While the circumstances that led to the fracas are not yet known, eyewitnesses claimed the incident might not be unconnected to a show of superiority between the rival gang members.
Findings by The Newsmen at the scene revealed that tension has been brewing for some days with matters coming to a head yesterday after the clash between the two rival gangs, which left in its wake, tears, blood and arson.
The cultists reigned unchecked for nearly an hour the fracas lasted, wielding cutlasses, bottles, axes and other dangerous weapons to attack innocent bystanders while residents scampered for safety.One of the warring gangs poured petrol and kerosene on some shops and set three shops ablaze, an action that sparked more violent reaction between the gangs.
Speaking with a resident who didn’t want her name in print, she pleaded with the state government to come to their aid regarding incessant cult wars in the area, a problem she says has gone unchecked for too long.
“The cultists are the real owners of this area. When they sneeze, all of us shake and catch cold. We are always at alert for breakouts like this and we are used to sleeping with one eye closed but things cannot continue this way with some group of boys turning themselves into outlaws. This is why we want the government to provide a lasting solution to this menace,” she lamented.
As at the time of filing this report, the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) in conjunction with the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the Lagos State police command and the Lagos State fire service were at the scene to put out the fire and restore peace in the area. However, nothing could be salvaged from the ruins.
In a related development, the Anambra State police command has arrested six suspected cultists and armed robbers after a gun battle that left one of the suspects injured at Ogidi near Onitsha.
The command’s Public Relations Officer, Haruna Mohammed, made the disclosure in a statement issued in Akwa yesterday. Mohammed said one fabricated pistol, three live cartridges, an axe, tramadol drugs and some quantities of dry leaves suspected to be cannabis were recovered from them.
He said: “On December 14, at about 4:00p.m., there was an intelligence report at Ogidi Division that some suspected armed robbers/cultists were sighted at Paradise Hotel, Ogidi brandishing dangerous weapons.
“Following the report, police detectives attached to Ogidi division rushed to the scene and cordoned-off the area. The gang on sighting the police locked the entrance of the hotel and engaged the police in fierce gun duel, which lasted for more than 30 minutes.
“The police responded, but with high restraint in order to avert innocent civilian casualties. As a result, one of the suspects, Ugochukwu Okafor, sustained gunshot injuries on his buttocks while trying to disarm a police officer.”
Meanwhile, the command has warned against the use of knockouts, firecrackers and other forms of fireworks in the state during the yuletide.
Mohammed said such actions constituted serious security risks capable of misleading the security personnel on apparent danger of gunshots. He expressed concern that it could instill fear in the minds of the residents of the state.
“To this end, parents and guardians are advised to warn their children and wards from purchasing and using knockouts, as the law governing the sales, purchase and use of fireworks is still in force.
“Members of the public are equally enjoined to refrain from unauthorised use of sirens, tinted glasses and covering of vehicles plate numbers,” he warned.