Dozens of residents of Ori Oke, Makoko, in Lagos Friday marched to protest the killings and destruction of property of some Ilaje indigenes during a violence which broke out between the Ilaje community, police and Land Grabbers’ Task Force on May 10.
The protesters, who marched to the State Crime Investigation and Intelligence Department (CIID), Panti, Yaba, bore different placards and chanted “Police are supposed to be our protector and not killers.”
Addressing the crowd, Adeola Ilori, a human rights lawyer, said what happened last Thursday was “totally illegal.” He said the land grabbers took laws into their hand and used the police as their instruments”.
“They took laws into their hands and attacked an harmless community; four people were killed and on Tuesday I can still count not less than 10 that are still critically injured,” Mr Ilori said.
“I have read the land grabbers law passed in 2017, it is about three pages and 26 sections. There is no place that gives right to the land grabbers’ committee or task force to kill, maim and burn down a church just to reclaim a land.
“The only section that empowers the land grabbers’ task force to intervene is to ask the two parties to check the land documents and I was told this particular land has been taken to court of appeal.
“Since last week Thursday, the governor has not issued any statement to condemn the issue or visit the affected people and pay condolence to the dead neither has the commissioner done that and we know they have heard.”
Present at the protest were officials of Yaba Local Council Development Authority,: Centre for the Defence of Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, CDHRA; Ilaje National Alliance Movement; among other civil society groups.
Mr Ilori said although the commissioner had said the police officers and other government officials who were involved in the illegal operation had been arrested, no one had been charged to court.
“We want all of them arraigned in court including officers of the Lagos State Land Grabbers’ Taskforce and their chairman, Jide Bakare, and get justice for our people,” Mr Ilori said.
“Seun Areku, popularly known as Ijaya, Tobi Oloruntoba, OC Makoko Police Post were those who shot people during the violence, those at the hospital confessed.
“We want the repair of their church, we want compensation for the dead and those in the hospital medical bills must be taken care of and they must stop this act from now on,” he said.
Solomon Gbinigie, the councillor representing Ward A in Yaba local council, said an injustice had been perpetrated against the Ori Oke people.
“There is nobody that has a replacement for human lives, Seyi is gone, Kolawole is gone but the land is there,” Mr Gbinigie said.
“We must ensure that all officers involved in this are brought to book.”
Tunde Emmanuel, the National Public Relations Officer of INAMO, described the attack as a “witchhunt on the Ilaje nation.”
“They have done this in Itedo and three other places in Lagos and what we heard was that Governor Ambode said anywhere the Ilaje are residing in Lagos, they should drive them away,” said Mr Emmanuel.
“This land has been occupied by the Ilaje people for more than 80 years, automatically they are the owner of the land, just recently, the Coker family claimed to be the owner of the land and they have been attacked afterwards.
“The case has been in court and they have won the first time and now they are back in the Court of Appeal.
“People retaliated when they came on Thursday and started destroying their property and they were maimed and killed by the policemen. We are Yorubas and not foreigners, we are entitled to our lands.”
Esther Omisakin, a hairdresser whose shop was set ablaze during the incident, said she was unable to salvage anything from her shop.
“I was called that Taskforce are around and when I got there I saw three vehicles. We were told to start packing our things that they want to burn the shops without any prior warning and before we could park, they have begun throwing broken bottles to the window of the church, spraying bullets for anybody that comes around and the place was set ablaze,” said a tearful Ms Omisakin.
“As they arrived I was just setting up, they went into the church premises arrested Papa and Tobi and told us that they didn’t come for us. They came with hooligans as well.”
Dauda Alade, who does SIM cards registration opposite the church, said hoodlums took away his work tools.
“All of a sudden they started destroying the church. The police who told me that they are not concerned about us and asked me to close my shop were the ones who came back and asked me to open it or else they will shoot it; and immediately I opened it. The gun was hammered on my head and I was dragged into the police van.
“Right there the hooligans took my three laptops for sim registration away alongside phones given to me to charge. Now I am sleeping not having anything to do after I have been released on Saturday from Area C Command alongside Papa and Tobi.”
Maurice Fangon, a professor and the Secretary-General of the Centre for Defence of Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA), said the Land Grabbers’ Task Force are always ready to turn any situation into a money making venture for the state government.
“By the time, (governor) Ambode wins the second term, he will do worse,” he said.
“You can see the case of Otodo Gbame and Atiporo. We currently have over 14 cases of forceful eviction, invasion and the likes in court.”
Responding to the protesters, Yetunde Alonge, an Assistant Commissioner of Police who heads the State CIID, said the police would ensure the community gets justice.
“Immediately the incident happened, the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, Imohimi Edgal, called the community leaders, issued a press statement and set up an independent committee to investigate the matter,” she said.
“Those identified already to be at the scene of the violence have been arrested and investigation is on-going and the CP will not rest on his oars until justice prevail especially when it comes to community policing issue like this,” she assured the protesters.