By Bankole Shakirudeen Adeshina
IT was about 10am, but the charmingly bluish sky suddenly disappeared, to be slowly replaced with a descending darkness, accompanied by a thunderous lightening …crrrrrrrrrahhh….!!! There were sparks everywhere, scaring people to take to their heels, including commuters and the teeming market denizens who just finished offloading their goods.
To everyone, the message was clear; a heavy downpour was imminent. And it’s a matter of common sense to quickly shelter somewhere or get drenched to the pants by the heavy rainfall. That was Mushin, a popular suburb of Lagos State, last Tuesday.
The confusion witnessed on this day was caused by a natural occurrence. However, on most other days, such situations are often ignited by rampaging armed gangs in the area, with heavy casualties at the end of the brutality.
For years, rival armed groups have wreaked havoc in Mushin, raping and humiliating women and, worst of it all, killing and maiming innocent people, including residents and unsuspecting market dwellers who are hit by stray bullets.
A lifelong resident of Mushin confided that these gangs have always escaped with their crimes! The best the Nigerian Police Force has ever done to arrest and detain some of them, who in no time regained their freedom after some phone calls, the elderly man, who refused to reveal his identity said.
“On one hand, politicians use the boys for their selfish and deadly ends, which include harassing, victimising and sometimes assassinating some of their perceived enemies. On the other hands, the drug barons engage the boys as their sales representatives cum customers,” the man said. “These are the forces fueling the unrests in Mushin.”
Indeed, a senior policeman in the area revealed that the heart and soul of Mushin is torn between two deadly cartels, the political gladiators and the drug barons, both with influential powers and strong links to senior government officials.
The officer, who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said with the backing of powerful society figures, the armed gangs go about their hard drugs peddling business openly without any hindrance whatsoever. They also abuse the substance, as many of them, including under-age and women were seen consuming the outlawed substance in the open.
“That is not the only thing they do, for your information. They rape single and married women indiscriminately. With aroused libido, they just point at any lady of their choice. And that is it. No one dare to object.
“Besides, these are dangerous guys who also possess different kinds of arms and ammunitions. They carry and display these weapons on the streets without anyone daring to stop them. They sometimes shoot at the sky in broad daylight to either scare us (the residents), or to establish the fact that they are still as deadly and untouchable as before. They are untouchables, and that is the fact,” another resident said.
With names such as Toba, Seven-Seven, Monsuru 50 Cent, Lanre Pumping, Wasiu Olori-Eso, Ilesanmi, Omo-Ekun, and Elubo, these men strike fear into the hearts of people in the community. People tremble at the mention of any of these names.
“Those are the most fearsome names to be mentioned in that area,” the police officer, who once served at the Alakara division, confided in this Correspondent.
“They are children of the political godfathers in Lagos and the drug kingpins. They are regular visitors to the police stations, but spend little or no time there. They are so deadly that they would even kill uniformed men and get away with it. It’s so pathetic.”
Now transferred to another part of the state, the officer said there was no way the police could successfully stop the boys, owing largely to “their sophistication in weapons, charms and connections at the highest level of power.”
WAITING ON THE POLICE
Residents live with a sense that the police have developed cold feet in their response to violence-related emergencies in Mushin, especially as their arrests have barely has any effect.
“Whenever an emergency situation is reported at the Alakara or Panti Police Division, for example, the uniform men on duty would take time to ask you where the crisis was coming from. Upon knowing that it’s from either of those boys, I bet you they would either come very late when the deed had already been done or never at all,” said Alhaji Anuoluwa, an elderly resident of Olani Street, at Idi-Oro Bus Stop.
“Sometimes, they would bring out guns, put some kerosene, and cork the trigger, trying to show their readiness. At the end of the day, they would tell you they were coming. In most cases, they never showed up.”
Spokesman of the Lagos State Police Command, Mr. Ken Nwosu was contacted on this issue. He told City Voice that he would get back to him later.
Our correspondent asked, through a telephone call: “Sir, I would like to hear the police handle on the possible reason for the reoccurring deadly violence in Mushin environ?”
Mr Nwosu replied thus: “when you say a reoccurring violence, it means something that has been frequent?”
When we reeled out the facts, the police spokesperson promised that “I think you should allow me to finish up the meeting I’m having with some people here. I would get back to you as soon as possible on this.”
He has not done so at press time!
Ironically, the “bad boys” terrorizing Mushin and its environs are known individuals – and their bases known to the residents. Areas such as Akala, Idi-Oro, Alhaji Lasisi, Onifade, Ereko, Alasalatu and Oloruntosin Streets, among others, are the regular holdouts of these gangs. But no one dares point a finger.
“Whoever tries it would not live to tell the story,” a resident, who identified himself as Tajudeen Michael, said. “Those who tried it in the past have been mercilessly dealt with—most didn’t live to tell the story. It’s that deadly. That is the burden the residents of the area have had to carry for years. We have a choice however, between living with them and or moving out. No choice of complain, at all.
“And for whatever it worth, you (referring to this correspondent), have to be very careful too. This is a very dangerous matter—Mushin crisis. You have to thread softly. Those guys are dangerous. They can do anything to anybody and without any repercussion. They are backed by powerful people,” Michael warned.
DANGER ON THE STREETS
Akala is the most notorious street in the whole of Mushin. Narrow and poorly structured, the area, often referred as “Criminal Ghetto” by residents, is predominantly dominated by jobless and underemployed youths. Their co-habitats are low income earning people in the area.
The street is shaped like a square, with entry and exit from four corners. It does not cover more than 10 acres of land. However, it is under the control of drug lords.
During two visits to the area in the course of this report, City Voice saw substances suspected to be drugs peddled and consumed in the open by adults and minors of both sexes, without any fear whatsoever.
Cloud of smokes could be seen from afar in a particular section of the street, hinting about the extent of the consumption.
Many of the people seen on the streets also adorned their skins with all kinds of tattoos, including those of Axe, Sword, Dragon, Scorpion and or Snake symbols, an expression of gang affinity, one of them, Wasiu, said.
“Hard drug sales are the business in this area. It’s a very lucrative and tempting business, especially, as there are no disturbances from the Police whatsoever. One of my friends is into the business and the guy is living very large now. He already has two solid cars—a Toyota Camry and another Space Bus,” one of the residents confided in this writer.
At a corner, three young men were seen unveiling a neat shuttle bag, bringing out phones, female wallets and some other valuables. This Correspondent suspected them to be bag snatchers, feasting on their latest catch.
LONG LIST OF ATROCITIES
Fatimah, a middle aged house wife was gruesomely killed two years ago in one of the fights between the gangs. She died of a gunshot injury.
After a long day, the woman, a mother of little Oluwasemilore, had hurriedly packed her market (cooked rice, beans, plantain and Orisirisi), upon noticing yet another storm of violence sweeping down to her street at Onifade.
She was not quick enough and was shot on her chest, leaving her less than a year-old son behind. Since then, her killers have not been brought to book. Fatimah’s son celebrated his third birthday recently.
“Each time I remember the incident, I shed tears. My agonies go far beyond the injustice, but the failure of the authority to address the problem,” a relative of the deceased said, on condition of anonymity, because of fear of attack.
Last month, February 21st, to be precise, yet another carnage rocked the community. The violence left no fewer than 10 persons dead and 20 injured from gun shots and machete cuts. Some uniformed men were also allegedly killed in the mayhem.
According to a security source, trouble started on the evening of that fateful Saturday at Alhaji Lasisi Street, by Idi-Oro Bus Stop. It was allegedly led by a gang led by Ilesanmi and Monsuru 50 Cent against another gang. The duos were seen, brandishing AK47 guns and other dangerous weapons, according to eyewitness accounts.
“My sister, Lateefat, who works in Guarantee Trust Bank at CMS, was one of those seriously injured from the mayhem. She was just coming from work that Saturday night. Unknowingly, she ran into the rampaging boys. As she was trying to run for escape, she fell into a gutter and fractured her left leg in the process. She has been hospitalized since then,” a relative of one of the injured said.
Effort to get a relative of one of the women who got killed in the mayhem proved abortive, as the young man, a resident of Folami Street, opposite the battlefield, refused to talk. He was either grief-stricken or afraid of possible reprisal from the gangs.
“The truth remains that none of these guys have been arrested. The residents need help. We are fed up with the recurring crises. For many of us, we do not know where to go,” another resident lamented.
An elderly man, who identified himself as a retired Civil Servant, vented his anger.
“The atrocities in Mushin are products of contestations of power,” he said. “The battle is really between the drug barons and the political godfathers. The boys fighting on the streets are just pawns on their Chess Board. The failure of the government to put a stop to it is as a result of their complicity in it,” he said.
Akinlade Olufemi, a former resident of Mushin said his family had to relocate from Mushin to Ikotun.
“I was lucky to escape the mayhems unhurt. The first I witnessed was about five years ago, at Akala Street, when I went to see a friend. The second was at Onifade Street, when I was coming from work. As the only son of the family, my panicky parents were worried about my fate. They have seen many parents thrown into grieve over the gruesome killing of their children.
“About three years ago, they just told me one morning that we were moving to Agodo area of Ikotun. That they have paid for the apartment and though it would be more inhabitable. And since that time, I have been grateful for their decision. There was no cause to be afraid. Everybody in my new area is peaceful, friendly and caring,” Olufemi said.
Another resident, Musiliu Alade, pleaded with the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola to urgently intervene in security challenges in Mushin.
“I’m pleading to the Governor and other relevant authorities to please tackle the problem in Mushin once and for all,” Alade said. “Innocent people are dying in their droves and the situation is far from being addressed. We are in a perpetual state of panic at Mushin, until something is done to appease these armed groups, including their sponsors.
Another resident blamed government inaction for the deaths. According to ‘Emperor,’ the crisis will be permanently addressed if the governor showed strong political will.
“The problem of Mushin can be solved if the state government can take over most of the mud houses in Akala, Ojurin, Alasalatu and Ojuwoye,” he said. “Government can easily value the land, involve genuine developers and pay the owners off. Mushin is in the heart of Lagos. If the necessary infrastructure can be provided, we can have a VI in Mushin. I have a detailed proposal of how Mushin can be transformed.”
A HISTORY OF THE CRISIS
An elderly man, who has lived in Mushin for four decades, traced the history of the crisis in the area:
“I lived at Mushin for about 40 years. I got there at the age of 12 and left before my 60th birthday. I’m about 63 years old now. So there is nothing about Mushin that I don’t know.
“Mushin has always been a trouble spot since the beginning. And the reason is not far-fetched and it could be traced to a group linked to Awon Omo Pupa Ni Mushin (fair complexioned man at Mushin).
“The genesis of the crisis was when one Islamic Cleric, Alfa Alara was killed at Ebute-Meta as he was about to deliver a sermon. The man was killed and his head taken off!
“The Police then fished out all the 12 perpetrators of the crime and executed them after trial, except one person called Omo Pupa Ni Mushin. I don’t know why they exonerated him, but they have their reasons. Ever since then, people begin to tag Mushin as the den of criminals. People usually stayed away from any venture that Omo Pupa Ni Mushin has ventured into. People were extremely afraid of him.
“Before his death, Omo Pupa Ni Mushin was identified with the Alado Masquerade, a traditional deity that comes out yearly for parade from the Aiyeleru Street. It was owned by Baba Alani Alado.
“With Omo Pupa leading, the masses of followers of the masquerade trooped behind with canes, machetes and guns to beat and inflict injures on the people.
“Then the politicians, in their desperation for power moved in and brought the Alado, the gang leader, closer to them during the political battle between the Peoples Democratic Party and the then Alliance for Democracy in Mushin. And that was how violence became a lucrative venture for the boys in the area.
“The matter was also worsened by the crisis between members of the Oodua Peoples Congress in 2000. The crisis, which led to burning of more than 40 houses and killing of scores, also created the enmity between the gangs that has lasted till today.”