ikorodu communities, seek govt protection
By Our reporter
All hope seems lost for residents of Ikorodu area of Lagos, following repeated cases of kidnapping and robbery by suspected militants. The community had hoped that after the military air and land raids in July 2016, and the demolition of some shanties in the creeks this week, sanity will be restored. Reality dawned on them when days after the raid, the militants resumed attacks, this time more aggressive than in the past.
Not left out in the line up of victims are security personnel, who have been repeatedly killed in their numbers. More worrisome now is an intelligence indicating that the militants are planning fresh attacks in Lagos and Ogun, with schools as specific targets.
The threat from the militants is however top on the agenda of a meeting by South-West governors, who are scheduled to meet in Abeokuta, the Ogun State Capital on Monday.
It would be recalled that the militants widely known to be notorious for vandalising Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines, decided to extend their criminal activities to kidnapping and robbery. As far back as 2013, they successfully invaded banks in Lekki, Festac and Ikorodu areas of Lagos in broad daylight, till they were curbed and some of their top commanders either killed or arrested. Thereafter, they concentrated their efforts on kidnapping and robbing houses close to the creeks.
Although the police have been able to nab some of their top leaders in the creeks, Saturday Sun gathered that efforts are geared towards picking up the current commander, popularly known as Ossy, who is still on the run.
It was gathered that Ossy who is currently hiding in Ondo State is still co-coordinating most of the major kidnap and robbery operations in Lagos State.
Embittered by Federal Government’s refusal to grant him amnesty, he ordered his boys to unleash hell on communities surrounding the creeks till his voice is heard.
The most recently reported attack led to the death of six security personnel who had gone to rescue victims abducted by militants at Isawo, a community in Ikorodu. It was gathered that the hoodlums in the area killed the security men in an ambush.
Residents, victims cry for help
Pleading for a quick intervention, residents and some victims have called on the authorities to help restore sanity in the community.
One of the victims simply identified as Ms. Bisola, a 52-year-old-woman, said she was abducted by the militants two weeks ago from her apartment at Isawo. “They attacked the area that very day and were robbing houses, but when they got to our house, they felt we had money. I even explained to them that if I was rich, I would have left the area, but they refused.
“It was when we got to the boat that I saw about four other persons that were also picked that night. Initially, we entered a speedboat, after about five minutes ride; they transferred us into another boat. It took almost two hours to get to the bush, where we were kept”, she narrated
“When we got there, they separated us. I later got to realise that there are different groups in that bush. The gang that picked one man and I were different from the others. They warned that if we attempt to escape, we will die, because the whole creek is filled with militants. I was lucky that the group that picked us was only after money and they do not rape their victims. At night, you will hear the screams from other women from other camps and when we ask them what was wrong, they will tell us that the boys were having sex with the women. It’s horrible and I do not wish that they will pick my enemy. I was released three days later after my family managed to pay them N700, 000”, she recalled.
Another victim, Chief Samson told Saturday Sun that his house at Ikorodu is up for sale, because of the activities of militants. “It was when they picked me up the second time that I knew it was time to either relocate to another part of Lagos, or return to my village in the east. Initially, I thought the media was blowing the matter out of proportion till they visited me and I never believed that they will dare leave houses close to the creeks and attack some of us living close to Agric bus stop.
“It was a horrible experience. They beat me up mercilessly and dragged me into a waiting bus. They drove through Isawo to the creeks and you cannot believe that there was no policeman on patrol. We were about six picked up that very day. I was released the next day, when my family gave them N2 million. A week later, they came back for me”, he recounted.
Recalling his experience in the creeks, Samson said they were not blindfolded throughout their stay in the bush. “I was not blindfolded and those boys did not bother to hide their faces. They were brandishing their AK47 rifles and told us that any security man that dared to rescue us will be embarking on a suicide mission. They are everywhere and heavily armed. They only fed us with rice and water. Those heartless criminals sexually abused the lady in our midst; no woman should pray to fall into the hands of kidnappers.
“I tried to chat with one of them and he told me that kidnapping is more lucrative these days than pipeline vandalisation. They lamented that the number of marketers that usually patronise them has reduced. This is because of the presence of the military around the routes that they normally take to bring out the stolen product.
“I asked them if they are not afraid of being caught and he told me that they are more armed than most of the security men on duty. Most of their people, who were caught, were picked up outside the creeks.”
Not left out were some residents who summoned courage to talk with Saturday Sun. They lamented that the state government had given up in its quest to keep Ikorodu safe from the activities of militants.
A trader, simply identified as John who has resorted to riding commercial motorcycle, Okada, lamented that his business crashed because of low patronage and theft. “I had a provision store along Isawo road. I was doing well till they broke into my shop and stole as much as they could. It was a sad experience, and I reported to the police. When they learnt that police were investigating, they wrote a warning letter to me and pasted it in front of my shop. This scared away people from my shop and because I knew that their threats were real, I decided to close down the shop. It is horrible; if I did not stop police from investigating, they would have kidnapped me and slaughtered me in the creeks. A lot of people have disappeared same way. The only good thing that happened is that the cost of accommodation has crashed. You can get three-bedroom flat for N200,000, because most of the buildings are empty. These people have visited almost every good house in Isawo area. No one is safe. Forget all those stories of security men taking over the protection of the creeks. It’s even worse now, because all they succeeded in doing was to reduce pipeline vandalism and encourage them to kidnap people.”
Yet another member of the community identified as Azeez suggested that the military should convert the creeks as their training field. “That is the only way out. If there is a major raid they will all disappear and reappear as soon as the security men are gone.
“Even journalists are tired of reporting the matter except a school is attacked. The truth is that they pick people daily and nobody is doing anything about it. People are fleeing the area, but some of us cannot run away from our land.
“It’s very important to let government know that people are disappearing in this community and no one is doing anything about it. If they know that I talked to you, they will come after my family and I. They are the ones behind the disappearance of one of the best psychiatrists that we have in the area. The man was assisting police and army with information and they came and picked him. They simply told the family to forget about him that they will kill and bury him inside the creeks. That area is a cemetery; the only difference is that people are buried anyhow. We need Governor Ambode to come to our rescue. As a civil servant, I pay my tax regularly. He should not use our tax to secure rich men who can afford to pay for the best security in the whole world,” he said.
Fresh plans uncovered
Although the military air and land raid was publicly announced as a huge success, one of the suspected militants identified as Bekewei, who witnessed the raid insists that no single militant died during the attack. He also bragged that all their weapons were moved out of the creeks long before the bombardment started.
On how they managed to escape unhurt, he said that they became aware of the intended raid when the military came for surveillance.
“They flew across the areas severally and all we did was to ask simple questions and we were told that they were planning to bomb the creeks. It was then that we started moving our weapons out of the area.
“They were merely throwing bombs on a deserted area and besides our people monitored the news to know what was happening. Let them produce the corpse of one militant that was killed during the raid. It is only fire outbreak that has really killed a lot of militants in the creeks.”
Saturday Sun gathered that Commander Ossy remains the boss in the creeks and he was advised to relocate to Ondo State and operate from there. He is said to have left four commanders in charge in Laqgos. They are Vika, America, Stone and Mighty who died some days ago in a shootout with operatives of the Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT).
Mighty, whose real name is Endurance Ominisan, was trailed to an apartment which he rented for his girlfriend on No 20 Joel Adebolu Street, Ibeshe area of Ikorodu, . He was alleged to have participated in the recent killings of policemen and soldiers in Isawo area. He allegedly participated in the kidnap of Oniba of Iba and the Turkish schoolgirls.
Bekewei also said that the militants were planning to attack more schools and no one could stop them. He boasted that they made so much money during any school kidnap operation. Also on their list is the plan to attack the police stations within their reach to stock up their arsenal.
Police ready for battle
On the readiness of the Lagos State police command, the spokesperson ASP Olarinde Famous- Cole through a text message said: “We are eager to keep criminals at bay in Lagos State. While giving Lagos and Lagosians a safe and secure environment where individuals can strive in their daily activities.” However a senior police officer who spoke exclusively to Saturday Sun lamented that tens of hundreds of security personnel have been wasted by the militants.
“We do not make noise about our loss, the ones on the pages of newspapers, are the ones you hear about. We are capable of ending their reign in Lagos and Ogun if all the security agencies are ready to work as a group. All the so -called air raids are waste of tax payers fund when it is obvious that these militants have infiltrated most of our security agencies. They tend to get information of every possible attack and the casualty amongst security men is alarming.
“Whether you believe it or not, we have lost more security personnel than the civilians that we are protecting. I do not blame those who refused to enter the creek on foot to engage these criminals because it is simply suicidal. Those boys are heavily armed with sophisticated weapons. If it is possible, we need a military base or a police training ground, all around the creeks surrounding Lagos. I believe that those criminals have a training camp inside the creeks, because that is the only explanation as to how they learn to make use of sophisticated weapons. Their camps are so many and if they are not dismantled, more attacks will still happen. The more you arrest or kill them, the more others take over.”