Residents and homeowners in the Ikorodu area of Lagos State have started fleeing their homes following the rising threat of the killer-cult group known as Badoo.
The fleeing residents, who are afraid of being the next victims of the deadly gang, have been moving in with relatives and friends in relatively safer parts of Lagos. Such residents have been relocating with their families on a temporary basis.
The gang had killed no fewer than 29 persons and injured several others in the last few months.
During several visits to the community in the course of the week, our correspondents observed how individuals and families in different parts of the town were moving out with some of their personal items to find safety elsewhere.
A resident of Ori-Okuta in the Agric area of Ikorodu, who was spotted by one of our correspondents on Tuesday leaving the community with two children and two bags, said the cult group had written a letter to their neighbourhood that it would soon visit the place.
The woman, who gave her name only as Yemisi, said she was moving out of the area to stay with her sister at the Ojota area of the city for some time.
She said, “For the past five days, we have not slept at night at Ori-Okuta because of the fear of Badoo. They wrote a letter and pasted the copies at strategic places in the neighbourhood, informing us of their imminent visit. Nobody has had peace since then.
“My husband is not in Lagos for now, so I cannot afford to take chances with the safety of my children and I.”
Another woman, Mrs. Janet Ogunwale, who was also spotted carrying a bag on her head with her little daughter strapped to her back at the Agric Bus stop, Ikorodu, on Wednesday afternoon, told newsmen that almost everybody in the compound at Ori-Okuta had fled for fear of being attacked by Badoo.
She said, “Ori-Okuta is almost a ghost town now. Since words went round that Badoo had written a letter to inform residents that they were coming soon, everybody has been living in fear. Nobody sleeps comfortably at night anymore.
“It is not as if there are no more people in the area, but the number has drastically reduced since news of the letter got round. Though my landlord tried to allay my fears, I had made up my mind to leave as many of our neighbours had moved out already.”
A community leader in the area, who identified himself as Alhaji Kazeem Lawal, told newsmenthat since receiving the threat letter from the group, those of them remaining in the neighbourhood had organised themselves into clusters to patrol the area at night.
He said that even though many houses had burglar-proof windows and steel doors, they were not taking chances as according to reports, Badoo members cut such iron protections with saws after blowing a powdery substance into apartments to make occupants to fall asleep.
Lawal said, “Since the police have failed in tackling Badoo, we have to take charge of our security. It is true that many residents have fled their houses because they don’t want to die and nobody blames them; those of us who are still here cannot just fold our hands and say nothing will happen.
“We have formed ourselves into several groups, patrolling the entire neighbourhood at night. If you come to Ori-Okuta at night, you’ll think it is day time because the number of residents you would see outside will surprise you. We put our hope in God.”
The fear of the killer-cult group has also hit residents of other communities in Ikorodu like Odogunyan, Igbogbo, Ebutte, Ibeshe and Ogijo, some of who have also been fleeing their houses to take refuge with relatives and friends in other places.
A community development association head in the Odogunyan area of the town, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told one of our correspondents that apart from the tenants, many landlords and their families had moved to other parts of Lagos where they have houses.
He said with the spate of killings perpetrated by the gang in recent days and the failure of security agencies to check their nefarious activities, everybody in the town was living in fear.
He said, “The issue of Badoo is no longer a joking matter and that is why everywhere you go in Ikorodu today, people are doing all they can to improve security around their immediate surroundings.
“In Odogunyan here, I know at least three landlords who have locked their buildings and relocated with their families to other parts of Lagos where they have houses. Many people are moving to areas they consider safe.”
Security agencies hold midnight meeting with traditional rulers, herbalists, others
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Police Command and other security agencies in the state have met with traditional rulers, herbalists, community leaders and other stakeholders in Ikorodu to discuss the security situation.
It was learnt that the meeting held at Sabo Junction, opposite Ojokoro Cemetery, Ikorodu, between 11.30pm on Thursday and 1am on Friday.
A security source, who was privy to the meeting, said it was part of the strategies to end the criminal reign of the cult in Ikorodu and its environs.
The source said senior officers of the state police command, Rapid Response Squad, State Intelligence Bureau, Department of State Services, Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps, attended the meeting.
He said, “The meeting started around 11.30pm and ended around 1am. It was thorough and all the stakeholders were there. The officers deliberated with traditional rulers, community leaders, religious leaders, herbalists, transport workers and local vigilance groups, on how to fight these criminals to a standstill. We have all agreed to work together. Divisional Police Officers in the area will coordinate the operations of the vigilance groups.
“It was also made clear that if there is any form of criminality henceforth, the traditional ruler and other stakeholders in the affected community will be summoned for questioning. Residents were advised to desist from jungle justice with a clear warning that anybody caught in the act will face the full weight of the law.”
A resident of Ipakodo, Ikorodu, Mr. Michael Olaniyan, however, blamed the police for not doing enough to protect the lives of people in the area, saying, “I don’t know why the police have not been patrolling this area; maybe it is because we have put our fate in our hands by keeping vigil outside to protect ourselves.
“We now have a roster; civil servants and those who have to resume work early take shifts on weekends while artisans and others who don’t have to be at work very early keep watch on weekdays.”
Olaniyan identified poor power supply in the area as another factor encouraging criminal activities at night.
Meanwhile, another resident of Ikorodu, Habeeb Olayiwola, has raised the alarm that some vigilantes in the area had started cashing in on the fight against the deadly gang by extorting money from residents who return late from work.
Allegedly, the vigilantes would threaten to accuse such residents of being Badoo members if they refused to bribe them.
Habeeb posted on a Facebook forum, Ikorodu Ambassadors Group, his encounter with some vigilantes while he was returning home from work in a truck on Wednesday.
He wrote, “Before I knew it, they had all started banging the truck with all kinds of items they had in their hands. None of them heard me out as they were responding with abusive words and insisting that I give them money. I had to offer one of the two N500 notes I had with me to one of the leaders. He rejected it, telling me they wanted N5,000. I realised that 85 per cent of them were miscreants. The same thing happens when people leave for work around 5am.”
Habeeb urged community leaders to check the excesses of the vigilantes.
The Police Public Relations Officer in Lagos, Olarinde Famous-Cole, said series of operations were ongoing in Ikorodu, adding that more arrests had been made.
He said, “The Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, has given a marching order that all criminal elements in Ikorodu must be flushed out. The DCP in charge of Operations, the RRS Commander, and other security chiefs have been up and doing and they are meeting with all the relevant stakeholders.”
On the allegation of extortion by vigilantes, the PPRO said it would be directed to the appropriate quarters for investigations and necessary actions.
In the meantime, churches in many parts of Ikorodu have cancelled late night programmes, especially on Fridays, pending when security would improve in the town.
For instance, the Resident Pastor of Divine Anchor Ministries, Offin, Igbogbo, Mathew Odeniyi, on Thursday said they had cancelled all vigils and church programmes extending beyond 9pm.
According to him, this was to prevent putting the lives of members at risk.
He said, “Even though we are protected by the Most High, as true believers of the word of God, we must not also fail to use our initiative when the need arises.
“In the face of growing tension across Ikorodu at the moment, following the onslaught of Badoo; as a church, we felt it would be wise to suspend all late night programmes, including Friday vigils until the situation improves.
“All our meetings and activities have been limited to daytime so as to keep ourselves safe and not become easy targets for miscreants.”
A top member of a church in the Adamo area of Ikorodu, simply identified as Yemi, also stated that Friday vigils and other programmes running beyond 8:00pm had also been cancelled for now due to security fears.
He said, “The church leadership has ordered all programmes to end by 8:00pm because of the security situation.”
Meanwhile, residents of Owode-Ajegunle and Irawo communities along Ikorodu Road have been living in fear since the cult group struck in the area early in the week, killing about three people in a church.
Findings also revealed that many residents of the area have been moving to places like Ketu, Shangisha, and Ikosi, where they have relatives and friends to take temporary refuge.
Similarly, several parents in Mowe and Ibafo communities along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway on Friday prevented their children from going to school due to a message being circulated online that members of Badoo were planning to attack the area.
News of the attack by the group is also being circulated through text messages, raising apprehension among residents.
The message, seen by one of our correspondents, read, “I just got information that there are flyers at Mowe that the Badoo cult and a rival cult are coming to Mowe on Friday, July 7, 2017, to fight due to a killing that happened around NASFAT area recently.
“Please let’s be security conscious. Kindly forward to your loved ones in the Mowe/Ibafo axis.”
A parent in the Ibafo area, Mr. Sina Fagbemi, revealed that he did not allow his children to attend school on Friday as a result of the message.
He said, “To miss a day in school is better than living with regret all my life. Of course, it could have been a false alert but it is better to approach issues like this with seriousness. I told my wife and the kids to stay indoors throughout Friday.”
Ogun police deploy policemen against cult attack
Reacting to the threat, Ogun State Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, asked residents of Mowe and its environs to go about their business without fear.
He said Special Forces had been deployed in the area over fear of an imminent attack by some cult members celebrating a festival.
Oyeyemi described as untrue the report that the cult was planning to attack Ogun communities, saying the rumour was the work of mischief makers.
He said, “Let me state categorically that there is no Badoo attack on Mowe; the community is calm. People are not packing out.
“There are, however, two villages where we have a report of some cultists planning to strike to celebrate 7/7 or 9/9 as they call it. We have deployed some policemen there. We also have our mobile policemen, Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, among others.”
But the RRS of the Lagos State Police Command on Friday announced that it had arrested 87 persons suspected of be members of the Badoo cult.
It was learnt that the arrests were carried out in collaboration with other security agencies and local vigilance groups.
The suspects were arrested in hideouts at Owutu and Odogunyan areas of Ikorodu town.
The RRS further revealed that the police have declared another 20 people wanted over the activities of the group.
Some of those declared wanted for cult-related killings in the community were identified as follows: Moshood, aka Mosho; Alfa, aka King of Boys; Papa; Fela; Alakoto and Chukwudi.
Others are Agbara, ‘O/C’, Femi, aka FM; Pencil; Odidan; Jaru; Allen; Bush; Happiness; Fagbo; Junior; Nuru and Jamiu.