Five months after her husband passed on, Mrs Roselin Ebiesua is gradually getting over her sorrow as she prepares to forge ahead with life of a widow, and shouldering the upkeep of her four children alone.
On Sunday, December 1, she was joined by family and friends at a church in Ajegunle, an ancient Lagos community, for thanksgiving in memory of her late husband. Ebiesua’s only son, Adeleke, a student at The Polytechnic Ibadan, Oyo State, also travelled all the way from the school that day to be part of the memorable event.
Donning a universal dress (aso ebi) on the occasion, the day – for the Ebiesuas – seemingly marked a transition from a mournful state to a new phase in life. At dusk, the family retired to bed expecting dawn to usher in the fresh path.
But hours into their sleep, in the dead of night, they were awakened by armed policemen from the Tolu Division. The law enforcers were on a raid on Tolu community in Ajegunle and environs. Erratically, the policemen broke into the Ebiesuas’ apartments, waking up the children to the frightening sight of guns. And before they could come to their full consciousness, the operatives had picked up Adeleke and tagged him a suspect of an unknown crime.
The raid, our correspondent learnt, was in response to clashes between two rival gangs in the neighbourhood which broke out on Saturday at a birthday party on Alhaji Salawu Street.
Ebiesua said she tried in vain to convince the police team that her son was not part of the warring youths as they whisked him and many others away to the station.
“My son is in ND 2 (National Diploma.) He came from school on Sunday morning to attend the thanksgiving of her late father and he planned to go back to school the next day,” Ebiesua told Saturday PUNCH. “The policemen came at night and broke the entrance door to our house,” the 56-year-old widow stated, as she began to narrate the horrible experience of that night to our correspondent, who visited the community on Tuesday.
She recalled, “They were knocking continuously on the door of the apartment where I live with my children. I asked them who they were; they said they were policemen and that they would break the door if I didn’t open it.
“As I opened the door, they entered the living room armed with guns and cutlasses. They saw my two daughters and granddaughter where they slept. One of the policemen then entered the room where Adeleke slept. He grabbed him and wanted to beat him. My daughter challenged the policeman. When I asked him what happened, he said he was a suspect. I was confused.
“He took him out and we followed them. On getting outside, we saw that they had arrested many people. I was begging them not to beat him because one of his hands is paralysed.”
Ebiesua said he went to the Tolu Police Station in the morning to see her son but was denied access, claiming that operatives fired tear gas canisters at her and others who came to look for their children.
She said 21-year-old Adeleke was transferred to the office of the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences Enforcement Unit (Task force) in Oshodi in a Black Maria.
“At the task force office, a policeman blamed his colleagues for arresting Adeleke when he saw his paralysed hand. He said their boss must not see him. He was released on Monday evening after I paid N15,000 to secure his bail,” she added, dispiritedly.
Painfully, the money was all the poor widow had saved over time to raise the funds Adeleke needed for his project who was supposed to return to school on Monday with the money.
She said, “He cannot go on Monday again. I am looking for another means to raise the money now. I have been at home since June when my husband died; I could not work. My son relocated to his sister’s house for now.
“During the raid, one of the policemen hit a woman on the nose with the butt of his gun. She was bleeding. What they did was wrong. Someone who is hypertensive can die in such a situation,” she added.
Worse still, residents lamented that police bundled minors between ages 12 and 17 out of rooms and threw them into a waiting van, without naming the offence they allegedly committed.
A parent, Mrs Sade Ekunjumi, said her son, 12-year-old Sola, a Junior Secondary School 2 pupil, was among the victims that night after policemen broke into her apartment.
She stated, “They were forcefully entering houses and picking up any boy they could lay their hands on. Sola was released on Monday evening after his father’s elder brother paid N15,000. Exams have started in his school and he had papers that day, but he could not go to school. I have taken him to my relation’s house to live there for now.
“We could not sleep at home on Monday for fear of being harassed again. A stray bullet hit a small boy and the police shattered the glasses of a building with gunshots.”
On Tomoloju Street, two siblings – Ayodele, 17, an SS3 pupil, and his brother, Friday, 15, who is in JSS 3 – were also reportedly arrested.
Their father, Omiyedun Afotan, said the policemen trailed the teenagers from their apartment to his bathroom, breaking the doors in the intervening rooms until they got hold of them.
He said, “Around 3am, I heard hard knocks on our door and some people were shouting ‘open the door, we are policemen, we will break the door now.’ They broke all my doors. I initially thought they were armed robbers with the way they entered. They were holding cutlasses and guns.
“I slept around 9pm on Sunday. Once I want to go to bed, my children must also leave outside and I will shut the door. I don’t leave them outside.
“The most painful thing is that we went to the police station twice to give them food, but they denied us access. We paid N30,000 before they were released at the task force office on Monday night.”
Ayodele expressed sadness at being locked up inside cell with his brother for no just cause, adding that they were not fed in custody or allowed to take food from their parents.
He said, “I was only in pants when they came in. My brother slept beside me. They beat us up and took us to the station. Around 2pm on Monday, they took us to the task force office in Oshodi in a Black Maria. My brother and I had exams that day.”
“Police also arrested my son, Adefarati Dimeyin, 12. He is in JSS 2. He was released on Monday. I took him to his brother’s house because I am afraid the policemen can come again. I paid N15,000 for his release,” another parent, Mr Dimeyin Number, told Saturday PUNCH.
Tony Okunua, a 25-year-old graduate of chemistry from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, said his school identity card he presented to the policemen was not enough to save him from the alleged unlawful arrest.
“They barged into our room at night. They took me to the police station with two others. I was released from Tolu Police Station after paying N10,000. They told me to come back for my ID card on Wednesday,” he disclosed.
A community leader and retired military officer, Mr Abiona Omosehei, said he called the Divisional Police Officer in charge of the community and the Area Commander to intervene in the “indiscriminate arrests,” but they were allegedly evasive.
He said, “At 2.45am, I heard noises and came out. I saw about six policemen and some thugs, armed with cutlasses and sticks. I asked them what happened and they said there was no cause for alarm. Some minutes later, they brought out two siblings (Ayodele and Friday). I called the DPO; he said some people were fighting in my area. I told him policemen were breaking into houses.
“He said it was late and he could not come out. I also called the Area Commander and reported to him. He referred me to the DPO. I told him I had already called him. It was when soldiers intervened that peace was restored.”
A shop owner in the area, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reason, said fight usually broke out each time thugs gather for a party on Alhaji Salawu Street.
He said the fresh mayhem began on Saturday and extended till the next day, adding that hoodlums exploited it to loot shops.
He stated, “I was trapped in the shop on Sunday and could not come out. Around 2am, they started looting shops. In one of the shops they burgled, they stole two generators, a shoe-making machine and several sandals that the owner wanted to supply the following day (Monday).
“They tried to force the door of my shop open, but they failed. One of them suggested that they set the shop ablaze. When I heard that, I escaped through the small attic room. It was hell. About 30 minutes later, the police came.
“Most of the youths who organise parties are not from this area. If the parties can be stopped, the problem will be partly solved. People are afraid to confront them because they are very dangerous.
“Our CDA chairman is the only person that has been fighting hooliganism on this street. Other landlords are afraid to challenge the hoodlums.”
Baale of Tolu, Chief Jeleel Idowu, said many people were injured in the clashes but no life was lost, noting that community leaders had met and deliberated on how to find a lasting solution to the crisis.
He added that the fracas was snowballing into an ethnic crisis between Ilaje and Yoruba people in the community but had been averted.
He said, “Some hoodlums came to vandalise my house on Sunday evening and injured one of my children. They said I was supporting a faction. They are accusing me of supporting Yoruba people. Are Ilaje people not Yoruba?
“We want to choose a leader among them that will be reporting to the palace but they don’t want. They want to have another baale in a town. How is that possible?”
Asked if he was aware the police arrested innocent people and collected money before releasing them on bail, he said, “Except those who have yet to get somebody to take their bail, police have released the innocent people arrested and they have gone to work. I don’t know whether they paid for bail or not.”
Our correspondent also visited the baale of the Ilaje people within the community to get his comment but he was said not to be around.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, DSP Bala Elkana, had said there was an ongoing operation to rid the area of criminals terrorising the residents.
Elkana stated, “We do receive distress calls on the activities of cultists and hoodlums in that area every day, leading to incessant attacks, harassment, stealing and looting, causing hardship to innocent persons. So, we are putting heat on the area and other areas, where criminal elements are disturbing the people, because they are not above the law.
“We have an operation going on there to sanitise the place. There are always cult and gang clashes there, and they use that opportunity to attack people. All those injured were injured by the cultists and not by our men. All the pictures circulating are pictures of attacks by hoodlums and those making the noise are being mischievous and are among the people causing trouble in that area.
“They don’t want sanity there because they feel that they are above the law, but the police cannot keep quiet and watch them create hardship for the people. We must sanitise our streets and neighbourhoods to restore normalcy in Lagos.”
The task force Chairman, CSP Olayinka Egbeyemi, urged the parents to report officers who collected money from them to him for proper sanction.
He said, “I am being told this (bail sum) for the first time. I will appreciate if those people can come to my office and identify the officers that collected money from them.”
Source: The PUNCH