Police deploy 100 operatives, drones, helicopters, 50 patrol vehicles and 10 APC
IYC: Those accusing Ijaw of attacking Yoruba communities stoking ethnic tensions   Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa and Chiemelie Ezeobi in Lagos

 A policeman and four civilians were on Tuesday caught in a shootout between displaced pipeline vandals and operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS), the Igando Police Division and the Police Mobile Force (PMF), in the Igando area of Lagos.

This is just as the Lagos State Police Command deployed over 100 operatives from the different arms of the force, drones, helicopters, 50 patrol vehicles and 10 Armoured Personal Carriers (APCs) to quell the situation.

Following the shootout, pandemonium erupted at the Obadore, Ewedogbon Community, Akesan Fatoki, and Egan areas of Igando, Lagos, as the vandals engaged the policemen for hours.

Although initial fears were that the suspects were militants that stormed the community to kidnap people for ransom, it was however discovered that they were displaced pipeline vandals who were on a revenge mission.

THISDAY gathered that the vandals had stormed the community to avenge an attack on a gang member by some commercial motorcyclists  in the area on Monday night.

Using the element of surprise, the vandals stormed the area in the morning  and started firing sporadically at the commercial motorcyclists plying their trade in that area.
It was the sporadic shooting that caught the attention of some operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) who were deployed to patrol the area.

According to eyewitness accounts, the vandals upon sighting the operatives released more gunshots in a bid to repel them and it was in the process that one of the RRS operative was shot.
The other operatives were said to have sent a distress call to Igando Police Division and alongside the RRS operatives, who came to the scene and engaged the vandals in a gun duel.

As at press time, despite the heavy presence of security agencies, some of the frightened residents and traders still  fled the community and its environs for fear of another reprisal attack.
Some residents said the main issue was that the gunmen had stormed the community, possibly to abduct another person like they have successfully done in the past.

They claimed that when the residents started running away in fright, the vandals began to shoot sporadically, adding that it was the noise of the gunshot that attracted the policemen who called for reinforcement.
Citing the case of the kidnap of the Oniba of Iba two weeks ago, the residents who said they have been living in fear, called on the state government to come to their aid.

As at press time, combined team of policemen from the RRS, Police Mobile Force (PMF), conventional police and the army were on the ground after they had repelled the vandals, who fled in their speedboats.

One of the residents who spoke to THISDAY, John Ogenevo, said: “We are tired of the war situation we have found ourselves in Lagos. Any waterway is now a dangerous route. It was in the same route, the suspects  came and abducted the Oba of Iba.

“They have come again to abduct another person. Who knows who they came for. This axis was haven for pipeline vandals before, now that there is no avenue for siphoning fuel, they have now resorted to kidnapping.

“We are all relocating our families. Many of us are fleeing because life is no more interesting. life is shot and brief. We don’t know whether we are in a war situation, as we speak people are moving out the area.

“We are pleading with the federal government to intervene and rescue residents of riverine communities from untimely death and harassment from the gunmen.

“The government should declare a state of emergency on Lagos and Ogun waterways. The Navy and the marine police should be fully involved, because the war cannot be left for the police alone. This is war is beyond the police.”

Another resident, Oluwadare Damilola, who said his younger brother, Fidelis, was missing, said:  “He just left for work when I started hearing gunshots. I have been calling his two phones and they are still switched off. I am worried whether the hoodlums took away my brother. I am still waiting to hear from my brother.”

Another witnessed said: “The hoodlums who stormed our community comprising of Fatoki, Obadore and Egan at early hours of the morning. Our area is about five minutes to Iba where Oba Yushua Oseni was abducted.

“They came in speed boats. They stole our generator, Televisions, money and other items. The Police actually responded on time and repelled the idiots who fled in there speed boats.”

Debunking claims that six persons were shot dead in the gunfire, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Dolapo Badmos, a Superintendent of Police, said: “At the early hours of today, hoodlums invaded a community in Igando in large numbers in an attempt to cause havoc and a state of insecurity in the place.

“There was panic and the residents sent a distress call to the Police. The Police responded swiftly and repelled the hoodlums who fled the community in their numbers. They could not succeed in their evil plan.

“Without being boastful, our response to distress call is fantastically swift. The community has been commending us. We have strategically positioned Policemen in strategic locations where the can be reached by the members of the public. This is to ensure rapid response to security challenges.

“The Marine Police has been deployed to man our waterway and more strategies have also been put in place to forestall further attacks on communities residing on waterways.
“I advise members of the public to emulate the spirit exhibited by the Igando community who quickly alerted the Police. If you alert us on time, our efforts will pay off as it was today.”

 Meanwhile, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), worldwide, yesterday alleged that the continued linkage of the Ijaw ethnic nationality to criminal activities taking place in Ikorodu, Lagos State and some communities in Ogun State was a deliberate ploy by some highly placed persons to paint the Ijaw ethnic nationality in bad light.
According to the IYC, the plan was being hatched to justify the ”evil they are planning against the Ijaw people.”

Spokesman of the group, Mr. Eric Omare, said in a statement yesterday that the idea was to make Ijaw people look like enemies in the eyes of all their neighbours in the southern part of the country.

“The latest of this orchestrated plan is the accusation of Ijaw militants for carrying out the Sunday, July 24, 2016 kidnap of a Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Mr. Bajomo at Santos Bus Stop Ikorodu, Lagos State by unknown gunmen.
“According to the news, after the kidnappers had left, it was discovered that they were Ijaw militants. The questions that readily come to mind are: how did they know that they were Ijaw militants?

“Was anybody arrested? Who among the kidnappers confessed that they were Ijaw militants? Did the kidnappers identify themselves as Ijaw militants while carrying out their criminal activity? These and other questions beg for answer,” the group said.

The IYC said it was repeating its position that suspected criminals should be punished without blaming their crimes on any ethnic group.

“We reinstate our call for criminals to be treated as criminals without any ethnic colouration. What is happening in parts of Lagos and Ogun States are cases of criminality and they should be treated as such without bringing in the Ijaw ethnic nationality into it.

“Those referring to them as Ijaw militants are deliberately laying a foundation for inter-ethnic clash between Ijaw people and their neighbours in southern Nigeria.
“The IYC strongly calls on the media to guard against being used to set the stage for unnecessary inter-ethnic clash between the Ijaws and their neighbours,” it advised.

It added: “The Ijaw ethnic nationality condemns criminality in the strongest terms and calls on security agencies to bring to justice the perpetrators of the criminal activities in Ikorodu and parts of Ogun State,’’ the youth group said.