Just two days after two persons suspected to be kidnappers were burnt to death in Ijaiye area of Lagos, two other persons were in the early hours of Friday set ablaze at the Ile-Zik area of Lagos. Both Ile-Zik and Ijaiye are along the busy Lagos-Abeokuta express way where many residents believe the tunnels beneath the road are interconnected and are used as hideouts by kidnappers.
‘THE KIDNAPPERS ARE HERE’
Hundreds of residents, Friday, gathered around the flaming bodies of two men whom they claimed were kidnappers who tried to escape when an angry mob stormed facilities and tunnel outlets allegedly being used by the kidnappers.
“They jumped out of that abandoned factory, and were running through the nearby church when they were caught,” one of the onlookers told TheCable. “They were stoned, and then set ablaze,” he added.
“Go and check that tunnel, there are clothes, phones and other things these kidnappers had collected from their victims, so we believe this place is their hideout,” a resident, applauding the burning of the suspected kidnappers, said.
“They have been doing it for a long time, and this is how God will be catching you one by one,” he added, snapping his fingers.
A witness, on Thursday, had told TheCable that they were alerted by one hawker who escaped from the kidnappers’ den. Three suspects, including a man believed to be posing as a mad man, were arrested Thursday when the police came to the scene.
“The so-called mad man has been staying here for a long time and nobody knew he was a kidnapper,” another resident said.
“We have always suspected him; in daylight, you will see him the mad man, at night he carries out his evil plans.”
The police resisted the mob from entering an abandoned factory where residents claimed victims were still being held by the kidnappers.
“I think the police are a co-conspirator,” an angry protester told the TheCable. “Why won’t they open this place and flush out these evil people?”
INVASION OF A CHURCH
The mob, then, moved to the church building next to the factory, and after beating the security man at the gate, went on to vandalise the church, not sparing the church owner’s range rover parked by the church.
“We tried to stop them, but they were stoning us to back off,” one of the policemen at the scene told TheCable. “We couldn’t open fire on them because we would be accused by human rights people, and that was why they got away with the killing of those two men who came out from the abandoned factory.”
A couple of policemen who spoke with TheCable said they could not force open the abandoned factory allegedly being used as the kidnappers’ den without an order from the government.
‘THEY WERE WASTE PICKERS, NOT KIDNAPPERS’
Fidgeting, and with a quivering voice, Muhammed Abdalah, the security man stationed at the vandalised church gate told TheCable that he was almost lynched, too, but for police intervention. “They entered here forcefully and started beating me, asking where the other kidnappers are,” he said. “The two guys killed were waste pickers, and in fact one of them was my friend who used to check on me whenever he came to this area to pick waste. They went into that abandoned factory in search of waste and coming out, those area boys who had come from Agege started running after them and eventually killed them, saying they were part of the kidnap gang.
“They were looking for condemned iron inside the factory; they pick these things and sell to recyclers.”
People in the area alleged that the pastor, owner of the church is in the know of the kidnap business. Another outlet of the tunnel by the church side, residents standing by claimed it leads to a residential apartment constructed inside the tunnel.
“There is a staircase inside this tunnel, sitting room and other rooms,” one of them said, pointing through the outlet that had been lit with the expectation that the kidnappers in there would be choked to death.
“It was the mad man’s place that they saw people’s clothes and shoes, and not here,” Abdalah said with a teary tone. Abdalah was not only beaten, his phone was collected by the mob and he was unable to reach his boss whose car and church had been vandalized.
‘MY WIFE HAS BEEN MISSING SINCE APRIL’
As the mob lynched suspected kidnappers, onlookers in their hundreds circling their snapped fingers across their heads and wishing death upon kidnappers in Lagos, police trying to secure the area and control the crowd and traffic, Sebitu had come to Ile-Zik to see if his wife would be one of the victims that would be rescued.
“I was away on Easter Sunday this last April when my wife called to tell me she was going to Abule-Egba to see a friend and would return the next day, Easter Monday,” Gani Sebitu, a radio broadcaster, told TheCable.
“She called when she got there I want to believe, but I missed the call. She had earlier told me she will be going to her friend’s with some of my clothes so she can help me wash.
“The next day, we spoke on phone and she told me she was leaving her friend’s within the hour and that she will be coming through Oshodi. My wife, since that day, is yet to return, and I have gone round to her friends’, relatives’ police stations and nobody knows where she is.”
The Lagos-Abeokuta express road links Ijaiye, where suspected kidnappers were lynched Tuesday, through Abule-Egba, Ile-Zik and Oshodi. These road tunnels, running through these areas, many fear are being used by kidnappers.
“I am here again to see if I can see traces of her clothes or anything,” Sebitu, who was also in Ijaiye days ago hoping his wife a rescued kidnapped victim, cried.
‘ABANDONED FACTORY, NOT KIDNAPPERS’ DEN’
Some of the armed policemen, who had mounted security at the gate of the abandoned factory where many said is the exact place where the tunnels lead to, were also suspicious.
“When buildings like this are abandoned, evil doers use it as their hideouts,” one of them told TheCable.
The policemen believed the criminals were in there but they are awaiting authorisation before they can move in and search everywhere.
TheCable’s correspondent, however, got into the abandoned factory through a partially opened gate at the entrance and met three men who said they are workers in the factory.
“It is the government that constructed these tunnels, so, why would the government link tunnels to private buildings?” one of the men, simply identified as manager told TheCable. “It’s not possible,” he added.
He said those who came and couldn’t get access are the hoodlums whose mission is to loot. “They wanted to get in here through that church that was vandalised,” manager said.
He added that the hoodlums once jumped in stole batteries of one of the industrial generators. “This factory is where Milkcow powdered milk is being produced. Production, however, stopped about five years ago. But right now, we are trying to resume operations and that’s why we still come here. Even the Lagos state government is interested and we are planning to work together.”
To show that the place is not a hideout for criminals, factory halls that were under lock were opened and TheCable was taken round.
‘THIS AREA IS NOT SECURE’
Over the years, residents said, Ile-Zik has been a dangerous spot and not much has been done to address this. “This is their (criminals) territory!” a resident screamed. “We have observed that whenever the streetlights here are fixed, some people come immediately to destroy them,” he explained. “This is so they can carry out their devilish plans when everywhere remains dark.
“It’s always a terrifying experience when people close from work and are returning. You must have some extra power to be able to walk here when it 8pm.”
The residents, putting the blame on the government, said if it had taken the security issue of the area seriously, kidnapping and other vices would not pose a menace to the urban area. “Government should give us adequate security in this area before we all get killed by these criminals,” another resident, pleadingly, said.
DESIST FROM CARRYING OUT JUNGLE JUSTICE, POLICE WARN
Friday evening, the Lagos state police command issued a statement warning residents to desist from carrying out jungle justice.
Listing recent cases of Ijaiye and Ile-Zik, Fatai Owoseni, police commissioner, in the statement said that as much as there was no legal justification for jungle justice, in most cases, vital evidence that could aid the police in the course of investigation are destroyed.
“In addition, in the course of discharging its constitutional responsibilities and prevent the barbaric act, police officers were fatally wounded, while stones were hurled at them as well as police patrol vans. However, a number of arrests were made in this regard,” he said.
“There is no justification for jungle justice on suspected persons. It is barbaric and uncivilised. It is a manifestation of the erosion of our moral values and a disregard to the sanctity of human lives. It violates the rule of law and dents the image of the State. Above all, it is a violation of the law, and all those arrested in connection with the aforementioned cases will be made to face the full wrath of the law,” Owoseni said.
The police have not given updates on the suspects arrested after the camp at Ile-Zik was raided and human parts were alegedly found in sachets which had price tags.
The suspects were taken to Isokoko police station in Agege from where they were transferred to the state criminal investigation department (SCID) in Panti.
Residents of Lagos cannot wait for security agencies to expose all the hideouts of perpetrators of evil.