Scores of street urchins, also known as “Area boys,” yesterday went on rampage in Oshodi, Lagos, and its environs, forcing traders to close shops and, in the process, destroyed several goods and vehicles in the area.
No fewer than 15 persons have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the attack.
Those arrested have been taken to the State Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Department (SCIID), Panti, Yaba, where they are being profiled. It was learnt that those found culpable after the profiling would be charged to court while the innocent ones would be allowed to go.
It was gathered that the hoodlums allegedly led by Akile, also known as Last Born, stormed the area as early as 8am, attacking shop owners for not voting the candidate of a particular political party.
A witness said that the fracas forced shop owners to quickly abandon their businesses, until the arrival of policemen from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Michael Okonkwo, a trader at Cairo Shopping Complex, said that the armed hoodlums attacked traders and customers, adding that the hoodlums used the opportunity to snatch bags and vandalise shops.
“I got to the market around 7am, having stayed away from business because of the public holiday and election. I was just settling down to display my goods when I started hearing gunshots coming from Oshodi-along. I quickly closed my shop. The owner of the shop next to mine was not so lucky as the thugs destroyed some of his goods,” he said.
Another witness, John Kalu, said that traders were not allowed to open their shops as they were chased away by hoodlums.
“Many people sustained wounds while fleeing from the area. Some of the thugs came from Charity while others came from Bolade. They were led to the market by Last Born, who is a younger brother to a popular member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers,” he said.
A mobile police and regular policemen have been deployed to restore normalcy to the area.
However, Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Chike Oti, in a statement, dismissed the claims of fracas as rumours, adding that the command has intensified patrols and surveillance in Lagos State.
Oti, in the statement, said: “The attention of the Lagos State Police Command has been drawn to the news making the rounds on the Internet to the effect that a group of boys, popularly called the ‘Area boys’ are attacking Igbo traders at Oshodi, preventing them from opening their shops. The command wishes to debunk the rumours in its entirety as nothing could be farther from the truth.
“Although the command received distress calls from concerned Nigerians whose apprehensions were understandably heightened by disturbing rumours emanating from some social media platforms, the command swiftly and massively deployed its personnel drawn from various units to Oshodi and environs to assuage the feelings of residents and further assure Lagosians of its readiness to decisively deal with any person or group of persons who attempts to breach the public peace.”
He said that the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, commended Lagosians for conducting themselves in a peaceful and orderly manner during last Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections. He said the police, with support of other security agencies, worked round the clock to ensure that the process was generally peaceful. In order to sustain the peaceful atmosphere, the command would maintain a high level of police presence in all parts of the state, with emphasis on crime-prone areas.
“Those celebrating should do that with modesty, while those unhappy with the results have the privilege of adhering to the laid down procedures of addressing their grievances as provided by the Electoral Act in the tribunal. The command has made adequate arrangements to secure the venues of the Election Tribunal in the state.
“The command, however, warns criminally-minded people and disgruntled elements to steer clear of the state or be prepared to contend with security forces in the state,” he said.