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Lagosians live in fear as touts take over unsecured city

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Some of the roadblocks mounted by the hoodlums on Oshodi-Apapa expressway. PHOTOS: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI & ENIOLA DANIEL

The curfew declared by the Lagos State Government may have exposed the residents to the most dangerous dimension of insecurity in recent times as touts have taken over
lonely roads and major streets.

The Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had on Monday imposed a 24-hour curfew in the state following heightened tension over #EndSARS protests. On Tuesday, the curfew was extended by three days notwithstanding the obvious inability of the government to enforce it and provide security for essential services professionals.

On Wednesday, hoodlums hijacked the protests amid outrage over the Lekki tollgate shootings on Tuesday night, destroying property in different parts of the metropolis.

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Touts also took advantage of the relapsed security to block roads and lonely streets, compelling motorists to exchange money for a pass.

Yesterday, the situation deteriorated. The number of blockages in different parts of the states had multiplied. In some areas, roadblocks were mounted at almost every 10meters apart while the arm-wielding youths forced motorists to pay ‘tolls’ at every point.

For instance, on the popular Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, there were at least 50 blockages between Oshodi and Five Star bus stop. Each of the points were manned
by three to seven youths armed with sticks, cutlasses and other weapons.

The entire stretch of the Lagosians live in fear as touts take over the unsecured city Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road and adjoining roads were taken
over by toll-collecting barriers. The condition at Oshodi axis was not remarkably different from that of Anthony, Ikorodu, Ketu, Ogba, Surulere, Obalende, Lekki, Ijaiye, Yaba, Ikeja, Mushin, Epe and other parts of the state.

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Individuals on emergency and essential services faced herculean tasks moving freely in the state, a situation that may have compounded the woes of residents. When approached, the hoodlums claim they are not robbing banks and the only way to get money to feed is to make the roadblocks just like the police and collect tokens from motorists.

A victim of the extortion told The Guardian that he spent about N2,000 from Ikorodu to Oshodi yesterday settling touts who at some point threatened to damage his vehicles should he fail to comply.

“I showed them my ID at one of the locations but they told me they did not give any damn as even officials of the armed forces also ‘settled’ before they were allowed to pass,” said the resident, who lamented that he would have to sleep in the office for fear that then HOODLUMS yesterday invaded a warehouse where COVID-19 palliatives
were stored at Mazamaza community in Lagos State.

The community is located in the Oriade Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of the state.

Viral video footages circulating on social media showed the looters, entering the warehouse and looting the COVID-19 palliative.

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The warehouse is located on Benster Crescent, popularly called Monkey Village.

The looting started as early as 8:00 a.m.

It was gathered that the hoodlums also set a bonfire at a junction not far from the warehouse. The hoodlums later asked residents in the area to move into the warehouse and pick some palliative.

One of the residents, Sherif Olaiya, said: “We heard sounds of gunshots.

The hoodlums attacked a place where COVID-19 palliatives were stored. They then asked residents to pick the palliatives.”

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has condemned the vandalisation of the warehouse at Mazamaza. In a statement by Abisola Olusanya, acting Commissioner for Agriculture, the government said the warehouse held the food palliative packages donated to the state government by the Private Sector Coalition against COVID-19 (CACOVID) group.

“The Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had on September 22nd formally taken receipt of the food palliatives from the CACOVID team meant for distribution to indigent
persons,” the statement said.

“The government notes that the warehouse in question is not state-owned and its usage was made available to the CaCOVID group. The State Government had been allowed to commence rebagging of food items allotted to it from the quantities meant for South-West states.

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“The re-bagging was being done to account for each beneficiary receipt, as was required and monitored by the CACOVID team.

The distribution was ongoing but had to be halted due to protests, before the invasion of the warehouse yesterday.

“For effective distribution of the food palliative, groups such as transport unions, ethnic groups, religious associations, artisans and tradesmen association, market men and women association, People Living with Disabilities, orphanages and old peoples’ homes among others were being used as distribution channels to their members.

“The State Government, however, regrets the invasion of the warehouse and appreciate the support offered by the CACOVID group to the citizenry of Lagos.”

The situation could degenerate at night.

An employee of The Guardian spent N2,500 from Igando to the company’s headquarters at Toyota bus stop on Oshodi-Apapa expressway. In late evenings, the extortionists become more vicious and desperate. For instance, a pedestrian was forced at one of the many barriers at Mafoluku-Oshodi to bail his wedding ring with N2,000.

While a few of the touts persuaded road users to part with some money using different excuses such as raising money to offset hospital bills of their colleagues who were treating injuries sustained during the protests, others were not so persuasive.

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They insisted the motorists, who would have been scared of being harmed, pay their way through or reverse.

The boys were also open for online transfer options in situations were their victims claimed they had no cash on them.

One of the touts told The Guardian: “The government has inflicted enormous pains on us. They have finished us; hence we also need to find a way to
survive.”

As at press time, there was no form of security cover for residents observing the curfew.

With the entire state at the mercy of hoodlums, there was palpable fear that the situation could assume a more dangerous dimension if nothing urgent was done to
contain the rising insecurity.

Theophilus Yakubu, a resident of Epe, who commented via WhatsApp chat, said it was “most unfortunate that a state governor would declare a curfew but has no capacity
to enforce it. The touts have started taking the game to even busy areas at Epe as the people are exposed to more danger with the withdrawal of security personnel from the roads.”

As at press time, one could drive the deserted roads for hours without sighting a single law enforcement officer. This has caused fear among those who had important appointments to keep.

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