By Chioma Okezie-Okeh
For those living in Lagos Mainland, Oko Oba Agege Abattoir is believed to be the largest authorised slaughter house in Lagos. But beyond the activities of selling and killing animals for food, the slums around the place are also black spots as identified by different security operatives in the state due to the activities of miscreants who unleash terror on motorists stuck in traffic and residents in the state.
Irked by their level of impunity, the operatives of Lagos State Government Task Force in 2018 drew the attention of the state government to some criminals’ hideout in the abattoir area of Oko Oba. Thereafter, the Lagos State government ordered that the shanties should be burnt down.
But today, it is back to business as usual in Oko Oba and its environs, where Saturday Sun investigations revealed that the hoodlums and other criminal elements in the axis are fully back and are more daring. They have also erected more shanties.
Recently, it was from the axis that suspected criminals took off to carry out fatal raids on some hotels in the Ikorodu area of the state. The suspects have been picked up and charged to court by the Lagos Police Command.
The suspects, who were tracked down to the Oko Oba Agege Abattoir where they were arrested, confessed to the police that the operation which took place sometime in February was planned and executed from Oko Oba. The valuables that were taken from their victims were immediately dispossessed off, bought by other criminals’ elements that were said to be always on standby.
When the reporter visited
Pretending to be a victim of traffic robbery, Saturday Sun reporter visited the slum area opposite Millennium Estate and few meters into the area, shabbily dressed men with bloodshot eyes diverted their gaze to the strange face.
‘Wetin you dey find here,’ one of them who later introduced himself as Segun queried in a harsh tone. He was told that the reporter was directed to come and see the possibility of buying back a phone that was stolen at Iyana Ipaja axis the previous night.
Now smiling, Segun brought out what looked like a cigarette stick but the smell of the smoke that oozed out from his mouth was that of marijuana. He offered the reporter a seat and requested that details of the incident should be narrated. He demanded N1000 as service charge to make enquiries. He took the money and disappeared while he signalled to the others that the people with him were his customers.
In ten minutes, he returned with a bag filled with different brands of phones and said that there were no phones from that Iyana Ipaja that was brought in by people he referred to as the boys.
Determined to make some money for himself, Segun displayed all kinds of phone and assured the reporter that all would be sold at giveaway prices. At that point several others had gathered, some with jewellery, phones, laptops, shoes and clothing. Another offered that he had drugs for sale if needed while another claimed that he was a car dealer. They assured that none of the products bought in that area would lead to police problems in future.
Residents, security operatives lament
Exiting from the spot and heading towards the police station, a resident (name withheld) who owns a shop across the road told Saturday Sun that the touts became more emboldened after the ENDSARS protest of 2020.
“You can see that the road has demarcated us from them. If you enter their zone, be ready to be robbed or injured. They know themselves. The only way to stay safe around here is to ensure you don’t get trapped in traffic. Some of these bad boys are known to us, so they stay away from our houses at night.
“The day they decide to rob, the policemen in that station cannot stop them. There is nothing anyone can do but to lock their doors and pray that they don’t find their way inside. The shop owners in this axis depend on the help of vigilantes and police to stop them from breaking into shops. It became worse after the ENDSARS protest.
“In the past, once an incident happens, the Commissioner of Police will release the operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and they will raid the place and pack all of them away from this spot. This police division here does not have what it takes to fight them. Some will disappear and return months later,” the resident alleged.
A female seller of herbal liquor referred to as Iya Bola by her customers, and who spoke with Saturday Sun while she was stepping out of that zone, said she was not afraid of them, as she boasted that what they love was what she sold to them.
Speaking in smattering English, she noted: “I dey give them correct agbo and mixtures. Dem they dash me plenty money especially in the morning. (I sell potent herbal drinks to them. They are also very generous to me, especially in the morning.)”
Asked if she was aware that they could be involved in criminal activities, she quipped: “That one no be news nah. Dem no get work, how you think say them dey make money? (This is no news. They do not have any source of living; how do you think they make their money?”
A senior police officer at the Lagos Police Command who pleaded that his name should not be mentioned suggested that government should find a way of demolishing the place.
“No normal person is resident there. The only way out is for government to burn down that place for good. Let them find another place to stay. The police will raid the spot and charge them to court. Months later, they are all back to the same place and same line of job.
“Human right organisations have made it difficult to fight crime in this country. It is enough crime that the police are not well funded and officers are expected to use their insufficient salaries to investigate cases.
“These so-called lawyers will come to the police station and ask you to release or charge to court a well-known armed robber who was caught in the act with guns. They call it human rights. As soon as they are charged to court, the same group will manipulate things and get them released on bail. The boys will return to base and continue what they know how to do best, which is stealing. In this country criminals have more human rights than their victims,” he lamented.
Our home, drugs and crime
Among those that were arrested by the Lagos Command during a recent raid were Ojo Akeredolu and Lekan Adeoye. Although they did not participate in the Ikorodu incident, they were part of the gang who benefitted from the proceeds of crime. On how he ended up at the Oko Oba, Agege slum, Ojo told Saturday Sun he found a family among the touts when he was homeless.
“I am 29 and from Osun State. I relocated to Lagos ten years ago after dropping out of school. My father could barely feed his three wives and many children. I decided to relocate and struggle to survive. I stayed in the house of one of my father’s relatives in Mushin and they paid for me to become a mechanic.
“I was doing well till the police raided our area in Mushin and I was arrested. It was while I was in detention that I met some friends. When we finally came out, my relation was very bitter and drove me away from his house.
“I had to survive and called one of those my friends called Taye. They are the ones who taught us how to snatch bags at night. I am a good mechanic, it’s just that whenever any little thing happens, they will come and arrest us all.
“Mushin became too hot for us and we moved to Abattoir area in Agege three years ago. It was Taye that made life comfortable over there. In the night, we just find a corner in the area and sleep. It is only when you need a woman that you can save money and pay for room inside the area. There are prostitutes in that place, so if you need them, you just need to pay.
“I started doing conductor work during the day because that is the new rule, you must have something doing. It was our lawyers that advised us. He told us that it is very easy to secure bail if you have someone that will identify and say that you work for them,” he narrated.
On some of their exploits, Ojo claimed that he has lost count of the number of times they attacked motorists at night or raided people’s homes. He said: “We were advised to stay away from these areas because they might identify us. So we normally raid Egbeda, Iyana Ipaja, Ikotun, Igando, Ikorodu, Apapa depending on who brought the job. We have a lot of friends in Ikorodu; That is why boys are always going there. If you lose your phone in this area, just rush to our side as early as possible. Give small money to anyone you find there; they will help you trace the phone before they sell it.
“We have an association there and you are expected to pay money to them anytime you go out to hustle. They are the ones who normally help us to get lawyers if we were arrested. They will lend you money to settle security people and lawyers which you will refund whenever you come out. They are also the ones in charge of selling hard drugs to us. The ones that are common in our zone is the one they call Ice and Indian Hemp. It is very affordable.
“I never wished for such a life but what can I do to survive? No one is willing to give us a good job. I will definitely go back to the village if I get bail.”
On his arrest, Ojo said that he gave a stolen phone to his girlfriend who was arrested by the police. “It was one gang that robbed a hotel in Ikorodu that got the phone. Taye, who is my friend, gave me one iPhone and since it is difficult to sell, I gave it to one girl that just agreed to be my girlfriend. A week later, the police arrested her and she brought them to me,” he stated.
Another resident in the abattoir slum, Lekan Adeoye who was also arrested by the police said he stared living in the slum when he was 13.
He said: “I ran away from Isokoko area when I was 13 because the trouble there was too much. They are always fighting and killing themselves. Police, military and NDLEA (National Drug Law Enforcement Agency) were always raiding that side and arresting us. They always released me because of my age but I was told that at 19, I would be sent to jail if caught. When I moved over to Agege, I started learning how to cut hair and the owner of the barbershop will allow me to sleep there at night. All was well till the police arrested him and sent him to prison for robbery. He is yet to be released on bail.
“My parents are in Lagos but they do not care about me. I had to survive; that was why I left my mother’s room when I was nine. I kept relocating from one area to the other till I ended up at Agege. I wanted to be a lawyer when I grow but it is no longer possible.”
He further claimed that he had never held a gun as they see him as a small boy. He said: “If they want to rob, I would serve as their driver or I would be assigned to watch out for security men. I rarely join them for such movement except traffic robbery which is the easiest one.
“I have been saving money but the problem is that you can be arrested and all these will be seized from you. Drugs are also taking part of the money; you must buy and take ‘something’ if you want to be stable.”
We will clear them
When contacted, the state police spokesperson, Benjamin Hundeyin, a superintendent of police assured residents that all the back spots in Lagos would soon be a thing of the past. He said: “The Lagos State Command is doing its best to ensure the safety of lives and property in the state.”