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Scores wounded, shops looted as armed thugs, tanker drivers clash in Lagos

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Scene of the clash yesterday

About 50 people, including truck drivers were fatally injured yesterday, while many shops and trucks were looted and torched after heavily armed thugs invaded Vinager and Abule-Ado areas of Satellite town along Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Lagos State.

It was gathered that the fight, which started on Tuesday evening, was as a result of illegal levy being collected by thugs allegedly loyal to a monarch in Satellite Town, Ojo. The violence paralyzed business activities in the heavily-populated area, which led to the closure of banks and other businesses as residents scampered to adjoining Festac town and Mile 2 areas for safety. Many schools were also closed as fear of escalation heightened.

Trouble started when the armed thugs said to have been recruited from Benin Republic by a suspected terrorist gang with base at Oguntade village in Old Ojo road, invaded shops and residential areas demanding money forcefully from people. Eyewitness narrated that the thugs, who were heavily armed with sophisticated weapons, were shooting sporadically to scare their targets, mostly truck drivers.

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It was gathered that they succeeded in breaking into homes and carting away valuables after which they subjected their victims to thorough beatings. Unconfirmed report said some people that tried to resist their onslaught were shot at while others were seriously wounded.

The thugs, who were said to be masked, were also making burn fires with used tyres while attacking drivers and damaging trucks of those who refused to be extorted. One of their victims, Ibrahim Muhammed, told newsmen that they attacked them where they parked their trucks midnight on Tuesday and started demanding for money.

“They clashed with truck drivers who were carrying out their legitimate businesses in Vinager last week and wounded many of us. Some of our members were also killed during the clash when we resisted their attempt to forcefully extort money from us. They have been doing this for long and all efforts to make the police help us have failed. Their major targets are members of the National Union of Petroleum and natural Gas Workers (NUPPENG), and they have made life very difficult for us all.

“We have lost millions of naira and many trucks each time they strike. They are laws unto themselves and they boast openly that nobody including police and army can stop them from extorting, looting, maiming and killing people in the area. They attack with all kinds of dangerous weapons, including stones, which they carry in wheel barrows and bottles,” he stated.

When The Guardian visited the area at about 3:30p.m. yesterday, the whole area was deserted while shops and business outlets remained closed. Many truck drivers abandoned their vehicles and took to their heels while major roads were blocked with burn fires still smoldering. Skeletal police presence was noticed from a distance as efforts to speak with few people seen hidden in makeshift shops failed.

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It was however gathered that a team of policemen from Satellite division earlier came to the scene when the thugs were carrying out the operation but later left. Sources said that they were forced to leave the scene after noticing the superior firepower of the thugs.

It was gathered that police operatives from Satellite Division battled all night to quell the situation but the thugs in their hundreds kept attacking from different fronts. It took the deployment of reinforcements from the Strike Force at the command headquarters to restore calm in the area yesterday afternoon.

When contacted, Lagos State police spokesman, Bala Elkana, said: “The situation has been brought under control and 40 persons have been arrested in connection with the clash. They would be moved to the command headquarters in line with the Commissioner of Police’s directives,”he said adding that the command would investigate the incident with a view to preventing a recurrence.

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