26 April 2005

Nigeria: 5 Feared Dead As OPC, Hausa Clash

Lagos — No fewer than five persons were yesterday feared dead during a fight which broke out between suspected members of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) and some Hausa traders in Ijora Seven Up area of Lagos.

The crisis came just as Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ade Ajakaiye, yesterday, continued his tour on police formations in the metropolis.

At least, about 20 persons have so far been arrested over their alleged involvement in the clash which according to eye witnesses, started on Sunday night, while several machete, arms and ammunition have been recovered from some of the suspects.

However, the actual cause of the crisis could not be ascertained as at press time, but unconfirmed report has it that fight broke out between both parties at about 10.30am yesterday, following the discovery of the killing of a pregnant woman by unknown persons.

The lifeless body of the woman, according to the witnesses, was found under the bridge at Ijora Seven Up by some of the residents of Ijora Oloye.

On closer examination, the witnesses said it was discovered that the belly of the pregnant woman had been ripped open. It could not be confirmed if the killing had any ritual connotations. "The discovery almost caused pandemonium in the area as the youths threatened to deal with anybody or group of persons found to have had a hand in the death of the pregnant woman," the witnesses alleged.

In another regard, some witnesses alleged that trouble started minutes after some Yoruba youths in the area rose from a meeting last Sunday with the strong resolve that the woman would have been murdered by some Hausa traders.

The witnesses added that the youths matched to the house of Serikin Hausa in the area to demand for the immediate production of all those who must have had a hand in the killing, a request which they said did not go down well with the Hausa traders in the place.

However, nobody could say exactly from where the crisis sprang from, but the next thing that happened was that people started running helter skelter for their dear lives as machete, bows and arrows were freely used by both warring factions.

It was later discovered that both Yoruba and the Hausa elders in the area tried to quell the situation when it first started but that their constant plea for a seize fire was said to have fell on deaf ears as the youths from both groups went for each others' throat in what could aptly be described as a free-for-all fight.

Although armed policemen from Area B Police Command, Apapa, who were posted to the trouble zone attempted to bring the crisis to a halt, but the incident reared its ugly head yesterday with the youths from both sides matching anybody they could lay their hands on.

As at press stime, at least five persons were said to have been killed in the cross-fire. Fighting continued on abated until a combined team of armed naval officers from the Western Naval Command headquarters and policemen led by Area Commander, Area B, Apapa, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Mr. Femi Oyeleye, moved to the scene to mount surveillance at the troubled zone to avoid any further break down of law and order.

Several tear gas canisters were used to keep the irate youths at bay while a team of anti-riot policemen were deployed to patrol the area.

However, uneasy calm still pervaded the area as traders and some residents of Ijora were seen moving members of their families and their valuables to avoid being caught up in the cross fire.

Meanwhile, both commercial and business activities have been brought to a stand in Ijora and its adjourning suburb. Some people were scene discussing the crisis in groups of twos and threes in a hush tone. Some alleged that members of OPC in Ijora Seven Up left with a threat that they would strike later on in the day.

The Lagos State Police Image maker, Mr. Ojajuni, could not confirm the crisis as he prepared to go out with the Lagos Police boss. Meanwhile, an impeccable police source at Apapa Police station told THISDAY that over 20 persons have been arrested in connection with the crisis.

He said the several arms and ammunition, machete and arrows were recovered from some of the suspects at the time of their arrest.

"Some were arrested along the railway line at Ijora while others were arrested in their secret hideout in the area" the police source added.

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