It wakes early and sleeps late. And all through the day, it remains boisterous. From about 5:00am, it begins to come alive with all manner of activities but it becomes more animated at sunrise. Even at dusk, it still kicks. Welcome to Iyana-Iba bus stop along Lagos-Badagry Expressway.
Iyana-Iba is like an octopus with fingers pointing at different directions. It is an arterial road leading to Ojo, Mile 2, LASU-Iyana Ipaja and Badagry-Seme border.
It is home to markets and shopping complexes, where virtually everything is bought and sold. It is also home to the ubiquitous okada riders and social miscreants known in local parlance as area boys. Indeed, it is home to all kinds of stuffs, all kinds of characters. It is a haven of chaos and confusion. Lawless avenue
Iyana-Iba could be described as a place where the law is an ass. It is a place where outlaws are laws unto themselves. There, pick pockets and sundry criminals have a field day. There, commercial bus drivers, okada riders, traders, cart pushers and touts have no regard for constituted authority.
The drivers and okada riders park their vehicles and motorcycles indiscriminately, obstructing traffic flow. Traders display their wares on the road. In fact, at Iyana-Iba, deviants reign supreme. Ironically, an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) is stationed there round the clock with law enforcement officers in place. Yet, the illegalities go on unchallenged.
Killers nest Investigations revealed that assassin are on hire at Iyana-Iba. At a spot on LASU-Iyana Ipaja Road axis, a group of men in their mid 20s and early 30s stand or sit leisurely, gesturing to prospective clients. They advertise their business by making a sign of slashing the throat with the fingers. It is a sign understood by the initiated.
Our undercover reporter gathered that there is no fixed amount for securing the services of the killers. Some factors are put into consideration in determining the cost of a job. For instance, a woman can be assisted to eliminate her spouse or lover for the sum of N100,000 or less. In that case, she would be required to make the job easy by breaking his defences, so to say.
A source said: “Some of the things considered while negotiating for a job is the location. If the target resides where he or she is accessible, the price tag comes low but if he is a resident of high security neighbourhood, the customer will pay more. If the target is mobile, that is if he has a car, it will also come into consideration.
If he has a driver, it will also be considered because with another person in the picture, the job becomes risky. But to knock off an average guy, about N200,000 will do the job.” The source further said that in negotiating the cost of a job, another consideration would be whether a gun or knife would be used. If it is a job that can be done with a knife, hammer or axe, it will be cheaper than using a gun.
On the method of payment, he said that 50 percent of the agreed sum would be paid before the job is done. The balance will be offset after the job has been done. He added that any attempt to play smart with the boys by way trying not to keep with agreement would be disastrous. “The boys know how to collect their balance. No doubt about that”, he stressed.
It was gathered that before a job is carried, the customer would provide the boys with logistics. These include necessary information about the target as well as his photograph if possible. With that, the target will be trailed for a couple of days and whenever the time is considered right, he will be knocked off.
Our undercover reporter equally gathered that the boys also undertake such jobs as acid bathing. For between N30,000 and N100,000, the job will be done. Again, it depends on the security considerations among other issues. If the target is an early riser, somebody who goes to work very early in the morning or returns late at night, the job is considered easier and attracts a pocket friendly charge.
Drugs, ganja paradise At Iba, marijuana otherwise known as Indian hemp, ganja and Igbo are freely sold and smoked. In the early hours of the day, area boys can be seen smoking all sorts of stuff around the complex on the LASU-Iyana Ipaja Road axis. But in the afternoon, the rendezvous is shifted inside the complex where there are shops not in use. In fact, some of the shops serve as rendezvous for Indian hemp smoking and drug sniffing.
Again, all kinds of illicit drinks are sold and taken openly there. Some of them are laced with drugs and aphrosidiacs and are called such names as monkey tail, pepper soup, awapa and jedi etc. Communities at the mercy of criminals
Investigations revealed that some communities at that axis are being terrorised by criminals almost on a daily basis. One of such communities is Iba New Site, an emerging sub-urban community, in Iba Local Council Development Authority. Indeed, the community is under armed robbery siege. The community, according to sources, has not known peace in the last one year. Armed bandits have literally taken over the entire community, terrorising and stealing, maiming, destroying and even killing in some cases with impunity.
There is no difference between daytime and night for the robbers. They strike anytime at will without any hindrance. Investigations revealed that nobody is safe in that community because the ‘boys’ could attack at any time. They could come in the morning, afternoon or night unhindered. Our reporter was even told that they could accost him and take away his camera and tape recorder and nobody would raise an eyebrow.
According to sources, police don’t mean anything to them, hence the community’s decision to hire the services of local vigilance group, the Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC), to help in guarding the community.
The last straw that broke the camel’s back The gang has forced residents of the community to sleep with both eyes wide open. Residents were already getting used to their sad way of life until last year when the activities of the gangland boys became unbearable.
They approached OPC members to assist the community in getting rid of criminal activities from the town. But, when the gang noticed that OPC as an organisation had become a thorn in their flesh, they prepared and launched a deadly assault that left about three OPC members dead. The situation with the residents of Iba New Site is akin to that of the proverbial fowl and the tortoise.
When fire consumed the tortoise with its hardened shell, the fowl didn’t need any seer to know that it would be easy. Prey with its soft feather. If the gang could overpower and decimate the dreaded OPC, which the community regard as their last hope, having lost confidence in the police, where then lay their hope?
On May 6, the armed gang invaded the community around 2.00am with a mission to teach the members of OPC a bitter lesson they would not forget in a hurry. And they did. The OPC commander in charge of Iba New Site, Mr Sola Adeyemi and his men were brutally attacked. Narrating what happened on that day and the overall evil activities of the armed gang, the OPC area commander said: “It was on May 6, that the armed robbers attacked residents of Sule Dada Street about 2.00am in the morning.
They ambushed two of my boys that were manning Chiben Street and tied them hand and leg. I was somewhere when I learnt of what was happening. When I got there with my boys, we untied our men but we didn’t know that the robbers were hiding somewhere watching us. They attacked us from the ambush they laid, shooting sporadically and wounding many of us.
The guns they had were far more sophisticated than what we had. They had AK 47 but we only had cutlasses, dane-guns and cane. It was around 4am or 5am that policemen came and took the wounded to hospital. One of my men was killed instantly. Days later another victim of the attack died. Just yesterday (May 25), my younger brother, Remi Adeyemi also died.
He was shot in the hand inside a bus where he had slept off thinking that the boys had retreated. They knew that he used to stay inside that bus to guard the community and that is why it is very clear that the people who led the operation are members of this community and they know a lot about our operations. In all, I lost three of my men to the incident.”
Sources said the OPC commander survived the attack because the bullets could not penetrate his body. “He had traditional protection. All the bullets raired on him did not penetrate his body but when he saw that they were about 30 in number and that they could catch him and strangle him since the shots could not kill him, he took to his heels,” the source said.
Mr Adeyemi said it was when he tried to escape through a nearby bush that he sustained an injury on his right leg. “When I saw that they were more than 30 and they could catch and kill me with their bare hands since their bullets could not harm me, I jumped into the nearby bush from where I escaped. But, as I jumped into the bush I landed on a heap of pieces of broken bottles and got all these wounds on my right toes,” he said.
Lamenting the lackadaisical attitude of the police to distress calls, he said: “The boys rob both day and night without any fear. That was why we were invited to guard the community. The policemen are always very late in response. They said we should call them anytime there was any robbery incident but when you called them, they would not come until the robbers had finished robbing, maiming and killing. They would always tell you they didn’t know the street.”
Having lost three of his boys to the armed bandit, one would want to know what the community and the parent body of OPC are doing to forestall future similar losses of innocent lives. In that regard, Adeyemi said: “The chief of the area is aware of the menace of these bad boys. I belong to Chief Fredrick Faseun group of OPC and they have said they would mobilize more personnel and possibly equip us more to be able to combat them.
“The Landlord Association in this area also said they would go to the police to ask for more support in terms of equipment so that we can face the criminals when they come. We cannot face them with bare hands. I don’t know where they get their guns from but their guns are highly sophisticated. It is not the kind of dane guns that we carry around here and there is no way we can confront them with our own kind of guns.”
On whether he suspects anybody in the community of giving information to the criminal elements, Adeyemi said: “I can’t say but I know that most of them are the children of landlords in this community.”
A resident of the neighbouring Isashi community, who would not want his name in print, also described how the OPC commander was attacked. He said: “When they attacked him and his boys, he jumped into a nearby bush for escape but unknown to him, there was a heap of broken bottles in that bush, so he jumped into it and the thing lacerated his right leg.
The injury was very serious because he bled so much. He also sustained gunshot wounds on his hand, chest and thigh but those ones are already healed. It happened on Sunday, May 6 after the naming ceremony of his daughter on Tuesday, May 1.”
Throwing more light on the activities of the bandits in the area, he said: “I live at Isashi. I only came here to know how Mr Adeyemi is faring with his wound. As at present, this community is very hot. Even during the daytime, sometimes around 9.00am, if you are walking along the road with your laptop computer, these boys’d collect it from you claiming that they are cult boys. They are mere thieves hiding under the name of cult to commit crimes. And the police are not doing anything. If not for this OPC that came up to challenge them, forget about the police.”
Painting a fearful picture of the situation, he told this reporter: “If not for the OPC, maybe before you go, they will collect your tape and camera from you. It is that bad. They rob around 10 am on Okada. They would enter people’s shops and collect Bournvita, Ovaltine, milk and other items if they didn’t get cash. A motorcyclist would be standing-by while another person goes into the shop welding a gun. It is from this Iba New Site that they extend their criminal trade to Isashi.
They would launch robbery attack on the residents of Isashi from here and come back here to hide. It is a daily occurrence. If it doesn’t happen today, you will see it happen tomorrow. If it doesn’t happen tomorrow, it surely must happen a day after tomorrow. So, in one week, we could have three robbery incidents. In some cases, they kill; just like that and somebody is gone forever.”
He also believes that members of the gang live within the community and know the terrain very well. “Most of the criminals are living in this environment, so they know the terrain. If you are a new resident in the community, they will visit you. The gang is a very large group. One of my friends just packed into his new house in this community and just after one month, they visited him and ransacked his house. He was lucky they didn’t wound him but that, I think, was because they found enough money in his house,” he lamented.
On the composition of the people that form the gang, he aligned with the OPC commander when he said: “These people that commit these crimes are children of renowned people in this community, including their leader. They know the people that are terrorising this community. Can the police or OPC go to President Goodluck Jonathan’s house to arrest his child for any crime? So, that is our challenge.”
Expressing dissatisfaction with the police, he said: “Now, the community trusts the OPC more than the police. What the police do is just to collect money from okada riders who they arrest for operating after 10pm. We wish they would also stop vehicles from plying this route beyond 10pm or is it only okada that is used for robbery operation?
Many people buy okada just to make ends meet. Frankly, if you cannot catch a thief who uses okada to operate, that is not enough reason to ban okada operation entirely. Robbers still operate with vehicles till tomorrow; why has the government not banned the use of cars? If there is enough policing, there is no way a thief would rob with okada and escape without being caught. The last thief OPC caught used okada but because the OPC boys recognised the okada, they traced it to the owner who eventually led them to the robbers before they were arrested.”
Also speaking on the matter, a community leader and chairman of one of the Community Development Associations (CDA) in the area who also does not want his name in print for security reasons said the culprits live within the community. Speaking on the modus operandi of the gang, he said sometimes they wear mask to hide their real identity but most often, they don’t wear any mask at all and they operate at anytime of the day without fear.
“Actually, they don’t mask themselves during the day. Ironically, it is at night that they mask themselves. Those who think they would be recognised put on mask but those who think nobody knows them, won’t put on any mask. When they robbed my treasurer, he told me that he overheard them saying, ‘Mopol, let’s go; landlord let’s go.’ So, the people that operate during the day time without any mask are very well known by the community.
There was a time they came during the day and were boasting that our people have not seen anything. That was when they went to Chiben Street and robbed a cyber cafe carting away about six computers with handsets and some money. It was around 3pm. So, you can see that we are in real trouble,” he said.
Victims Looking at the number of people they had robbed in recent times and their mode of operations, he said: “On December 13, 2011, they came on Oro masquerade, attacked and killed one of our security men, Lukmon Alabi, because they felt he recognised them. They also attacked one Oluwakemi Bakery at Olomode Street and robbed it.
They have even attempted to rape but they have not really succeeded. For instance after they robbed Mr Benson Okoro in February, they wanted to rape his wife. Also at Ijebu Street in Mosadolo area, they robbed a man there and wanted to rape his sister-in-law; she resisted but got the beating of her life.
They asked his eight-month-old pregnant wife to lie down on her stomach. They also robbed one Stanley at Oloko Street. This has been going on for some time now but it reached its zenith in 2011. It was that last year we decided to engage OPC. Their targets are money, laptop, handsets and women’s jewelleries.
“Last week, one Pastor Oluwagbemi informed the police at Isashi Divisional Office that he was sleeping in his house around 2.00am with his wife naked because there was no light and the weather was very hot when the boys came. They were four in number. They flashed torch light into their eyes, pulled out a gun, pointed at them and ordered his wife to dress up and open the door at once. She did and they robbed them of their handsets, computer, jewelleries and money. Four days later, they struck again but this time it was in the apartment of a female neighbour.”
The community leader did not mince words in saying that those involved in the criminal acts are children of landlords in the area and that some of the landlords, who are members of the CDA reveal secret information to their children, who would in turn use it to terrorise the community.
He said: “Some of them are children of landlords and landlords are members of the Community Development Association (CDA). Nobody will fold his arms and allow his child to be killed, so there is every tendency that some CDA members leak information regarding our security strategies to their wards who are involved in this evil activity in our community.”
With all these happenings in the community, the Iba Neighbourhood Forum petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, the Lagos State governor, the Lagos State Commissioner for Police, Areas E and K Command of the Nigeria Police as well as the Divisional Police Officers in charge of Ojo and Isashi