By Dapo Akinrefon
ACTIVITIES of suspected militants in Lagos and Ogun States has given many lots of sleepless nights. This dangerous trend is gradually making the South West a hotbed. At a time when the zone is still grappling with the acvtivities of suspected Fulani herdsmen, who terrorize the South West, the issue of militancy has reared its ugly head to create an atmosphere of fear and panic in the minds of the people.
Asides this, there are growing concerns over how this might affect the socio-economic life of the South West if not curtailed once and for all. Infact, the fear of militants in some communities is now the beginning of wisdom.
Not only that the activities of the hooligans, who parade themselves as militants, have left tales of sorrow and trails of blood. The aftermath of their marauding has led to further angry reactions, with people questioning their regard for human life.
There have been hues and cries over the nefarious acts perpetrated and various groups in the region have warned of dire consequences if urgent measures are not taken to nip these acts in the bud. In recent times, Lagos and Ogun states have been worst hit by these acts of violence.
Against the background of the series of violent and bloodcurdling acts occurring in various communities in Lagos and Ogun states, the Yoruba Unity Forum had warned that “Nigeria is at, the precipice, threats of insecurity to life and property is no longer the exclusive preserve of any particular community. The attacks this time is coming from an unlikely foe, the Niger Delta militants. The despicable criminality by this group against innocent citizens of Igbolomu and Ishawo areas of Ikorodu in Lagos shall not go unpunished.”
Prior to their brazen move, the militants had been keeping a low profile in the creeks around some communities in Lagos and Ogun. Infact, there have been several confrontations between security operatives and the militants over their continued vandalisation of pipelines, situated along the Lagos and Ogun creeks.
Perhaps what informed their brazeness was the killing of some vandals, who were their collaborators around the sleepy, tranquil community of Imushin in Ogun State. They were said to be on a revenge mission when some operatives of the Ogun State Anti-Robbery Squad had killed two suspected militants, who were said to be vandals.
In the wake of the their attack in Imushin, no fewer than 15 people were killed in the Ogijo area of Ogun State during a raid by suspected militants from the Niger Delta on June 17. Eyewitnesses disclosed that the militants, who numbered about 100 and armed with guns and cutlasses, invaded the community around 11pm and went on a killing spree.
According to eyewitness accounts, one of the victims, a technician named Waheed Buhari, was killed in front of his home. Also, one of Waheed’s children, Mariam, sustained bullet wounds. It was gathered that the militants shot dead a travel agent, Oladele Ogundare, who was said to be returning home in his car when the gunmen opened fire on the vehicle.
Another resident, Umoru, who was said to be eating noodles at the time, was chased, hacked and shot to death, along with a friend, Danladi. The assailants were said to have attacked a mosque in the community and killed a Muslim cleric there. While they also reportedly robbed and injured customers at hotels in the environs, 25 shops were also said to have been robbed.
According to many residents of the community, the militants threatened to continue the killings when they return. A resident said the assailants were suspected to be Ijaw youths involved in pipeline vandalism. Interestingly, the Imushin saga was meant to be a rehearsal for the militants.
Last February, there were reported cases where pipeline vandals laid ambush on the Anti Pipeline Vandalism Joint Task Force, JTF in the Arepo area of Ogun state, killing five operatives. The operatives were suspected to be naval personnel.
The incident was described as a reprisal attack, when the Joint Task Force, comprising the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Army and the National Security and Civil Defence Corps NSCDC, had launched a series of attacks at the pipeline vandalism syndicate in the area, which led to a series of arrests and startling discoveries.
Invasion of Lagos
The incursion of the militants into some Lagos communities has raised palpable tension in the once peaceful state. Many residents are apprehensive that the militants are gradually making in-roads into Lagos State and perhaps, by extension, the South West. The recent invasion of Ewedogbon area of Totowu, a riverine community in Ishuti, Igando, old Alimosho Local Government Area, is raising tension.
The community, which was engulfed in a fresh attack by suspected Niger Delta militants saw scores of Lagos residents killed as the militants entered into people’s houses to torment them. Not only that, the recent abduction of a Lagos monarch, the Oniba of Ibaland, Oba Goriola Oseni has made matters worse.
In the wake of the abduction, two persons were killed when the traditional ruler was killed by suspected militants in the Iba Local Council Development Area, Lagos. The gunmen suspected to be militants were said to have stormed the community on the night of July 16 in a speedboat, shooting sporadically in an effort to scare residents.
They were said to have been about 16 in number and they allegedly killed a motorcyclist and the monarch’s guard, while several persons sustained injuries. It was gathered that residents, had initially attempted to stop the gunmen, but scampered for safety when the gunshots became unbearable.
Perhaps heeding the cry of residents of some of the affected communities where the militants have held sway, the Federal Government deployed troops to the affected communities. It was an attempt to flush out the militants. Already, about 150 suspected militants have been killed in the ongoing joint military operation in riverine communities in Lagos and Ogun States.
The operation involved operatives of the Army, Navy and Police. While the bombardment lasted, the number of casualties could not be ascertained, but unconfirmed reports had it that several lives were lost with about 30 houses destroyed. Observers of events in the country opine that there should be sustained bombardment of the creeks situated in Lagos and Ogun states as a means of assuring residents that peace and tranquility have been restored.
It is expected that the joint military operation will curtail the activities of militants and ensure sanity is restored in the South West.
Ethnic groups wade in
As a means of dousing tension in the communities, the Ijaw National Congress (INC) and the Yoruba Elders Forum (YEF) met to explore ways of tamping the activities of suspected militants, terrorising various communities in Ogun and Lagos states. The ethnic groups held series of meetings in order to see how best to collaborate with security agencies to tame militancy, vandalism, kidnapping and other forms of criminality in the two states.
Afenifere condemns attack
In his remarks, National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin alleged there was a sinister agenda to destablise the South West. Odumakin said, “It is condemnable and despicable. The unwarranted attacks suggest a sinister agenda to take the peace of the South West as we have now seen military operations extended to the region that had hitherto been the only peaceful area of the country.”