Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Rioters Kill MD of Lekki Free Trade Zone

Residents of Okunraiye community in the Ibeju-Lekki area, one of the communities hosting the Lekki Free Trade Zone on the Lekki-Epe Expressway of Lagos State, on Monday clashed with policemen during which the Managing Director of Lekki Worldwide Investment Company, Mr. Tajudeen Disu, was killed.

Trouble reportedly started in the community around 10am when some gun-wielding hoodlums from the community approached workers on the site and ordered them to pay or stop work.

PUNCH Metro learnt that, Disu, who was said to be at Idaasan, a neighbouring community, had gone to settle the altercation upon receiving a call from one of the workers.

It was learnt that the altercation degenerated into a melee and the MD was shot dead in the process.

Policemen manning the site reportedly engaged the miscreants in a gun duel, killing four people.

Windscreens of about five trucks at the scene of the incident were also shattered.

Armed riot policemen were still at the entrance of the community as of 8.15pm when PUNCH Metro left.

A resident of Olomowewe village, which is a few kilometers away from the troubled community, Saheed Adeleke, who spoke to our correspondent in Yoruba, said a lot of people had fled the neighbourhood.

He said, “The chaos started around 10am. Some hoodlums went to collect money from workers evacuating sand at Okunraiye for some construction in the Lekki Free Trade Zone. The workers called their boss, Disu, when they could no longer handle it.

“Both parties did not reach an agreement and it led to a fight. After they shot Disu, the security men on the site engaged them. I learnt four people were killed in the community, but I don’t know whether those killed were hoodlums or not.

“Since the incident happened, people from the community have been packing out. I saw some of them boarding vehicles.”

A woman, who identified herself only as Alaba, said she had come from the Epe area of the state to look for her son, Dolapo.

Alaba, who was fighting back tears, said, she feared her son might have been caught in the crossfire.

She said, “ I came to look for my son. I was called on the phone around 4pm that a serious fight was going on in Okuraye and that four people had been killed. I’m praying that Dolapo has not been shot. He is 11-year-old.”

A police officer at the scene of the incident, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said only the MD was killed.

He said, “It was only one person that died and that was the managing director. We engaged the hoodlums, but we did not kill anybody.”

However, other sources told our correspondents that the residents, allegedly led by the Baale of Okunraiye and the chairman of the Oodua Peoples’ Congress in the area, had started a protest march to show their annoyance to the takeover of their lands by the Lagos State Government for the Lekki Worldwide Investment Company and the Dangote Refineries.

They were said to have clashed with policemen during the protest march.

Apart from Disu, four villagers were said to have been shot dead by the police, while the Chief Security Officer of the Dangote Refineries, identified only as Colonel Usman (retd.), escaped with machete cuts.

Our correspondents gathered that the community claimed that the government sold their lands to the Dangote Refineries and the Lekki Worldwide Investment Company against their wishes.

It was learnt that the protest took a violent turn when the Managing Director, Disu, came out to address the community. The crowd reportedly lynched him.

A source in the area said, “The villagers were on a peaceful protest against the takeover of their land by the state government. Some parcels of the land were sold to Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and the Lekki Worldwide Investment Company.

“During the protest, policemen were said to have attacked them, killing some of the protesters. The villagers are claiming that it was the deaths which spurned them to attack the MD.”

Another source told our correspondents that the government had sent riot policemen to stop the residents, when the protest went awry.

He said, “A large part of the community was being used by government for the Lekki Free Trade Zone. The portion belonging to the community was given for the construction of a refinery owned by Dangote Group. While the protest continued, Disu came into the area, guarded by the anti-riot policemen.

“However, the policemen and the MD clashed with the protesters and the MD was lynched. One of the policemen may have also been killed. The area has been taken over by soldiers.”

Our correspondents gathered that many residents had fled the area as army and police presence increased significantly.

The Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Joe Offor, who confirmed the violence in the Ibeju-Lekki area, said Disu was lynched while addressing the protesters.

He said, “The protest of the residents was that they never sold their land to Dangote Refineries. The police were there to monitor the protest. But when the managing director came out to address the protesters, they rushed and lynched him.

“Also, the residents grabbed the Chief Security Officer of Dangotes Refineries and inflicted machete cuts on his body. He survived the attack and has been rushed to an undisclosed hospital.

“None of the villagers was killed by the police as being claimed. The police arrested 12 persons. We are screening them to ascertain their roles in the incident. The 12 persons include the Baale and the OPC chairman.

“Normalcy has been restored to the area. The police and the military are there as well.”

However, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State has expressed shock over the killing, urging the police to ensure that perpetrators behind the act are brought to book.

The governor, at the Lagos House, Ikeja, said, late Disu was a man committed to promoting the inflow of investment into Lagos State.

He said, “We are deeply touched with the loss of our dedicated officer at the Lekki Free Trade Zone, Alhaji Tajudeen Disu, who was until his death the arrow head of the Free Trade Zone initiative. He was killed within the Lekki Free Trade Zone this morning. It really saddens my heart and the heart of all of us because this was somebody that had been dedicated to his duty in the past 10 years.”

He said he had directed the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, to ensure that no stone was left unturned to determine the events that led to the death of Disu.

The governor said, “I have directed the Lagos state Commissioner of Police to conduct a thorough investigation to unravel the root cause of what happened because Disu was on a peaceful mission to that place.

“I urge residents of the area to remain calm as we will continue to ensure that the security of lives and property is accorded necessary priority in the state.

“I want to appeal to all our people in the Ibeju Lekki area to give peace a chance. It is in the interest of all Lagosians that we attract as many investors as possible to the state.”

Ambode also reiterated government’s determination to create more jobs by bringing more investors to the zone, saying it could only be achieved if the residents allowed peace to reign in the zone.

The Commissioner of Police assured the people of the state that the police had swung into action to ensure that the culprits were brought to book, saying that some suspects had been apprehended and investigation was ongoing to determine if there were major sponsors behind the killing.

He said, “We will do a diligent investigation. Those behind the act will be arrested. Not just the people we see on the road are perpetrators, there may be sponsors. We go after these sponsors and I can assure you we will ensure that the investigation is carried out as speedily as possible and make sure that they are diligently prosecuted.”


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