For two years, the serenity of Itire, Surulere, Lagos and home base of Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, has remained a danger zone following sustained criminality by armed groups.
The attacks by the leaderless groups include intimidation, rape, looting and killing which reached a peak in the last seven days. Not even the presence of Policemen stationed at strategic positions in the streets by the Lagos State police command has deterred the gangs from attacking residents at will with dangerous weapons and looting of shops.
Residents are worried that the police have done too little to put the hooligans at bay. Narrating his experience, Chairman of Ramoni Street, Adiniyi Adebare, said: “I think the police are constrained because of those who call themselves godfathers. The boys from Itire always come around and position themselves at Ramoni gate and start collecting phones from those coming into the streets and passers-by.”
A victim and owner of one of the shops destroyed at Ashimowu Bakare Street, Ifeanyi Ike, said it has been re-occurring attacks and looting.
He said: “My shop was broken into around 12:00a.m. on Tuesday and it’s not even the third time and whenever they break in, they go with goods and money and spoil cars from Ashimowu to Dosumu.
“I am tired and frustrated, but I don’t know what the government is doing. Police around this area know these men but they are afraid to confront them, and even if they succeed in making an arrest, the indigenes of this place will go to the station to claim they are Omoonile, that they have to be released to them. If the army can help us in this area, we will have peace.”
Speaking with The Guardian at the Palace of Onitire, a traditional chief in Itire, Alhaja Abiola Omotayo said: “We called on the chairman of Mushin Local Government, Emmanuel Bamgboye to intervene because he grew up in this area. He facilitated the posting of Rapid Response Squad (RRS) but they left after a week.
“I am not aware of police reluctance to attend to calls during attacks, but I can say there are not enough police to tackle the menace. The hoodlums are too many for the police to handle, and we have never approached the police to release anyone arrested.”
Also, the Alapini of Itire Land, Chief Musbau Ajao, said: they want the state government to give them a king so they could report to him whenever there is an issue in the town.
Another resident in Itire, Adejoke Adeleke said they are threatened by hoodlums every time and the police never bother to come to their rescue, they ask them to arrest the hoodlums.
“The hoodlums once beat me. They snatched phones from residents and passers-by, they go to ATM centres to rob and nothing has been done to stop them,” she said.
On her part, a physically challenged woman, Funke Oseni said she fell from her wheelchair while she was trying to escape from the hoodlums and they collected her phone.
She alleged that the hoodlums have continue to rape children as young as 10. When contacted, the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Adekunle Ajisebutu, said he was not aware of the attacks or lootings.