There was panic in some parts of Ogun and Lagos states, yesterday, over reports that 18 suspected Boko Haram members had invaded the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, killing 11 civilians and nine police officers.
This came 24 hours after the Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG, on Tuesday sent a strong warning to the Boko Haram insurgents that any attack on any part of the South-West would be considered a declaration of war on the Yoruba people.
SCARE--Traffic caused by the Boko Haram scare on Lagos -Ibadan Expressway, yesterday. Photo: Lamidi Bamidele.
"ARG would like to warn that being visited with a terror attack would amount to a declaration of war on the peace loving people of Yorubaland, in as much as the Yoruba people have always been peaceful and are not, whether directly or indirectly, complicit in the collapse of development and security factors which have been labelled as responsible for the rise of terrorism.
"We need to add that the Yoruba people will neither fold their arms if attacked and will be forced to respond in whatever shape or form deemed fit," the group warned in a statement signed by its National Chairman, Hon. Olawale Oshun.
Vanguard gathered that the rumoured message which spread on several social media, yesterday, left many residents of both states shaken.
Sources said that residents whose relatives either travelled out or were coming into Lagos made worried calls to know if they were safe.
The message on Facebook reads: "If you are on the Lagos/Ibadan Express Road going towards Ibadan, please turn back as 18 suspected Boko Haram members with AK-47 riffles are on the highway now displaying their skills. Nine policemen and 11 civilians had been confirmed dead while trying to stop the gunmen from shooting. Please re-broadcast to save lives. May God help us in Nigeria."
With this text, Vanguard gathered that Mobile policemen, officers of the Department of State Services, DSS, members of the Joint Task Force, JTF and others from Lagos and Ogun states were immediately deployed to comb the stretch of the road and possibly arrest the insurgents.
Police aerial helicopter was also deployed in search of the group. They both carried out searches and surveillance in different ways but their efforts yielded no result.
Mr. Timothy Efe, whose wife was returning to Lagos from Edo State, where she had gone to celebrate the Easter, told Vanguard that he had made calls to his wife to ascertain her location.
Efe said: "When the vehicle left the motor park, she alerted me, and immediately I heard the news, I called her but she is yet to pick her calls. I want to know if she is safe."
Another resident who spoke under anonymity, whose wife travelled this morning on the expressway told our reporters that he had made several call to his wife's phone but that she did not pick the calls, saying that he had been so worried since he got the rumour that Boko Haram had invaded the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
They were relieved when it was confirmed that it was all a rumour and that somebody sent a false alarm which sparked off the rumour that has spread like harmattan fire.
Commuters trying to enter Lagos had a hard time doing that for the better part of yesterday, as security was beefed up at the Berger entry point with heavily armed policemen on stop and search duty.
The traffic gridlock at the time of this report had extended as far as Magboro area in Ogun State.
A businessman who expressed frustration at the development, Mr. Sola Oyedokun, said he would definitely miss the appointment that brought him to Lagos as a result of the heavy traffic.
It was a rumour - NEMA
South West spokesperson for National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye said that the rumour started spreading on Facebook yesterday morning and that NEMA also received the false alarm but added that it was a mere rumour.
He said: "The rumour had it that nine policemen and 11 civilians had been killed by Boko Haram on the expressway", saying that after the police and soldiers combed the expressway, nothing was found.
"This is to inform the general public that NEMA received false alert about a purported Boko Haram attack along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. It's a complete lie and unfounded.
"Security agencies have combed all routes and beyond without any trace of such incidents.
"Mischief makers broadcasting this evil machination are strongly warned to desist from circulating unfounded messages in the country.
"The public should disregard and discourage further circulation of such inciting messages against the nation," Farinloye said in a text message.
Oyo Police refute rumour
Also, the Oyo State Police Command, yesterday, dismissed rumours of the attack.
Reacting to the comments, the State Police Command described the report as false and 'a concoction of demented souls'.
The police through Superintendent of Police, Olabisi Okuwobi-Ilobanafor, said: "It has come to the knowledge of Oyo State Police Command, the vicious rumour making rounds through social media and text messages that 18 suspected Boko Haram members had laid siege to Lagos-Ibadan Express Road with AK47 rifles where it was claimed they killed nine policemen and 11 civilians.
"The rumour is not only untrue but is a concoction of lies that emanated from the minds of demented souls.
"Members of the public are advised to discountenance the web of wicked lies and desist from assisting the rumour mongers to spread falsehood through their phones or social media. Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is safe and devoid of any violent attack.
"There was an occurrence of a lone auto accident involving a trailer loaded with bags of wheat and policemen, Road Safety, Op-Mesa and other security officers were at the scene only to control traffic and clear the gridlock caused by the accident", she said.
No Boko Haram in Lagos - Manko
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Umar Manko,in his reaction said: "There is no truth about that. There is no Boko Haram in Lagos. What happened was that early this morning there was a truck loaded with wheat and at a village called Fidiwo in Ogun State. It was involved in an accident and some hoodlums wanted to steal part of the wheat. They had an encounter with the Police in Ogun State and that was what people saw and said it was an attack from Boko Haram in Lagos.
"Lagosians should go about their lawful businesses without any fear of any attack by Boko Haram .We are at peace here and we will continue to have peace," Manko stated.
It's a lie - Army
On his part, spokesperson for the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Lieutenant-Colonel Ochagwuba Omale also described the text message as untrue. He however, added that the division was on red alert, adding that "we are working with other security agencies to ensure that the state is secured.
"As I am talking, I have not received any information of Boko Haram invasion in Lagos. We are on red alert. As you can see, we were all over the state during Easter to ensure Lagosians celebrate Easter in a safe environment."
We didn't lose any officer - Ogun Police
Also debunking the claim, the Ogun State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Muyiwa Adejobi, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, DSP, stated emphatically that the command did not lose any of its men yesterday. Said he: There is no iota of truth in the statement, as nothing of such happened along the expressway or any part of Ogun State."
"It is the handiwork of mischief makers to create fear in the minds of people.
Probably the rumour mongers took the presence e of policemen and other security agencies at a point between Fidiwo and Ogun makin in Obafemi Owode local government area of Ogun state where a truck carrying wheat fell for Boko haram attack.
The security agents were at t h e point to clear the obstruction . All hands are on deck to curtail any breakdown of law and order in the state", he said.