SAMUEL ABULUDE looks at the response to the nationwide lockdown by way of contravention of rules, hunger, robbery and general frustration
The global pandemic, Covid-19, for months is beginning to take a toll on ordinary Nigerians as insecurity in the country is beginning to show its ugly face in the form of malevolence that pervades the land.
There have been reports of robberies and burgling of shops in different areas in Lagos, Ogun states and Abuja. This seemed to be as a result of restive youths who are using the lockdown to foment trouble.
President Muhammadu Buhari had issued a directive for a lockdown, which included cessation of all movement in Lagos and Ogun states with the Federal Capital Territory for an initial period of 14 days from 11pm on Monday March 30. And now an additional 14 days had been added to be able to curtail the virus and further trace and isolate all individuals that had come into contact with confirmed cases therefore stopping the spread.
The broadcast received mixed reactions as most Nigerians agreed with the directives while others riled about the impact on their business and survival as a family.
Now in the third week of the lockdown, an increase in robbery and activities of social miscreants suddenly came up in Lagos and in various parts of Lagos and Ogun states as they broke into homes to rob innocent citizens of their valuables. This took a greater dimension on Saturday, April 11 and Sunday, April 12 as men suspected to be armed robbers, in large numbers invaded the many areas the two states.
With this development emerged various cult groups and street gangs who suddenly turned their hitherto street hooliganism to full-fledged robbery.
One of such cult groups is Awawa Boys known to terrorise the Agege area of Lagos. Another group, One Million Boys, is known to cause mayhem in Ikotun area of Alimosho local government where they reportedly wreaked havoc on different homes.
Findings by our correspondent reveal that areas said to be worse hit are Agege, Agbado, Ikotun and general border areas between Ogun and Lagos states.
This sad development has, however, made residents of affected neighbourhoods to seek self-help. In their attempt to keep these marauding gangs at bay, residents, especially men, have now formed vigilance groups to police their neighbourhood and ensure the safety of lives and property. It was even reported that in some quarters, these gangs write letters to neighbourhoods informing them of their impending visits and asking the inhabitants to keep money for them or else they would lose their limbs.
The news of the Awawa boys have been an item for some years in the Agege suburb of Lagos while the police have tried to stem their onslaught to no avail. They normally move in groups- in dozens and no one dares walk across them or face them as they brandish harmful objects and weapons which they threatened to unleash on their victims. Our correspondent happened on one of such movements by members of this gang; it was a dreadful sight.
One Sunday afternoon, while in a commercial vehicle around the Agege area of the megacity, a group of boys numbering more than 20 caused no small stir as they took over a major road thereby causing a gridlock in very few minutes.
These boys in their cluster took over the middle of a major road and walked sauntered along while vehicles queued behind them. No one dared make any attempt to drive through them or overtake them. Such was the awe in which they were and are held. Yours sincerely wondered what future held for these young adults.
Armed robberies, burglaries and other crimes are sadly on the increase. Incidents of these kinds were reported to have spread to other parts of Lagos late Sunday and early hours of Monday with residents keeping vigil in areas such as Iyana Ipaja, Agege, Ogba, Ayobo, Egbeda, Iju, Alakuko, Ijaiye, Meiran, Iju-Ishaga, Kola, Dopemu, Fagba and many communities in Alimosho.
A Facebook user, Ali Gbadamosi, on April 11 had raised the alarm on his wall claiming that hoodlums had invaded his area and that residents were forced to take up arms in self defence.
Another Facebook user, Lukman Gbolagade, on April 11 made a similar assertion: “Serious armed invasion in my area, all are moving around with cutlass, axes, arrows, and other weapons as means of protection.”
The following day, Apr 12, he wrote: “ Frustration and hunger are the major causes of armed invasion and most robberies been witnessed in parts of the country. The sit at home order by the federal government due to the COVID-19 pandemic and non-availability of palliative measures which government of the land promised has made life difficult for people.
“People can’t go out and transact their businesses and there are no more food. This is the reaction and response of residents of Agbado Station, Ogun State, whom robbers had been terrorising in the past one week now.”
Another Facebook user, Detoun Omoba, had on April 11 cried out, “We need serious security at new Okooba! There’s daylight robbery going on! The youths are trying to resist!”. A lot of comments had greeted this claim.
However, the following day, she posted: “Thanks everyone, kudos to the police and the military officers. I will get the info of how the situation was handled, by tomorrow. The youths in the area were also up and about. I just pray I survive all these before the lockdown is over!”
Few days later, she posted: “I made a SOS post few days ago about my area being terrorised by robbers in daylight. I can’t remember the last time I was scared, I was terrified. My children are all girls except my nephew, news had it that females were raped in houses where money or valuables weren’t found. I made calls, did all the security checks I could do.
By evening, the youths had gathered themselves and turned to vigilantes. The security on my street had doubled up, the aggression and apprehension on everyone was high. I couldn’t join the youths but I gave them my moral and financial support, I took my time to explain the need to keep their emotions in check. Around 11:30pm, there were knocks on my gate, I was scared. I took my phone and saw eight missed calls, I called back the number while I made towards the door. My first daughter had woken up, it was two of the youths at the gate. What is the problem? I asked, we have apprehended two thieves. Oya, call the police now, that’s the problem ma, we want to finish them! Haa, please do not! Don’t! I don’t even know what I was thinking, I ran out to where the boys were held. I pacified the youth and thankfully they listened.
“The police eventually came by 1am and took the boys away. I don’t know what happened to them afterwards, the youths were initially not pleased that they didn’t take the laws in their hands, but yesterday afternoon while I drove to buy some stuffs, they waved, stopped me and thanked me for stopping them.
“The situation happening around some parts of Lagos, especially in Agege is taking a new dimension as some people are taking advantage of the robbery attacks to get back to one another from previous fallouts, and cult rivalry.”
The above was just one of the countless incidents in the two states. Residents were in fear as some of them locked themselves indoors, some were robbed at gunpoint while shops were burgled by suspected robbers and hoodlums.
The unrest spread from Lagos satellite communities in Toll Gate, Agbado, Alakuko, Ijaiye, spread gradually to Abule Egba and Ojokoro communities with members of the police later taking charge and arresting dozens of the suspected robbers and hoodlums terrorizing residents amidst the lockdown.
Locally made revolvers, pistols, other weapons and house-breaking tools were recovered from the suspects. Also arrested were 92 suspected members of different cult groups in the state.
Speaking on the unrest and robberies, a woman, Gloria Nwachukwu, who resides in an outskirt of Lagos State, stated that the robbery was becoming worrisome as she and her neighbours could no longer sleep with their two eyes closed since it was becoming a regular experience.
“We have not been able to rest and even sleep well in my area as thieves are always daring to come to my area. It is sad as even the money they want to collect, who has it as we are just managing and trusting God for provision. I just heard thieves tried to enter the back of the compound behind my flat and the people made a call to police and they came to arrest some of them while others escaped. That was in broad day afternoon. Is this hunger or what? I pray the lockdown ends and activities resume in full swing,” she stated.
A more startling narrative came from the chairman, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, Lagos chapter, Bisi Adedire, a resident of Meiran, Agbado in Lagos.
In a long narrative with an online television, Adediran recounted how he and his family were put through an untold hardship even as he willingly gave a lump sum of money to the night marauders. He was stabbed repeatedly on his back, arms and face while his residence was ransacked and yet to be estimated valuables including an SUV car were carted away.
The Inspector General of Police, Idris Adamu, had however dispatched men of the police force to Lagos and Ogun states to forestall breakdown of law and order.
A former managing director of Newswatch newspaper, Mr. Olufemi Ige, on his wall, however, on a lighter note, ascribed the development not only to the lockdown and hunger but idleness and inability of the bad boys to engage in their favourite sports.
“Cancelling lockdown won’t stop the spread of lawlessness, football must start so that these miscreants can bet daily and hourly.”
Even as the federal government had announced palliatives to cushion the occurrence of hardship, a lawyer and public affairs analyst, Mr Jiti Ogunye, has tasked the government to be sensitive to the plight of the people and also make a reasoned assessment of the Covid-19 occurrence as it is not fair to punish the people by keeping them in a lockdown.
He noted that more should be done as welfare and compensation for workers and Nigerians as they comply with the lockdown.
As Nigerians learn from the gains and demerits of the first two weeks of lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja, it is expected that there would be no flouting of orders this time around.
There were reports and pictures seen on the social media of people and motorists who were said to have flouted the others.
Gridlock Caused By Motorists Along Lekki-Expressway
Motorists were seen on Monday, April 6, 2020 causing a gridlock along Lekki-Epe Expressway. Footage of this trended online.
“No isolation anymore, no quarantine in Lagos State, from Jakande Estate to Agungi, full hold up is going on right now,” the person, who recorded the video, could be heard saying.
It seemed as if law enforcement agencies had abandoned their duties.
While some complained that the gridlock was caused by security agents enforcing the lockdown by scrutinising motorists plying the road, others said not all those stuck in the gridlock were rendering essential services and thus, were exempted from the lockdown. A stranded motorist, who is a health worker, said on condition of anonymity that she had to abort her journey to a hospital in the Ikeja area of the state after spending three hours in the gridlock, adding that residents were not complying with the directive on the total lockdown of the state.
202 Joggers Arrested In Lagos
Another case of Nigerians flouting the orders of the lockdown and making nonsense of the instruction for social distancing were people aged between 15 and 42 seen jogging on the road at Gbagada and fitness lovees at Iju, Sabo, Ikeja, Itire, Ikotun, Ogudu, Akinpelu, Maroko, Alapere, Anthony, Orile, Owode Onirin and Ilemba Hausa areas.
The huge number of defaulters were tried by two Lagos mobile courts at the Force Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Panti, Yaba, for violating the lockdown order in Lagos State. According to Lagos police spokesman, Bala Elkana, they were arrested while playing football on major streets and having group exercise in large numbers. Among the suspects charged, 189 pleaded guilty to the charge while 13 pleaded not guilty. The suspects were ordered to pay N10,000 each as fines and also two hours of community service, which was supervised by officials of social welfare.
Funke Akindele Flouts Order
One of the many cases of those that flouted the lockdown was Nollywood actress, Funke Akindele, and her husband, Bello known as JJC Skills who held a party in their home and welcomed many people to the house party including Singer, Azeez Fashola known as Naira Marley, Small Doctor and 2019 Lagos gubernatorial aspirant, Rasheed Gbadamosi.
The house party caused so much buzz on account of Funke Akindele who was supposed to be a role model and had done advertisement on the need for personal hygiene and social distancing to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Funke was also a Dettol brand ambassador and the company had collaborated with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control NCDC on this.
The buzz the party created on the social media and Funke Akindele’s defence that most of those present had been in camp before the lockdown, also attracted the ire of the public and law enforcement agencies took to action and got her arrested on Sunday, April 5, 2020 at her residence in Amen Estate off Lekki-Epe Expressway.
This measure served in no small way as a deterrent to others as the actress was handcuffed and faced the law court along with her husband and got a fine of N100,000 each and 14 days community service. Her arrest and charge to court sent a message across the country that the law that came as a result of containing Covid-19 was not a fluke as it was a measure to save lives which we are all involved.
Even some of her colleagues like Mr Latin (Bolaji Amusan) who is the president of a guild in the movie industry, supported the move and noted that measure would discourage others to defy the law.
Musician, Simi waxing philosophically on the impact of the Coronavirus on celebrities and stardom noted that superstars seem ordinary now
The singer who took to her verified twitter page to share series of tweets said Nigerian superstars seem more ordinary now since showbiz is less “showy when tomorrow is standing on a cliff.” Simi maintained that the outbreak of the virus should be the beginning of a reset of perspective, essence, and mind-set for everyone.
Govt Should Create Enabling Environment For Lockdown
Speaking on the lockdown and the floutng of law on social distancing, Mr Jiti Ogunye, lawyer and public affairs analyst noted that the defiance to the order was expected as in every nation, deviants do exist. He stated that just as there was willing compliance on the directive which majority of the population were, there were also deviants not willing to abide by the enforcement.
“Looking at what has happened over the week, I saw a laxity among law enforcement agency to enforce the law. Yes we had willing compliance , we also had deviants as it is normal in the society. Covid-19 is real and that was the reason of the lockdown. I also want our government to create enabling environment for the purpose of the lockdown to be totally realised. We have had about stimulus package and palliatives for the vulnerable and the poor among us, but from what I have seen and heard, this is just like a drop in the ocean od what our federal government and state government can do.
“Also there should be a reward for compliance. Look at what other countries are doing. Families are all indoors now and there should be enabling environment like constant power and other incentives for Nigerians to heed to the directive of the lockdown. In Lagos now, we had started a week of lockdown or cessation of business activities before the federal government directive. How will business owners be rewarded? Because after this Covid-19, business owners will face a lot and government should earmark policies to cushion this.”