Twenty-four hours after the violent tribal clash that occurred on Thursday at the Agiliti, Mile 12 area of Lagos, tension continued to mount, as residents sustained their exodus from the area over fears of further attacks.
The violence, which allegedly claimed the lives of 10 people, also consumed more than 50 vehicles and 20 buildings. When The Nation on Saturday visited the area yesterday, the entire area, stretching from the Agiliti road to several other adjoining streets, looked like a war zone, with a combined team of soldiers and policemen struggling to maintain the peace.
Despite the presence of security operatives, however, residents moved out in droves. Their action, they claimed, was informed by the attitude of the security agents deployed to quell the strife. The agents allegedly took sides in the matter.
Survivors recount tales of horror
55-year-old furniture maker, Moses Ogundaini, is lucky to be alive. The father of four was sleeping in his home on Adegboyega Street when he was woken up by a strange noise. He stepped out to find out what was amiss, and encountered about seven masked men, who he said attacked him with cutlass and machetes. As he lay on his hospital bed yesterday, Ogundaini described his lucky escape as miraculous.
”I was sleeping when they came into my compound,” he said. “It was at about 12:00 p.m. I did not know what was going on. When I woke up, I noticed some nearby houses had been razed and were up in flames. As I stepped out, I saw that they were coming to torch my house too. The miscreants wore masks and marked their faces with carbon, just like those ones you see on the faces of soldiers in war. While I was sure that they were northerners, I have not seen those faces around here before. They looked strange.
”I immediately ran, but about six of them pursued me with clubs and machete. I fell down in the process and they used cutlass to cut my head. I got up again, continued running, but they were using machetes on me. I tried to block the machetes with my hands, and that was how I sustained injuries on my hands.
”They were about killing me. I must confess that I had already given up hope of surviving when suddenly, a crowd of Yoruba people came out to rescue me. That was how the hoodlums abandoned me and fled. I was then rushed to the hospital for treatment,” he said.
79-year-old Adeniyi Adesanya had already given up on surviving the violence when help came his way. The old man, who had broken his legs in a fall three days earlier, was recuperating inside a church when the violence erupted. With the house on fire, it took a daring intervention by the neighbours who had to break through a wall to rescue him.
Pa Adesanya was smuggled out of the burning house through the broken wall and whisked away.
Resting under a shade close the ruins of the church afterwards, Pa Adesanya said: ”I saw a thick smoke billowing from a house within the neighbourhood. I was trapped in the room within the church (All Saints Cherubim and Seraphim Church) because I had an injury before the crisis and could not walk on my own. When I saw the thick smoke, I felt the heat from the nearby building and it was affecting me. I thought I was going to die in the fire. I did not know that fire had been set on the church itself. It was some people who knew my condition that came back and broke a side wall in the room where I was sleeping. They took me out through the broken wall and whisked me away through the backyard.
Another victim of the mayhem, Mrs. Omowunmi Adeoye, lamented her fate. In tears, the 67-year-old explained how her shop was recently restocked from the money her son borrowed. “They burnt all I have. Even the clothes I am putting on now were given to me by a sympathiser. All I had in my shop are gone. I could not pick a thing from there as well.
”I have become homeless. See, my granddaughter could not also pick anything. Not even her slippers. We were rescued by good Samaritans when the hoodlums struck. I do not know what to do now. I do not know where to go. Help us tell the government that all we have are destroyed.”
With the second day of the violent clash in his neighbourhood, 76-year-old Chief Ijadu said, as was being led away from the hotspot by his grandchildren, that he was tired of the constant fear of being killed and was relocating to Ketu to stay with his children.
The visually impaired Septuagenarian said: ”I nearly died because of this problem. As I am here, I cannot see. I have not been able to rest. I live on Ijadu Street, and this crisis has continued. They have been burning houses, even as at this morning (Friday). I am moving to Ketu to stay with my children.”
John Abba, a resident of 18, Aina Street, Agiliti, explained that his residence was torched while he and his wife were at work, adding that they managed to recover a few of their children’s clothes.
Until yesterday, Mrs Duru occupied a three-bedroom apartment at 18, Awoye Street, Agiliti. But with Thursday’ violence, Duru and her family members have been made homeless. As she sat in front of the ruins of what used to be her home, the obviously distraught woman refused to speak. Efforts to make her give her first name were futile, as she maintained a distant and forlorn look.
”What do want me to say when you can see the destruction for yourself? She asked. “As you see me so, if I see poison I go even drink, where I want start from? Shey na money to rent house now or to pay agreement and commission? You think say na small thing? Since yesterday, I never chop. The only thing me and my family came out with na the clothes we wear for body.”
From Oniyanrin, Adebimpe, Awoye Streets and the entire stretch of Agiliti Road, the tale of destruction and woes continued, just as charred remains of vandalised property, broken bottles, used teargas canisters, bullets and iron weapons used by the hoodlums littered the roads.
Mass exodus of residents
With obvious signs that the violence might escalate despite the presence of security agents, terrified residents were moving out in droves for fear of the unknown. Those relocating said they had lost faith in the ability of the security agents around to maintain the peace.
They insisted that despite the heavy presence of soldiers and police operatives, the violence continued on Thursday night with more property razed. Fathers and mothers were seen clutching the children, with the few clothes they could pack, and running away from the area. Those with cars filled their vehicles with their families in a desperate bid to get out of the area.
Good Samaritan doctor
For some of the survivors receiving treatment at various hospitals, the attack was unimaginable.
At a private hospital located along the Agiliti Road (names withheld), more than 20 people were treated for free by the resident doctor who would rather not be named. He said that the victims were brought to his hospital by sympathisers. Some of the victims treated in the hospital include Bamidele Obayowe, Chucks Onyeka, Rukayat Azeez, Salimot Mohammed, as well as Lukmon and Allen. A victim, Kabiru, who suffered gunshot injury, was said to have lost a finger.
Business as usual at Mile 12 Market
Despite the order by the state government that the market be shut down temporarily, our correspondents observed that commercial activities continued inside the popular Mile 12 Market. Traders displayed their wares, even with security agents conspicuously present at the gates. It was observed that trucks bearing tomatoes offloaded goods, while buyers ferried goods on their heads to their various shops.
While the Agiliti Central Mosque had about 10 faithful observing the Friday prayers, at the Oniyanrin Street, popularly known as the Hausa community, hundreds of Muslim faithful were seen at a mosque observing Jumat prayer, under the watch of some youths clad in white uniforms inscribed ‘YMC’.
Eyewitnesses knock police, soldiers
From one point to the other, angry residents lambasted security agencies for fuelling the crisis, insisting that they took sides with miscreants.
Livid residents alleged that the security agents deployed to the area took sides in the violence. The youths alleged that the security agents chased them away from their homes shortly before they were invaded by the Hausas. A resident who witnessed the incident said: “We were here when the police, led by the DPO started firing tear gas at us. But, surprisingly, while we were retreating, that created the room for the strange attackers to burn down our houses.
“The park where more than 27 vehicles were burnt, we discovered that before they attacked the place and started burning down the vehicles, they came and allowed the Hausas to take away their buses. They need to explain to us how that happened. It showed that they knew that the attack would happen.
”The police and soldiers escalated this problem. Some of those Hausa community guys had their buses at the new garage and they were escorted by security agents to carry their vehicles away.
”But as they carried them, the security agents watched them loot our houses and shops. They stole properties, and after that, they set our things on fire. The security agents did not stop them.
“Even at the primary school at Agiliti, which was burnt down, the security agents escorted the attackers to take away Hausa children. But it is funny that after the children were taken away, they set the school on fire. All these point to perfect planning.”
Another eyewitness, Ganiu Salami, 29, blamed the security agents for the destruction of the area. ”We were together with the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Ketu on Thursday morning before the fight escalated. He called for security reinforcement, but when they arrived, they stationed their vehicle where there was no crisis. The DPO was there when the hoodlums came to attack residents.
”We were shouting that he should order the policemen to repel the miscreants, but he did not listen to us because they are his people. Before we knew what was happening, the hoodlums ran after us and the police started firing teargas. From our observation, the police supported the people to attack us.”
Another eyewitness, Alhaji Iba Bago, said the strife began on Tuesday after a motorcyclist riding against traffic knocked down a pregnant woman along the Agiliti road. He wondered why a seemingly minor incident which occurred two days earlier would degenerate into the serious violence that erupted on Thursday.
“I still cannot explain how this matter got this bad. It started on Tuesday when an okada rider, said to be Hausa, rode his motorcycle against the traffic. He ran into a pregnant woman in the process, and we all believed that it was resolved amicably.”
Sunkanmi Olawuyi also blamed the security agencies for the escalation of the violence, adding that their efforts to prevent the miscreants from attacking were thwarted by security agents who tear-gassed them and chased them away.
While calling on the government to constitute a probe panel to unravel the root cause of the crisis, he insisted that they were no longer safe in the area. ”We are not safe. We cannot sleep because we are not safe. We are afraid because the police, soldiers cannot protect us. They were here when all these happened yesterday but they did nothing. While they were chasing us with teargas, the Hausa guys were looting and burning our houses, businesses,” he said.
The Nation reporters who visited the scene were not spared either. They were tear gassed by an overzealous policeman, identified as Tunde, at Mosalasi Bus Stop near the Agiliti Central Mosque.
The policeman was part of the patrol teams with vehicles marked NPF320C and KRD492AV stationed beside the mosque.
As soon as he saw the reporters trying to take photographs of families leaving the area, he brought out his teargas canister and sprayed it directly on the reporters, demanding that they leave the area.
Meanwhile, a soldier was seen lamenting the frustration faced by the security agents to enter the swamps, where The Nation learnt that another skirmish was afoot.
The soldier, who grumbled that they could see the miscreants on the other side of the canal but were unable to get to them for lack of access routes, said: ”What kind of area is this? We can’t access the area with our vehicles. The people fighting are in the swamps, we can see them but we cannot get to them.”
Chairman of the Mile 12 Perishable Foodstuff Market Association, Alhaji Haruna Mohhammed, denied the involvement of the Hausa community in the clash. He said his team was still trying to find out what was responsible for the violent clash.
Mohammed, who said he attended a meeting called by the Lagos State Government, along with other market and community leaders, said the clash was an unfortunate incident, and appealed to all the parties sheathe their swords. “I am pleading with everybody to sheathe their swords and allow peace to reign. We are one family here, and there is really no need for us to fight. This crisis is really unfortunate, and should end now.”
Tension mounted on Friday
At about 1:19 p.m. yesterday, fresh pandemonium broke out as the people scampered to safety, when news broke that some hoodlums were trying to invade the area through the swamp linking Agiliti with Magodo.
With sporadic gunshots ringing out in the afternoon sky, the young and old ran, even as mothers clutched their babies to their backs. A mother of three was seeing running away with her children. As she ran, she cried and wept aloud. It emerged that the source of her anguish was her aged mother trapped at home.
According to her, the aged woman, who could not walk, advised her children and grandchildren to run for their lives and leave her to die in the house. It took the intervention of The Nation reporters, who went round in search of a vehicle, to rescue the old woman. After several attempts to seek assistance from the soldiers and the police teams to rescue the woman were rebuffed, help finally came when a team of reporters from a private radio station in Lagos arrived on the scene and offered to assist. The old woman was finally brought to safety at about 1:50 p.m.
With the fears of fresh violence yesterday, the youths were seen regrouping, with many armed with dangerous weapons as cutlass, cudgels, pestles and other dangerous weapons. The enraged youths vowed to resist further attacks on their communities.
Police hold fresh 54 suspects
A police source, who pleaded anonymity, told our correspondents that 54 suspects were arrested yesterday, just as four additional persons were killed during an earlier clash.
Source: The Nation Newspaper