By Olalekan Olabulo
OLALEKAN Olabulo, in this piece, brings to the fore the growing menace of gunmen in the largest local government area of Lagos State.
THE Ayobo Extension Residential Scheme in the Ayobo area of Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State was in the news last weekend following the killing of two brothers and abduction of three residents of the community by heavily armed hoodlums who invaded the area twice in three days.
The state government-owned estate has now become a ghost town as residents are deserting the community in droves following reports that the kidnappers had set up a camp on the other side of the water where they hold victims hostage and collect ransom.
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Apart from the two residents, Alhaji Nurudeen Olanrewaju and Idris Olowolayemo, who were shot and killed by the suspected kidnappers, the chairman of the residents association identified simply as Surveyor Dayo has also died reportedly from the shock of the attack on the community, Saturday Tribune learnt.
Residents are now appealing to the state government to, as a matter of urgency, provide adequate security for them.
Seventy-eight-year-old Pa Odeleye Simeon, while speaking with Saturday Tribune, said: “I had never witnessed this kind of a thing since I have been living here since over 20 years ago. I was surprised that those people could come again to this community less than three days after they killed two persons and abducted two others.
“I have been living here since over twenty years ago. Then there were houses all over here but suddenly, the government came and announced that this place had been acquired and all the houses here were demolished except for one or two. They later allocated the place to new buyers and now people are just building new houses here.
“The whole community was thrown into panic when the invaders struck. People ran in different directions. The hoodlums were shooting to scare people. There was nobody to confront them. Two people that attempted to rescue the abducted persons were killed. The government should come to our aid.
“There is a proposed site for the permanent site of Ayobo Divisional Police Station, very close to us. They should build it for us and in the absence of that they should give a police post in this community. Many people have left their houses. You can go round the community. They can return if there are police patrol teams in the community.”
Informants among residents
Another resident, who pleaded anonymity said: “The bad thing is that there is a great level of distrust among the residents now. People are suspecting that there is a member of this community that is giving information about us to the kidnappers. They came here on Friday evening and somebody must have told them that there was not security presence when they came back on Sunday afternoon and abducted more persons.
“That is the more reason why some people moved out. They don’t trust one another again. They thought that they might be the next victim. They don’t know who to talk to and who not to talk to. This whole place is under serious confusion now.”
Mrs Evelyn Adeboye, who also resides in the community, disclosed that: “I have lived here for over five years now and I had never seen anything like this. It started on Friday around 6 o’clock in the evening, when we heard gunshots. I came out to see what was happening and I saw our neighbours, Mr Rashidi Salami and his wife, running down the road.
“We were inside our house when we heard a loud cry from the father of the two children that were abducted. He told us that they had killed some people down there. We ran inside our house. Some minutes later, I saw the man and his wife on a motorbike and later we saw his son, the younger brother to the abducted ladies. I called him and asked him what happened. He told me that they had abducted his two sisters.
“Before then, I had thought that it was the omo onile (land grabbers) that were on rampage, because they do come to disturb us. But when he told me that the abductors had taken his sisters to the other side of the water, I knew that it was more serious than I had thought.
“I asked the children to run and we all ran outside. We ran far down the road. That was where we met Baba (Pa Odeleye) and ‘Man of God’, a popular cleric in the area, and I narrated everything that had happened to them. It was Man of God that called the police. Before the police could come, the leader of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Lakaye, had arrived.
“At that time, nobody could go down the community because we did not know if the kidnappers were still around. He (Lakaye) then went there with his vehicle and came back to tell us that there were two dead bodies on the floor with blood stains all over them. We were wondering whom they could have killed. We asked him about the women that they abducted. He told us that he did not see them.
“We still couldn’t go there. We waited a long time for the police to come. They eventually came around 7.30 in the evening, about two hours after the kidnappers had left. We now went to the scene with the police. That was when we were able to identify that it was Alhaji and his brother that were killed. After shooting Alhaji, they also inflicted machete cuts on his body. Only God knows why they did that.
“Since then, we have been living in fear but surprisingly, on Sunday, they came back again. I just came back from a meeting around 1.00 p.m. I was doing something. I had not even pulled off my clothes. The man that was abducted and his wife and their baby were returning from church in their vehicle. They greeted us, myself and the policemen who used to escort Man of God.
“The man stopped in front of his gate and the wife, with the baby in her hands, went inside to open the gate for him. The woman opened the gate and the man came down to check something on his vehicle when those people came out of the bush and started attacking him. The wife looked back and saw what was happening. She cried for help.
“All of us ran outside and the next thing we heard was gunshots. We all scampered in different directions. Later, the woman ran to us and shouted ‘they have taken my husband oooo!’ It was after that that most of the residents packed their belongings and moved out of the community.”
[The attackers also came with axes
Another resident, who also pleaded anonymity, further recounted how the attackers came into the community and how the attacks were carried out.
He said: “There were many of them. They were all clad in black and were holding axes, cutlasses and guns. They came in a boat but on Friday, when they were leaving, they escaped with a fishing canoe alongside their boat. There was a canoe that was being used by a fisherman for his business. They took away the canoe.
The abducted man has relocated with his family from our community since then. We saw him yesterday (Tuesday). Maybe he came to pick something. He said that the three of them were released after he paid an undisclosed amount of money. From what he told us, those people blindfolded him and took them to a camp where they negotiated the ransom.
“Many of the residents escaped from the community because they felt that there is a great level of distrust among residents. They felt that there was an insider in the estate who serves as an informant to the abductors. When they came on Sunday, they were said to have stopped a man and identified him by the name of one of his sons. They even sent him on an errand and threatened to kill him and his family if he dared expose them.”
We have deployed tactical squad –Police
The police in the state said one person had been arrested in connection with the incident and that their men had been deployed in the community.
The image maker of the state police command, Benjamin Hundeyin, while speaking with Saturday Tribune, said: “Yes, three people were abducted and two others killed but those who were abducted have been rescued.
“The Commissioner of Police has ordered the deployment of the Special Tactical Squad to the community and one person has been arrested in connection with the incident.”
A ghost town
When Saturday Tribune visited the community in the course of the week, only a handful of residents were seen staying back in their homes despite the presence of policemen drafted to the community by the state police command. The policemen were stationed in front of the house belonging to the man that was abducted in the presence of his wife and who reportedly paid for his freedom alongside the two girls that were abducted before him. An attempt by our correspondent to move deep into the backside of the community was discouraged by the policemen on duty. They insisted that only their Divisional Police Officer (DPO) could grant such permission, considering that the area was now deemed a security risk. The house of the man is considerably big and not too far from the forest where the kidnappers have allegedly set up a camp.
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Saturday Tribune also discovered that the areas where the gunmen restricted their operations are also not too far from the forest, which is said to aid their escape during each operation.
Residents in other parts of the community, which are a bit far from the location of the camp of the kidnappers, are however, not confident that the invaders would not finally get to them, hence the mass movement from the entire community.
Our correspondents also discovered that a couple of buildings are under construction in the community, with artisans seen working on a particular one during Saturday Tribune’s visit, yet those who own completed houses are abandoning them for fear of attack.
After the second attack, Saturday Tribune learnt that a meeting took place between the residents and members of the OPC in the neighbourhood, but the outcome was not communicated to Saturday Tribune.
A member of the security organisation who earlier promised to speak with our reporter could not be reached again.
Saturday Tribune could also not establish if the arrested suspect is the suspected informant in the community.