Police say these areas are dark spots. OLALEKAN OLABULO dug in to find out why they remain dark, many years after amid countless security raids and arrests.
FOR a long period of time in the past, names of places like Akala in Idi Oro area of Mushin, Oju Ina, Oshodi, Ajegunle, Sogunle and Bariga usually filled residents and visitors to the state with fear. This was because of the high rate of crimes and criminality that were associated with these places. The prevalence of crimes in these Lagos communities caused them to be officially designated as dark spots by security agencies. Little or nothing has changed in these dark spots, as discovered by Saturday Tribune. In fact, the police have continued to identify these places as hotbeds of crime.
Investigations revealed that though new crime hot spots like Mile 2, Isheri Oshun, Igando Morogbo and others are emerging in some parts of Lagos State, the dark spots of the years past have remained black and residents and passersby have continued to be daily victims of harassment, robbery, rape and even death.
Beware of these areas –Police
The Lagos State police command, in its records, listed the following communities as hot spots: Masha-Surulere, Kilo-Surulere, Idi Oro, Mushin, Fadeyi-Onipanu, Second Rainbow – FESTAC, Oke-Koto – Agege, Dopemu-Agege, Orile-Agege, Oworoshoki, Jakande – Lekki Estate, Shasha-Alimosho, Gowon Estate, Igbogbo, Ipakodo, Ijora-Badia/Ijora Oloye, Orile, Itire, Ejigbo, Ago Okota, Ilasamaja, Shogunle, Iju, Bariga, Ifako-Gbagada, Ilasan – Lekki – Ajah, Ijanikin/Morogbo, Idimu, Ikotun, Isheri Osun and Igando.
Less than a week ago, operatives of the Lagos State police command, in a raid on suspected dark spots around Oshodi Under-bridge and Railway Line, arrested 62 suspected criminals. This is about the lowest number that the police have recorded on raids in the area this year alone. At a time, over 100 suspected criminals were arrested during a joint operation by different police formations in Oshodi.
The latest onslaught on the dark spots in Oshodi was a police response to reported cases of robbery and clashes around the Oshodi under-bridge, in recent time. Passengers, especially those who arrived in Oshodi in the nighttime are regular targets of hoodlums.
Saturday Tribune findings revealed that apart from the hoodlums who place themselves in vantage positions to attack their victims, other criminals in the area disguise as commuters and street traders to identify their targets.
The Lagos State Task Force on the Environment and Other Related Offences had, some months back, arrested an alleged notorious armed robber who usually took advantage of the traffic situation in Oshodi to attack motorists. The suspect had just broken a vehicle’s windshield and stolen two mobile phones from the driver when he was caught.
A resident of Oshodi who identified himself as Kazeem Dada told Saturday Tribune the sad story of Oshodi: “I have been in Oshodi for over 15 years and this place has remained a black spot. There were times when there was sanity, maybe after a series of raids but I can assure you that these boys will come back. Many of them are conductors, former transport union members and children of petty traders who were displaced during the (former Governor Babatunde) Fashola administration. Only God knows how a lasting peace and security can be assured in Oshodi. It is not as if the police are not doing something but these boys keep coming back.”
Dada spoke further: “Some of them were arrested and jailed but after they were released, they became hardened. They have got nowhere to sleep. They sleep under the bridge. They move in their scores and hundreds. About a week ago, for three consecutive days, they were fighting themselves and using the opportunity to rob commuters. We are used to the system. Whenever the crime rate goes up, the police swing into action; they arrest many of them but after some time, the situation returns. Those who fled return and continue with their crime.”
On what he expected the government to do to permanently restore peace in Oshodi, he said, “For a long time to come, I see this ugly trend recurring in Oshodi. One would have expected that with the transformation of the whole area by Fashola and with what Governor [Akinwunmi] Ambode is doing, crime would have completely gone down but as long as these hoodlums remain in Oshodi, it is struggle continues for commuters and residents.”
Ijora Badia is another community in Lagos dreaded by residents and visitors alike. This is as a result of the activities of hoodlums who constantly rob and rape people unfortunate enough to fall into their trap. This trend in Ijora has continued unabated despite the efforts of the police to sanitize the place, Saturday Tribune learnt from residents.
A community leader in Ijora who identified himself simply as Alhaji Rahmon described the situation in Ijora as “same same.” The community leader said “as one generation of criminals is retiring, another is taking over and they keep growing and growing by the day.”
While raising the alarm over the growing crime rate in the area, Alhaji Ramon lamented that it is even worse now than in the past. There were just a few of them then and their operations were mainly outside of Ijora but they hibernated here in Ijora but the present generation of hoodlums operate in the daytime in Ijora.”
He went on to identify the four notorious groups terrorizing the people of area as Obale Boys, Omo Oriyanrin, Railway Line Boys and Akamaye Boys. He described the last group as the most dreaded.
He claimed that the modus operandi of all the groups was similar but the Akamaye Boys were the deadliest and most daring. The community leader added that the group usually took advantage of crisis among its members to rob and rape victims caught in their clashes.
The Mile 12 axis of the state has also become one of the hotbeds of crime, according to crime reports and eyewitnesses’ accounts. In fact, crime has almost become a daily occurrence along the corridor. A Facebook user who was sharing his experience along the Mile 12 corridor said this week, “By 5.30 a.m. today (referring to the day he posted the report), I witnessed the second robbery case under Mile 12 Bridge. Directly in front of me, a neatly dressed young man who wanted to cross the road was attacked and his bag was being dragged with him. I beamed my car’s headlight to scare the three attackers but they did not leave the guy, who was shouting ‘ole’! on top of his lungs.
“The guy must be an Igbo guy because he had the effrontery to confront them and drag his bulky bag with the attackers. An average Yoruba man would have willingly surrendered the bag and shouted “ori iyami” (my mother’s spirit) and go to church on Sunday to give testimony. They forced the traffic to a halt but sadly nobody came out of the cars around to the aid of this guy whose white shirt had been roughed [roughened]. Mine (not coming out of my car to rescue him) was out of fear of being attacked in the process of coming out of [the] vehicle, especially in that dark [early part of the morning] time. But I felt bad I could not help. It is a general habit in Lagos to run away from people being attacked by the beasts [suspected criminals].
“I was happy the boy eventually rescued [freed] himself and his bag, as the attackers ran away when they sensed [realised] people were already getting agitated on (in) the traffic which had slowed [down].
“That place has been a dark spot for years. The police have described it as one of the dangerous places in Lagos. Now, can the Ketu Police Station, [a] few meters away do undercover surveillance of that area during some hours daily and get these bad boys out? The DPO Ketu [police station] should be held responsible for the insecurity in that place. Do we need to deploy Aba Kyari’s team for this? I don’t know whether the police have KPIs but the DPO has failed on this. Though there is always anti-robbery team under the Mile 12 Bridge itself, the officers hardly move around.
“Please when you are around Mile 12 avoid being alone and wind up your door glasses if you are in a vehicle. Be watchful please and always pray for God’s protection.”
Agege has also for long been described as home to criminals. It has continued to appear on the record of the police as a hot spot. Communities in Agege like Oke-Koto, Isale Oja and Akerele have remained targeted for raids by policemen on criminal hideouts and dark spots.
Ironically, despite the constant raids over the years, these Agege communities have continued to be notorious for crime. Akerele in particular is fast becoming a hub of illicit drugs. Residents of the settlement have resigned to fate as constant raids by the police appear not to deter the perpetrators.
A resident of the area, one Adegoroye, who spoke with Saturday Tribune disclosed that “the three most notorious settlements in Agege are Isale Oja, Akerele and Oke-Koto. The police are aware of these places. Hoodlums converge on Isale Oja and Oke-Koto to terrorise people but they all come to Akerele to smoke.
“During raids by security operatives, many law abiding residents have fallen victim. The hoodlums know how to manoeuvre their way out of the community but innocent people often get arrested. Some people have their family houses around here. They cannot, because of some hoodlums, abandon their property,” Adegoroye said
Akala and Idi Oro in Mushin have also permanently been described as havens for criminals. Akala is noted for illicit drugs and Idi Oro is notorious for armed robbery and violent clashes. The two neighbouring communities have continued to be hot beds of crime.
On many occasions, law enforcement agencies have invaded Akala and Idi Oro where illicit drugs were recovered and sellers arrested. It is, however, surprising that the situation is not in any way getting better. Findings showed that barons keep penetrating Akala, while hoodlums, mostly commercial bus conductors, continue to find solace in Idi Oro.
A senior police officer who spoke with Saturday Tribune under the condition of anonymity said, “It will be very difficult for the police or any other security agency to rid Akala of drugs. The topography of the whole place makes it very difficult to be penetrated. As long as the drug peddlers and their sponsors continue to attack security agents, a lot of innocent residents in the community will be at risk. I have surveyed the whole place and I can tell you that distinguishing between the drug peddlers and law abiding residents is a very difficult task. They are intricately interwoven.”
Bariga is another Lagos black spot where residents have almost resigned to fate. The community has always been notorious for serious vices but armed robbery, cultism and gangsterism have now become the order of the day there.
A community leader, Alhaji Samson, spoke to Saturday Tribune: “Bariga is still a crime-prone community but the crime rate here is similar to other parts of Somolu. Our major problem now is cultism. What makes the whole thing more appalling is the role of our politicians. They are the sponsors of these killers. Politicians facilitate their release whenever they are arrested. The cult members work for different politicians.
“Just yesterday (Wednesday), a popular cult leader was killed in a clash at a political meeting. This was somebody who confessed to the whole world that he had killed some people. How did he get out of prison?
“For long, Shomolu Bariga has been one of the places with the highest number of street urchins. These urchins operate in groups. They collect money from broken down vehicles and sand dredgers in Ilaje. But some years back, things took a new turn when many of them were initiated into cults. They converge on Odunsi, Ilaje, Fogo and Idi Aba. They are members of Aiye and Eiye confraternities. It has got to a point now that the different groups belong to different political gladiators in this area.
“People in Shomolu Bariga are now accustomed to killings. About two years ago, killing among cultists was a daily occurrence. It does not make any meaning to people again now. Our only concern is that they take advantage of their clashes to terrorise innocent members of the community,” the community leader said.
Why we profiled the areas –Police
Reacting to the black spot menace in many parts of the state, the state police command insisted that some hot spots of past years have ceased to be. The command said it changed strategies from time to time and deploy officers and men in places suspected to be targets of criminals.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Chike Oti, a Superintendent of Police, in a chat with Saturday Tribune, said: “Contrary to the general belief that dark spots are where crimes usually occur, dark spots do not necessarily mean places where crime occurs at regular intervals but places where, if unmanned, may be taken advantage of by criminals.
“They are usually places that are sparsely populated and where the people may not promptly report to the police for proper action. They are places which, if unchecked, the criminals may take advantage of.
“It is in line with the doctrine of proactive policing that when such places are identified, police visibility should be ensured and that is what the present leadership of the Lagos State police command under CP Imohimi Edgal has been doing. We have continued to change our strategies to checkmate the activities of criminals.
“There are also places that were initially regarded as dark spots that have ceased to be so now. One of such places is the Ikeja under-bridge. Apart from the proper lighting of the environment by the state government, at every point in time, there is always an appreciable presence of police personnel in the area.
“For instance, the Third Mainland Bridge used to be referred to as a black spot but the present leadership of the police in the state has changed that. Apart from our men who are on a 24-hour patrol on the bridge, we have personnel on the median of the bridge to ensure adequate security.”