About three weeks ago, thick black smoke from the burning of used tyres by armed youths saturated the Aiyetoro area of Ajegunle, regarded as one of the biggest slums in Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government Area of Lagos.
The bonfire was by rival cult gangs who blocked the streets in the area in what most residents described as 18-hour stand-off battle between members of Aiye and Eiye.
About three persons died while several others got injured in the bloody clashes that ensued between the groups before the arrival of policemen and some soldiers to the area.
While the battle was raging, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Idowu Owohunwa, deployed more than 100 policemen drawn from both the state anti-crime outfit, the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) and those from Ajegunle Police Station, to close in on the gangs.
It was learnt that the fight between the gangs was triggered by who becomes the ‘lord of the Manor’ who will control the illegal distribution of illicit drugs and the control of motor parks and garages that are safe haven for different gangs.
The battle for the soul of who controls the area started on July 7 – a day known as 777 cult day celebration.
The gangs continued to be engaged in gun battles for hours on end, forcing shop owners to quickly close shops, while others ran in different directions for fear of being caught in the crossfire.
Reacting to the clash, the State Police Public Relations Officer, Benjamin Hundeyin, said youths from Aroworade and Opaleye streets in Ajegunle engaged in street fights and that men of Ajegunle Division responded swiftly, preventing any casualty.
Hudenyin said although the miscreants fled upon sighting the police, two of the suspects were arrested and that police patrol vehicles remain stationed at the scene.
He identified the two arrested suspects as Quadri Yekini and James Segun aged 32 and 22 respectively.
Investigations by our correspondent revealed that there has been an aged long rivalry between members of Aiye and Eiye in the area over who controls outlets for the illegal sale and distribution of drugs.
Investigations also revealed that the areas considered as stronghold for the trafficking of illicit substances is divided into five zones, namely, Aiyetoro, Tolu, Awodiora, Amukoko and Olodi with the boundary market area as the main distribution point.
These areas are controlled by gang men, who may wish to expand their territory, leading to frequent clashes.
Just before the clash at Opaleye, a naval rating simply identified as Harrison was shot dead.
The killing of the rating, which the police said had cult undertone, created heavy tension as some naval ratings vowed to avenge the death of their colleague, until Naval authorities stepped in to quell the situation.
Few days to the 777 cult day celebration, violence broke out in Shomolu and Bariga areas with the killing of over seven persons.
Lagos State Police boss, Idowu Owohunwa, explained that the rising cases of drugs trafficking and usage among young ones accounts for the reoccurring cases of armed robbery and cultism in the state
He said the consumption of illicit drugs among youths is the petrol that fuels most of the crisis.
According to him, teenage boys and girls are recruited into the gangs by elderly ones who lure them with promises of taking them to parties.
Our correspondent who visited Shomolu was told that the battle of supremacy in Shomolu and Bariga is allegedly being sponsored by leaders of the different transport unions in the area.
It was learnt that the leaders of these groups use the young ones as foot soldiers to wrestle lucrative motor parks and garages from their owners.
Those from the Bariga-Ilaje area are often locked in battle with those from Onipanu.
The drama at Shomolu and Bariga this month, comes days after the authorities arrested the presumed traffickers of cannabis at Mushin.
Operatives of Aswani Division of the Lagos State Police Command intercepted substances suspected to be Indian Hemp along Mushin, Isolo Road.
The interception occurred on July 12, a few minutes to midnight during routine stop-and-search, leading to the arrest of Fidelis Otiga and Chukwuma Kennedy aged 49 and 50 respectively, in whose vehicle the drugs were found.
The police said the two suspects are notorious drug traffickers who engage young boys in the brewing of another kind of drugs popularly known as “Slushes”.
This offered a painful reminder that cartel crime is no longer confined to cocaine. In the past few years, drug barons have spotted a lucrative sideline to their core trafficking, extortion and kidnapping activities.
The battle against drug trafficking
The manhunt by security agents also led to the arrest of some cult leaders while they were initiating young boys.
The busting of the gang, which was made by operatives of Tolu Division of the Lagos State Command, led to the arrest of five suspected cultists namely, Peter Odumola ‘m’ aged 19; Promise Benjamin ‘m’ aged 20; Emmanuel Ikechukwu ‘m’ aged 19; Richards Adu ‘m’ aged 18 and Abdullahi Nasiru ‘m’ aged 20.
The suspects were arrested on Sunday, July 9 at about 2am following a distress call concerning an ongoing forceful initiation happening in a hotel in the Ajegunle area of state.
Also, following a 30-minutes exchange of gunfire with armed men escorting a large consignments of cannabis sativa loaded in two long trucks, operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), seized a total of 8,852 kg about 8.8 tons of Canadian Loud, an imported synthetic strain of Indian Hemp, at the Eleko Beach Road, in the Lekki area.
Director Media & Advocacy of NDLEA, Femi Babafemi, noted that the drivers of the two trucks and the armed escorts ran into the bush after the gun duel.
Similarly, operatives of the Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS BEECROFT, in an effort to combat criminality, intercepted Indian Hemp worth about N29 billion.
Speaking to newsmen, the Commander of Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) BEECROFT, Commodore Kolawole Oguntuga, said the interception was made possible through the utilization of Falcon Eye, a state-of-the-art maritime awareness domain facility technology.
The Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) recently destroyed 96 containers loaded with illicit, fake and expired drugs worth over N12.89 billion.
The destruction was monitored by officers of the National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC); National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA); Directorate of State Service (DSS) and the Nigerian Army.
The drugs destroyed include Tramadol tablets; Codeine cough syrup; Diclofenac tablets and injections; Pramo sex; Yagra tablets; Black cobra tablets; Sildenafil citrate tablets; Chakapain extra tablets and Mebendazole tablets.
Others are Royal chest lung tablets; Dr. Ibramol tablets; Omeprazole capsule; Cotrimoxazole tablets; Diavita loperamide capsules; Diarrhea stop and Chlorpheniramine maleate capsules.