Gangsters Go Berserk in Lagos

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For about 48 hours last week, many parts of Lagos-including the residence of the Lagos paramount monarch, public and private buildings-were visited by avengers, literally from hell, in an unfortunate twist to the #EndSARS saga. Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha question the motive of those who orchestrated and executed the wilful destruction

Lagosians have endured different kinds of protests in the 53 years of the state’s existence. One that can be readily recalled was the widespread violent disturbances of the peace by rampaging crowd that trailed the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election supposedly won by infuential businessman and politician, Chief Moshood Abiola, an Egba man from Ogun State, who made Lagos his home and the entire country, his constituency.

So extensive was the acceptance for Abiola and his political party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) that he defeated his opponent, Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC) in his homeland, Kano. The conduct of the election was adjudged as free and fair by the majority. Therefore, its cancellation by the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida sparked a rage, particularly in Lagos and the South-west region, which remained unequalled until the dishonourable actions and motives displayed by hooligans on Wednesday and Thursday, last week, mainly in Lagos and major cities around the country.

In the aftermath of the Lekki Tollgate shootings, Lagos recorded its worst episode of coordinated looting and arson. Fury and violence held sway in the state, resulting in the destruction of landmark properties in different parts of the state. An initial estimate of over N1 Trillion has been published as the value of public and private properties pilfered and/or destroyed.

On the surface, the ire seemed directed at the government for allowing unidentified security personnel to shoot at the peaceful #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate. The widespread news of the attack on social media — with different narratives which was later discovered to be untrue — incited anger against government establishments. The first reported destruction was the Police Station at Orile Iganmu, on Lagos mainland.

Thereafter, the violence and uncontrollable anger assumed a frenetic dimension. From public buildings and assets, the arsonists narrowed their demented thoughts private specific properties, thereby giving way to a new narrative. Not a few believed that the attacks were properly planned. Undoubtedly, one of the clear and specific target was the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the first governor to rule Lagos State in the Fourth Republic.

Allegations that the Asiwaju of Lagos was behind the Lekki shootings were rife on Tuesday evening as many claimed on social media that he gave the order to switch off the street lights and remove CCTV cameras from the venue (The Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has since debunked this news. The CCTV cameras were not removed, rather the laser cameras for vehicle screening at the tollgate were removed). It was widely believed that the Asiwaju of Lagos, a traditional title that superimposes the eminence of Tinubu as the first among equals, had vested interest in the tollgate which was under lockdown by the #EndSARS protesters for almost two weeks.

Such misinformation is believed to have caused the violence that spread throughout the city with impunity. However, other conspiracy theories posit that the attacks were a way to clip the wings of the former Lagos state governor — and his allies — whose influence at the state and federal level is threatening to detractors. Another school of thought posits that the Lekki Tollgate which was the subject of a long drawn controversy between the Lagos State government and residents of Lekki Phase 1 before commencement of payment by motorists could have been destroyed by those who still had an axe to grind over the matter.

But Tinubu was not the only victim of the arson, Sanwo-Olu and residents of the state suffered a similar fate. Some of the properties destroyed include:

Lekki Concession Company:
The annexe office of the special purpose vehicle company acquired by the state in 2014 to execute the Eti-Osa/Lekki-Epe expressway toll road concession was among the first property to be vandalised on Wednesday morning. A correspondent of ARISE TV, Ozi Okoli who visited the venue captured the degree of damage done to the building. Cars parked at the venue were set ablaze, parts of the building were defaced by the hoodlums. The LCC office was targeted for its alleged linkage to Tinubu and suspected removal of the CCTV cameras and switching off electricity before the peaceful protesters were attacked. Both Tinubu and the company have refuted the allegations. The politician said he had no dime invested in the company in a TV interview.

The company stated in a press release that, “On the 20th of October, we received feedback that some of the tolling equipment were being pulled off, hence we went into the lanes to recover more items including analogue Bosch Tolling device used to monitor transactions carried out in the toll lanes. The perimeter closed-circuit television system (CCTV) are Mobotiz Digital cameras. They were not removed and are still installed. in the lanes even now. There was no instruction from anyone to remove the perimeter CCTV cameras. Removing them will require the use of machinery to reach the heights that they have been installed and are still installed.”

Lekki-Ikoyi Tollgate:

One of the finest projects of the Babatunde Fashola administration, the Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge was defaced on the infamous night of the Lekki EndSARS protesters attack. The bridge which has since become one of the iconic landmarks of Lagos was not spared by arsonists. Viral videos of the ticket booths torched by unknown persons circulated on social media. The main Lekki/Epe tollgate was not spared as parts of the tollgate were also vandalised.

Desecration of Oba of Lagos Palace:

Of all the attacks carried out in Lagos State, the attack on the Palace of the Oba of Lagos was the most daring. Revered as the cultural custodian of the Yoruba ethnic group in the state, the attack on Oba Rilwan Akiolu smacked of impunity and disregard of the cultural values of the Yorubas.

Angry youths had stormed the palace located in the heart of the city, Lagos Island on Wednesday morning in large droves. The security agents on the ground initially withstood them but as the attackers persisted, they managed to convey the traditional ruler out of the premises while the attackers had a free rein, desecrating the sacred space. They ripped apart the regal upholstery, shattered windows and doors, set ablaze armoured cars in the premises and destroyed other vehicles. The most atrocious act of the mob was the carting away of the Oba’s staff of the office, a sacrilegious act condemned by many. A young man was seen running and singing with the staff of office on the streets in a video. The flagrant display by the attackers raised a lot of questions on who masterminded the attack.

Anyone familiar with Lagos Island would easily attest to the fact that such attacks cannot take place in broad daylight without complicity of ‘Island Boys’ in the neighbourhood. To watch such an act carried out blatantly under their nose is suspicious of their aloofness. However, the traditional office holders in the Palace of the Oba have asked for the return of the sacred staff, while there are talks of bringing perpetrators to book.

Television Continental (TVC) and MAX FM:
Staff of the TV and radio stations resumed work on Wednesday morning without an inkling of what was about to happen. They had barely started their daily routine of reporting the news of the day when they came under the attack from the thugs on a rampage. The TV channel and radio station which are reportedly owned by Tinubu were targeted for linkage to the APC leader. The stations which share the same premises are located on Ikosi Road, Lagos. While no lives were lost, its two studios were razed, as vehicles belonging to workers were burnt. Reporters on previous night duty and those who had resumed work for the day were trapped inside while the thugs who gained access to the building from a back street carried out their mission.

The Nation Newspaper:

In the same vein, thugs attacked The Nation Newspaper on Wednesday afternoon. The daily is linked to Tinubu, therefore, it was a target for attackers who were bent on destroying properties owned by the politician. Editor of the publication Adeniyi Adesina in a statement said that the attackers stormed the headquarter which is located at Matori, Mushin on motorbikes in a commando-style and scared the guards away.

“They poured petrol on the frontage of the building and set fire to it. Some of the vehicles parked on the premises were also set ablaze.”

He added that the attackers carted away desktop computers, laptops, air conditioners and other office equipment.

Mass Transit Buses:

Another laudable project of the Fashola administration was destroyed by thugs on Wednesday morning. The Bus Rapid Transfer (BRT) was introduced by Fashola as an easy form of transportation for the masses. However, its terminal at Oyingbo and Berger areas of Lagos state were vandalised. At Berger, over 20 buses were said to have been destroyed by the hoodlums while the number in Oyingbo are yet to be recorded. Pictures of charred buses and terminals flooded the internet that fateful day as Lagosians attempted to unravel the mastermind behind the new development. Some of the buses burnt were newly purchased.

Oriental Hotel:
A hospitality facility believed to be owned by the Asiwaju of Lagos came under attack by thugs. Reports showed that the armed youths forcefully gained entry into the building, assaulted the security personnel on ground and damaged properties on the night of the Lekki shootings. Reacting to the speculation that the hotel was owned by Tinubu, the hotel management released a statement, clarifying that it has no affiliation with the said politician. It disclosed that it is owned by the Western Metal Products Company Group and condemned the attack on its property.

Sanwo-Olu Mother’s House:
Accused of complicity in the Lekki shootings, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu who was previously praised by the EndSARS for his exemplary handling of the protest suffered a personal setback as the residence of his mother was set ablaze by thugs. An angry mob reportedly set the house located on Lagos Island on fire. The residence is the family home of the governor. Eyewitness reports claim that the mob were also responsible for the attack on the Oba of Palace. Also, the family home of the governor in Surulere was razed by thugs. Videos of the arson were shared on social media.

Police Stations/Posts:
Before the Lekki shootings, several attacks were carried out on the police. Police stations in different parts of Lagos were razed while police officers were lynched. In the aftermath of the Lekki shootings, more vandalisation of police stations and posts were carried out. A Police Post in Bucknor Estate in Ejigbo was burnt, while police stations in the Sangotedo-Ajah, Cele-Ijesha and Iyana Isolo were burnt.

The police have been a major target of attacks since the #EndSARS protest began. The protest was reignited following the killing of a young Nigerian in Delta state. Celebrities galvanised support from young Nigerians to kick against police brutality. However, the situation got out of hand and the protests turned bloody.

Banks:
Financial institutions were not spared by the thugs on rampage. Banks on Admiralty Way, Lekki were mostly defaced by looters. Their buildings were damaged while ATMs were vandalised. Some of the banks affected include Guaranty Trust Bank, Zenith Bank, Access Bank and Polaris Bank.

Surulere:
The attack took a different dimension in Surulere where shops and businesses on Adeniran Ogunsanya and Bode Thomas were looted. Not a single business was spared. Videos of the lootings shared on social media showed that the attack affected mainly businesses on Bode Thomas. However, the Adeniran Ogunsanya Mall and Leisure Mall were equally vandalised. Businesses in these locations including Shoprite and Filmhouse cinemas were looted.

Shopping Malls:
Several shopping malls were looted by thugs in the Lekki area of Lagos state. They include the Palms Mall and Circle Mall. The thugs’ attempt to fully access the Ikeja City Mall was not too successful. However, some of the business outlets there were affected. These malls house big supermarkets such as Shoprite which sells a wide range of products. Not a few residents were seen carting away goods from the shops after the looters departed.

VIS and FRSC Offices:
The offices of the Federal Road Safety Corps and Vehicle Inspection Service in the Ojodu area of Lagos state were set ablaze by suspected hoodlums. Footage from the scenes aired on ARISE TV showed the degree of damage carried out by the perpetrators. Parked vehicles were set ablaze while some part of the building was defaced.

Nigerian Port Authority:
The Marina headquarters of the NPA was among the facilities attacked by thugs. It was reported that hoodlums stormed the vicinity, scared the workers away and set the building ablaze. However, no lives were lost.

Ikoyi Prison:
An attempt of jailbreak by inmates at the Ikoyi Correctional facility was foiled. It was gathered that fire engulfed one of the buildings inside the facility, leading to a stampede. Scores of inmates were seen in a video attempting to escape but the swift action of the army prevented their mission.

Igbosere Court Complex:
Another government institution that was blatantly defiled was the Igbosere High Court. Hoodlums reportedly gained entry to the temple of justice and carted away computers, files, printers and other items. A young man wearing the regalia of the profession: wig and gown, was seen in a viral video, wielding a machete as he strutted down the street of Lagos Island.