BY Sam Otti
Residents of FESTAC Town, Lagos, were shocked beyond words when seven sophisticated rifles belonging to an unidentified criminal gang were recovered recently in their neigbourhood. The shock recovery was made at 7th Avenue, a popular residential and commercial area in the estate. This came barely few weeks after a young police officer was stabbed to death by hoodlums in the area.
Before these incidents, Daily Sun gathered that hoodlums terrorized those living on 112 Road recently, as they robbed a lady of her mobile phone in the daytime. Some brothels in the area were discovered to have become hideouts for criminals, while Indian hemp joints thrive on most streets in the area. Most parents are worried about the location of brothels in residential areas, a situation they regret had increased crime wave in their area and initiated their under-aged girls into active sexual life.
A resident of the area, who gave his name as Ajibola, pleaded with the police to smoke out the criminals who had stolen the joy of FESTAC residents. He recounted how an unidentified bank customer was robbed recently at 52 Road recently. According to him, the robbers escaped on a motorcycle to attack another woman coming out from another commercial bank (name withheld). Sadly no arrests has been was made in connection to both incidents.
Investigation by this reporter revealed that some areas of FESTAC Town had become crime haven, where criminals snatch people’s bags and other valued possessions at gun point. For instance, there were recent reports of robbery attacks early in the morning on the bridge linking the estate to Mile 2. Even the access road from First Gate to Maza maza area has degenerated to a den of robbers, mostly at nightfall. Commuters including motorists trapped in traffic jam at Maza maza area had been robbed at First Gate. Reports of motorists attacked by armed hoodlums along that axis had become so common in recent times, yet the criminals remain rooted at the spot without serious confrontation by security operatives.
As if these weren’t enough, Daily Sun findings also revealed increasing cult groups that parade themselves as street lords terrorising residents of the estate.
Worried by the growing insecurity in the area, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, led his officers from the Area E Command and FESTAC Police Division to a security meeting with the Festival Town Residents Association (FTRA) recently to seek urgent solutions to the menace.
The meeting was facilitated by the new Area Commander, Area E, ACP Frank Mba and the President of FESTAC Residents Association, Sola Fakorede. Also in attendance were the DPO, FESTAC Division, Ifeanyi Owo; PDP member representing Amuwo Odofin Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon Ogene Egoh; the Executive Secretary, Amuwo-Odofin LGA, Deaconess Modupe Ajibola-Ojodu; the lawmaker representing Amuwo-Odofin in the Lagos State House of Assembly, Dipo Olorunrinu, among others.
The Commissioner for Police warned the residents that FESTAC Town could become an incubating spot for insurgents. He urged the residents not to fold their hands and allow the degeneration of the estate.
He said squatters had taken over land spaces in the area, while a ragtag army of commercial motorcycle riders, popularly called okada, operate with impunity within the estate. He said his tour of FESTAC area revealed that the area had lost its sanity and glory.
“God forbid bad thing. If Boko Haram is going to start in Lagos, it will start in FESTAC. From what I saw here, a whole lot of landlords in this place have commercialised their buildings,” he regretted.
The CP expressed worries that residential flats that were originally designed for a family of four had been partitioned to accommodate eight people. According to him, such over population had not only stretched facilities in the area, but also constituted serious menace.
The CP, who had spent 32 years on the job, admitted that lots of molestation occurred in FESTAC. He revealed that hoodlums hung around the estate and urged the people to take the campaign for community policing seriously. He said the police division in the area would soon be broken into neighborhoods for effective policing and pleaded with the residents to cooperate with the security agencies by giving out useful information that would facilitate the arrest of criminals hiding in their area.
Owoseni explained that an essential element of community policing requires inputs from the people, based on their observation. He explained that he wanted to prevent crime, instead of fighting it.
“Be bold enough. We will protect whatever information you give to us,” he promised.
Mr. Fakorede told our correspondent that residents of FESTAC were sitting on a keg of gun powder. He said the insecurity of lives and property in FESTAC had become an issue that must be fought by all stakeholders.
Fakorede said the rate of crime in FESTAC was alarming, citing the discovery of seven guns at 7th Avenue as a sign of danger. He expressed sadness that several locations within the estate had turned to Indian hemp joints. He affirmed that some criminal gangs operated in the area at the wee hours, robbing people of their prized possessions at gun points. However, he expressed optimism that the police would rid the area of crime, as the new area commander and his men had declared war on criminals in the area.
He said the state government had banned commercial motorcycle operators in FESTAC, noting that it needed enforcement to make the law effective in the area.
Some of the residents, who spoke with the reporter, lamented the large number of disused vehicles that dot every corner in the estate, which they claimed were used by criminals to hide their arms and ammunitions. They revealed that the 23 Road Market had become a den of robbers, which had brought a regime of fear to those living within the area.
An aged woman in the estate, who pleaded not to be mentioned for fear of being attacked, said: “23 Road Market is the headquarters of armed robbers. Let the police go there. The criminals sleep there with their wives. Life over there is horrible.”
Despite these ominous challenges, the new Mr. Mba was optimistic that community policing would restore security to the troubled area, while promising the devastated residents that the police would deploy all the resources at their disposal for a crime-free FESTAC Town.