Covid-19 lockdown has united residents and various communities of Lagos state towards waging war against criminal activities in their respective domains. EDET UDOH writes.
In Lagos, it is no longer easy for criminals as residents have teamed up against their menace. Investigations by Blueprint in different parts of Lagos state including Alimosho, Surulere, Iba, Eti-Osa, Amuwo Odofin, Apapa, Mushin, Oshodi and Kosofe local government areas, among others, show that young boys and girls as well as able men and women in their various streets and communities have come together to ensure the security of communities through the formation of vigilante groups which they say is made possible as a result of the lockdown.
Formation of the group
It has been discovered that the vigilante groups gather every night at the entry points of every street to make burn-fire. The security men, according to our findings, are armed with machete and other local defensive weapons including axes, arrows and bows as well as whistles and torch lights. It has also been found that every formation has a leader who is the commander of the formation. He is also responsible for the security strategies of the formation which they said are reviewed every day.
Findings showed that the formation of the vigilante groups in Lagos is to checkmate the incessant attacks unleashed on the residents by armed robbers and a group called ‘One million boys’.
Residents bare their minds
Speaking with one of the commander who is a resident of Ijegun village, but did not want his name mentioned for security reasons, said the reason for their coming together is basically because of lockdown which has kept everybody at home leading to increased armed robbery attacks and especially the activities of the group known as ‘one million boys’ which according to him, has given a sleepless night making them to come together to protect themselves from their common enemies.
He said, “What happened is that when we heard that ;one million boys’ were attacking some of our neighbouring communities and also sending letters to others, chairmen of the various Community Development Associations (CDAs) at an emergency meeting recently agreed that all the streets should come together to step up security in the interest of all the residents.
“The issue of lockdown has made some Lagosians to do unimaginable things. While some are embracing crime and armed robberies killing and terrorising innocent residents of the area and dispossessing them of their hard-earned possessions, others are thinking on what to do to improve the living standard of their communities. We have realised that if we fold our arms and wait, nobody knows who will be the next victim. That is why we decided to come together and ensure that every resident is better informed and educated on security matters because the best defence is to attack.
“We don’t want to be taken unawares as it happened in some areas hence our readiness 24/7. We are working hand in hand with all the CDAs in this area. We work hand in hand with other plain clothe security organisation such as the O’odua Peoples Congress (OPC) and we serve as informant to the government security agents such as the police and NSCDC. Oftentimes, police on night patrol came here to receive information from us,” he said.
Asked to mention how many people are expected to be on duty on daily basis, he said “We are as many as the grasshopper and as the sand on the seashore. In security matter, you don’t disclose the strength of your army otherwise your enemy will use that against you. I’m sorry we cannot disclose this to you. It is classified information. But we are many and strong enough to protect our territorial integrity against any external aggression and armed robbery attack.
Speaking with one of the king makers in the area who goes by the name Mr Ekundayo, he described the COVID-19 lockdown as a blessing in disguise, adding that the period, apart from giving him time to actively take part in the security operations of the area, has also given him the opportunity to interact with so many people especially those that parked into the area newly.
“I am a very busy man, always on the move. My station is at Ibeshi in Lekki. I only come to this area once in a while to see my wife only when it matters most. But with the lockdown, I have been able to know so many people both those that parked into the community newly and those who are equally busy as I am. During the period, I have made many friends, we have had fruitful discussions bothering on our vocations and businesses and how to form alliance and we have exchanged contacts which might eventually lead to business prospect. Although it is a difficult time, but I have enjoyed the period.”
Further investigation by Blueprint in the neighbouring communities within areas such as Egbeda, Igandu, Idimu, Ikotun Egbe, revealed that some street urchins have hijacked the security situation to unleash terror on the unsuspecting road users especially those on special duties such as the nurses, doctors, journalists, among others, who returned from work late in the night due to the nature of their job.
Comparing today’s security with years back
While comparing the security situation in Ijegun, Mrs Badmos Ajagun, who said she packed into the area 20 years ago, said the security situation now is better compared to between 10 and 15 years ago.
“In the past, we were living in fear because of armed robbery attack. They used to come here on a regular basis. Sometimes late in the night or early in the morning around 4am. Because of this, Land Lord Associations in the area came together to hire private security men who will man the streets from 10pm to 5am in the morning. Okada were restricted from entering the area from 10pm and because of armed robbery activities, so many land lords have relocated to other areas.
“In 2014 and 2015, I can remember vividly, there were three armed robbery attack within a period of one month. The whole community was in palpable fear and that was when so many great men and women in the area relocated to other places. But now, we thank God the situation has changed and coupled with the recent development where the entire residents of the area is locked down, have come together to form vigilante groups. It is a welcome development and now we can sleep with our two eyes closed. My prayer is that it should be sustained even when the lockdown is lifted.”
It should be recalled that on July 4, 2019, Ijegun community was in the news as the early morning fire caused by exploded petrol tanker sacked the residents of the area to run for safety. The explosion was caused by vandals who engaged in illegal oil bunkering activities at Fire Junction, Ijegun where Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines are buried.
The vandals, our finding revealed, had already siphoned petrol into a 33,000 liters tanker while a second tanker of the same capacity was being loaded when security agencies suddenly intercepted them.
“While the vandals were trying to escape, some of the siphoned fuel spilled into the drainage and the vandals were alleged to have set the spilled fuel on fire in a bid to deter the security agencies from apprehending them.
“The fire eventually returned to the pipeline point where the fuel was being siphoned by the vandals and suddenly caused explosion with escalating fire leading to fatalities,” our source said.
The village of Ijegun is a northern suburban community in Alimosho local government area of the state and home to oil tank farms.